Last year, US car rental companies earned more than $26 billion, with 1.8M cars across over 18,000 locations. Renting a car is something we all have done at some point, whether for business, on vacation or when your car is off the road. While hiring a rental car might seem like a simple, streamlined process the reality is that car rental companies make most of their money, not from hiring the car itself but from the extras they charge you for insurance, gas, children’s car seats etc. Not planning properly can cost you money and we’re here to help you avoid this. Here are some useful tips about what not to do next time you rent a car.
Forget to check for discounts and points
There are a lot of membership programs that offer discounts, freebies, or reward points when you book a car rental through them. Check for AAA, AARP, frequent flier programs of airlines, sports and hobby groups, or other travel organizations. Since you are most likely paying a membership fee to these organisations you might as well make use of the benefits they offer and get a discount or maybe even a free upgrade with your car rental
Forget to ask for offers to upgrade
There are times when car rental places have issues with their inventory. Especially during peak season. They often run out of the car you reserved, especially if its a lower priced model (the most popular type of car rental). If this happens to you, the car rental company will be obliged to offer you a car from the next category up. Even if they have the car you wanted they will likely ask you if you would like an upgrade for a small fee. Play your cards right and you could be driving away in a Camaro instead of a Fiat 500
Prepay for your fuel
Not having to stop on your way back to return the car will save you time and effort. Unfortunately, it will also cost you money. You’ve probably noticed how car rental companies put the hard sell on prepaid fuel. The simple reason for this is it’s profitable for them to get you to buy the fuel from them rather than stop at a local gas station. They put a mark up on the price of gas. If you’re worried about missing your flight I suggest leaving for the airport earlier. The convenience offered by the car rental company is not cheap.
Take back a car with an empty tank
The chances are you won’t be familiar with the area you’ve rented the car in. We recommend scouting the local area as you leave with your hire car. Finding the nearest gas station is a must. Most airports have one very close to their car hire facilities to allow passengers to refill the tank before they drop the car off. If you fail to do so, the car rental company will fill it up for you but at a premium price.
Purchase insurance without checking if you need it
Before you sign up for the extra insurance policy the car hire place is desperately trying to sell you, check with your existing car insurance. Many full coverage policies include car hire insurance as a benefit. If you’ve already got it, it would be a complete waste of money to sign up for a second policy.
(it’s such a bad mistake to make we’ll mention it twice). You should also check your credit card because if your auto insurance does not cover you when driving a rental car, its quite possible your credit card will. Check which credit cards offer this benefit and make sure you use this card to pay for the rental.
Ignore “loss of use” insurance
This is a new charge you will find tacked on by car rental companies if a vehicle is damaged during your rental period. This fee supposedly covers the loss of income that the car rental company will face if the vehicle is off the road for repairs. The standard rate is the equivalent of a 1-day car rental fee. This will, of course, be the highest rate they advertise the car at. Most regular car insurance policies do not cover this but a lot of credit cards do include it, such as American Express, Mastercard, and Visa.
Leave the car rental place without inspecting your car
Before you go roaring off into the sunset in your shiny rental car, spend a few minutes inspecting it for scratches, dents, loose parts, scuffs, and ensure that everything works – blinkers, windscreen wipers, electric windows and mirrors. If you notice anything, inform the car rental company before you leave and make sure it is documented so that the damage won’t be charged to your account.
Return the car without inspecting it yourself
Cross international borders
Before you start whipping out your passport and heading over the border to another country, take a minute to check whether your car insurance covers you and if the rental company allows you to cross borders. Most car rental companies do not permit this. If they do, did you buy the necessary insurance? The reason to be vigilant is that domestic car rental insurance is different from international insurance and you will not be covered if something happens to the car while you are in a different country from the one you rented the car in. You can, however, check with your credit card company if they cover things like this. Some rental companies near the Mexican or Canadian border will tell you about this stuff, but not all businesses do so it is best to ask.
So before you approach the car rental counter, remember these tips and you’ll save yourself some serious money!