Pass the Keys Please: Practical Car Rental Tips for First Timers

I remember the first time I needed to rent a car, I had no idea what I needed to do and didn’t know exactly how to go about getting the best deal. You don’t want to end up paying way too much for something you can’t really make good use of. Here’s what savvy consumers know that you don’t in the following car rental tips.


How To Choose A Vehicle

There are a lot of legal and financial considerations involved with a rental car. First, you want to know what your legal liability is when you rent a vehicle. Will your insurance cover you? What if you get into an accident? Who pays?

Aside from that, you want a good deal on the vehicle for the time you have it. You also want it to properly serve its purpose.

For example, let’s say you have a family of four. You can’t really fit them comfortably into a compact car. You might not even be able to fit them into a full-sized car. You may need an SUV, especially if you have luggage.

Can you drive a manual transmission? If so, you can save yourself some money on gasoline in most cases. In foreign countries, manual transmissions are the norm. In America, automatics are. Just something to think about.

How To Book Your Vehicle

How long do you think you’ll need it? Work this out before you rent. Companies like Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise are all good companies to go with if you’ll be renting for less than a week. If you plan on needing a vehicle longer than that, you might do better to talk to a local place. If you get into an accident, the downside with that approach is that you may be limited in terms of the support you get.

Always shop around for good deals, regardless of where you rent from. Aggregator sites, like Travelocity and Kayak, are great sites to get estimates from even if you don’t buy through them.

If you want a cheaper rate than the one quoted you, ask about discounts for being a AAA member, or for belonging to a professional organization.

Read The Terms And Conditions

Who reads the fine print? Well, if you don’t, make it habit to. If you’re booking online, read the TOS and terms and conditions of your rental before you finalize the reservation. If you book over the phone, ask your booking agent about restrictions. Make sure you understand all of the terms before you hand over your credit card information. Is there a penalty if you don’t show up? How long will your car be held if you’re stuck in traffic on the way to the agency? Is there a fee for additional drivers and how much is it? Do their names need to be listed in the contract? Can your teen or 20-something daughter drive the vehicle?

When You Pick Up Your Vehicle

When you get your vehicle from the agency, take a shuttle or van to the hotel instead. You’ll save some money on the rental by not having to pick up the extra day on it. Even if you have to drive the same day your flight lands, you may be able to save yourself money by not renting from an agency in the airport.

When It’s Time To Return The Vehicle

Make sure that you top off the gas tank. And, always avoid gas stations near the airport as they tend to jack up their prices. Returning your vehicle early might actually cost you money because you’ll pay an early return fee of about $15 per day. Your rate structure will also change, and you’ll have to pay for the difference. So, keep the vehicle for as long as you’re entitled to it.

Rosie Lawson has worked for various car rental companies over the years, working her way up the ladder. Now a Mother she is taking a career break and focusing her time and energy on her daughter and her writing.

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  1. I have to rent a car next month, so I appreciate the tips and pointers on doing it right. Your suggestions will make the process so much easier to do.

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