Need wheels on your next trip? Renting a car can give you freedom and flexibility when you’re traveling, and in some parts of the world it’s the only feasible way to get around.
But a rental car can sometimes add complications to your trip — like trying to find the best deal or sorting out exactly which insurance options you need. Read on for our practical tips on saving money, understanding your rental agreement and avoiding problems with your car rental.
Choosing a Vehicle
Think carefully about what kind of vehicle you’ll need. If you’re traveling with children or with a lot of gear, you may want a large sedan or SUV. If you’re simply looking to save money on rental rates and gas, you’ll want to reserve the smallest available model.
But size isn’t the only factor. Can’t drive a stick shift? Be sure to reserve a car with automatic transmission. (In many countries, a manual transmission is the norm — so read the fine print before booking. Learn more with our International Car Rental Tips.) Also, be sure that the company from which you’re renting offers any extras you might need or want, such as baby car seat or GPS system.
Booking Your Car
How long will you be renting? If it’s for less than a week, you’ll probably do best with a major rental company such as ours Thrifty Car Rental , Remember, however, to be wary of local companies if you plan to drive a lot; if you break down or get into an accident, they usually lack the support services of the majors.
Understanding Your Rental
If you’re booking online, read the terms and conditions carefully before confirming your reservation. If you’re booking over the phone, ask the agent about restrictions. Be sure you understand the conditions of your reservation. Is there a penalty for no-shows? How long will the car be held if you’re stuck in traffic on the way to the pickup station? Is there a fee for additional drivers and must their names be listed in the contract? Is your 20-year-old daughter old enough to drive the car? (For liability reasons, this is important.)
If pertinent, ask about any restrictions on interstate travel. For your own protection in case of breakdown, be sure the company has offices in all the states on your itinerary.
At Pickup Time
Before you drive away from the pickup station, inspect the car carefully for body damage. Be sure the lights and turn signals are working properly, and check the mileage odometer. Report any defects at once.
Familiarize yourself with the workings of the car before you leave the lot. Check which side your gas tank is on, and learn how to use the headlights, windshield wipers and turn signal. It may seem obvious, but you’ll also want to memorize the make, model and color of your car — that way you won’t lose it the first time you park in a busy lot!
Returning Your Car
Be wary of prepaid gasoline plans. Always fill the tank yourself before returning the vehicle so that you’re only paying for the amount of gas you actually used.
Before leaving the vehicle, check to be sure you haven’t left any personal belongings. Don’t forget to check the trunk! The most common lost articles include cell phones, sunglasses and umbrellas.
Be sure that the check-in attendant inspects the car’s body in your presence and that you agree about any damage. Examine your rental agreement carefully for all charges and make sure they credit any deposit to your account while you wait.