When you need a rental car for vacation or business it’s a good idea to consider several factors while reserving to help make your trip more enjoyable. Since you may be in your car rental for a large part of your trip, the car you drive as well as your overall rental experience is obviously very important. See our tips list below.
Since there are many rental car agencies, some of the things to consider besides your rate, are the service you get when you get off the airplane, how quickly you can obtain your rental car, the vehicle/model, its condition and the convenience of returning your car rental.
Car rental companies vary when it comes to rates, overall service, car types, models and car condition. Some offer special services designed to help make your trip easier. Special Programs Page that major companies offer. These programs may help eliminate standing in long counter lines as well as aiding in picking up and returning your car. When reserving, you may want to ask if the agency provides emergency road service. If so, they will give you a toll free number to call if you have car trouble.
An extra fee is usually charged if a car is returned to a different location than where it was picked up. This fee varies on location so there usually is no general policy regarding this. In some instances there is no charge at others it can be as high a $1500.00.
To get the best rate when applicable, reserve your car at a weekly rate (a week is usually between 5-7 days) instead of at a daily rate.
Most car companies offer child safety, toddler and infant seats. Since there may be limited availability for these you should reserve these well in advance. Be aware that at some locations, you can only request a child seat to be their waiting for you without a guarantee. They are usually $5-$6 per day to rent but can be anywhere from $2-$10 per day.
Many companies currently are offering online discounts on the internet. When reserving online, be sure to print out or take note of your confirmation information and take this with you to the counter.
To get the best service, check your rental car companies website or inquire with them for what exactly they offer in the way of special services.
Check to see if your regular car insurance covers you in a rental car. This will save you worry and money when they ask “Do you want insurance?”. Some credit cards have rental car coverage, too. Your personal or corporate auto insurance may cover Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW), Personal Accident Insurance (PAI), Personal Effects Coverage (PEC) and Additional Liability Insurance (ALI). Most of the time these are optional coverage’s.
When determining your car rental bill be aware of the “24 hour clock rate” most rental car companies use when charging you. This means if you rent your car on Wednesday and return it on Thursday, you are charged for one day only if you return it within 24 hrs. You are usually charged for 2 days if you return it more than 27-28 hrs after picking the car up. The policy for most companies is that an hourly rate is charged for the first 3-4 hrs after 24 hrs. Returning the car after the hourly rate period means a whole extra day is usually charged. Be aware that this procedure can vary from company to company and that some companies use a calendar day billing policy wherein you have until midnight to return your car before being billed for a full extra day.
Rental car rates can vary 50% or more across agencies at the same location. For example, in Tampa an economy car may rent for as low as $79/wk or as high as $149/wk on the same day. To get the best deal, reserve your car at least a WEEK in advance. The earlier the better! Rates can very greatly at busy locations. Destinations like Florida, Denver and Las Vegas are VERY COMPETITIVE with rates varying as much as 100%!
Also keep in mind that rental car companies may vary their rates a great deal from city to city due to market forces. Rates for a little economy car at New York’s La Guardia Airport may vary from $200-$349/wk!
Be aware that some rental car agencies at the airport require that you show your airline ticket in order to receive your “discounted” airport rate. So if you need a rental car for only part of your trip it may not benefit you to go back to the airport to rent a car for the brief period you may need it. Your airline ticket may be required to show your flight arrival to be within 24 hours of rental car pickup at the airport for the lower rate.
For convenience this guide includes “snap shots” of rates in at many major airports. Click your city of destination and go to “low rates”. Bear in mind, these rates are only snap shots for reservations made on a given day and these rates usually change.
When you reserve, you are holding down a RATE, not necessarily a specific car. Write your CONFIRMATION number down where you will have it when you pick up your car.
If the rental car company is out of the class car you reserved you might be able to UPGRADE at no additional charge depending on what is available! Remember you reserved a rate in which the car company is obligated to.
If you’re not sure when you will be returning a car because you may have to stay longer, then it’s much better to reserve in advance for a longer time and return it early than pay the “premium daily rates” for returning a car a few days late. You’re not penalized for returning it early.
Be sure and fill your car up before you return your car. In most cases you will pay a high premium if you forget.
Most major rental car companies allow for unlimited MILEAGE in the same state, but it’s a good idea to check their policy before confirming. Many smaller local independent companies charge mileage after 100-200 free miles per day.
Vary from state to state, airport to airport and are additional expenses that can increase your overall bill substantially. “Off airport” car rentals may mean lower surcharges for you.
It’s a good idea to get out and inspect the vehicle with the attendant for scratches, dents or other damage before you take off. Any damage or unusual dents or scratches should be noted on the contract before you leave the lot. Go back to the rental office if need be to have this acknowledged in writing. Some companies may enforce a hard line policy regarding this.
Besides needing a valid drivers license and credit card in the same name, most large agencies require renters to be at least 25 years old. Many smaller local companies as well as Alamo have a minimum age of 21.
Yes, but there are a few small independents that allow cash deposits.
Many car companies will provide you with an EXTRA KEY if you ask for one. This can come in handy for some of us who are absent minded.
Be sure you get a MAP and look at it before you take off in your rental car. If you need to ask questions do so before you leave the agency. Take note of the location so you can easily return your car.
A “Fuel Purchase Option” or “Fuel Service Option” are handy if you think you will be in a hurry when you are returning your car at the airport. This option means you purchase an additional tank of gas at the average market price when you pick up the car. This will allow you to avoid paying the high fuel prices you will be charged IF you forget or do not have the time fill-up before returning to the airport. If you return the car near empty then you have really played this option to perfection!
When renting a car in another country, your personal insurance coverage probably will not extend to a car rental. In this case, your best option is to buy the collision damage waiver from the rental agency which may be expensive but very useful