Rental cars are a billion-dollar industry that keeps getting bigger every day. One advantage of using rental cars is that it lowers the wear and tear on our own gas guzzler and also provides on the road assistance in case of a break down in the middle of a fun-filled vacation.
Rental car companies are definitely not the traveler’s friend. They fleece us at every opportunity. Rental car rates quoted over the phone rarely include the taxes or surcharges that may add more than 20% to the total bill. Also, they will make you get accident insurance and collision damage waiver and personal effects insurance and what not, taking our final bill higher and higher with add-ons that we may never need! The National Association of Attorneys General estimates that the actual cost of renting a car may exceed the advertised rate by as much as 75%!
So how do we sort through the hoopla and decide what we really need and what we can live without when it comes to auto rental agencies?
There is no other weapon against fleecing than to prepare for your trip way ahead of time. There are many things you can do to help you reduce your vehicle rental cost.
Check your insurance coverage
If you are traveling within your country, you may be covered for most accidental damages. Visit the website for your country or make that call to your insurance agent to determine this very important piece of information that may save you hundreds of dollars! If you are traveling on business, check if your company has insurance coverage for its traveling employees. Also, check if there are discounts available for employees when you rent cars from any specific car rental agencies. Also, find out what your credit card company covers if the rental car is to be paid using that card.
Insurance is especially tricky if you are driving in foreign countries. There are highway fees and other charges for driving in certain countries. Also, you may need to pay for some stickers that if missing will allow the cops in those countries to slap strange fees and fines on unsuspecting travelers. So do your homework before you travel or rent a vehicle while traveling abroad. Remember, most people who pick up the phones may know your language but the local auto rental owner may not know your language. So it’s very important that you know all rules and regulations ahead of time.
Coupons and Package deals
At any time, you can perform an online search of the car rental agency or the city where you will be staying to find out if there are any special deals that you can use. This may save you much more than you think. If you can use a package deal (like 3 days for $99) and also use a discount such as AAA or AARP, etc, you may save a bundle or two.
Calling the national toll free number may not be the way to go, call the rental company directly and if possible, pick up the car from a location other than the airport. All fees are higher at airports simply because of the demand and sometimes also because they can legally fleece travelers and no one has the time to complain. When you make the reservation, make sure that you ask for the extra taxes and charges that may be added to the bill.
Drop Off Charges
Always ask if there are drop off charges involved. If you rent a car at one location and try to return it to another location, you may be charged with fees as much as $1000 depending on the distance involved. Also, its good to know when the 24-hour cycle begins and when the extra day is added to the bill so that you will not be charged for a whole day because you were late by a few minutes.
While at the rental facility to pick up the vehicle, you will be offered collision damage waiver insurance. Again, if your insurance does not cover it, it may be good to pay for that since you will be able to drive away in a similar car even if you were responsible for causing an accident. If you are offered any other insurance such as Personal Effects Insurance, decline it. This insurance is supposed to replace your personal effects if they were stolen from a locked car, but there are so many exclusions that it’s just not worth it. That should keep your bill down considerably.
Enjoy the ride
For the most part, the rental car agencies let you go on your own to enjoy the trip. If you need assistance, it may not be an easy thing. You have to call them and inform them of your problem and if you are stuck in some situation where you need another car, they may take their own sweet time to get to you. One of the rental cars we used broke down in the middle of an intersection. Some of the passersby helped push it to a shopping center parking lot where we sat for hours before we saw the replacement car driving in to rescue us. However, the rental agreements rarely cover any time issues. It’s up to the customer to ask them about the delays and replacement vehicles.
Rental car companies also overcharge travelers who are unaware of their fueling options. If a car is not completely full at the time of return, the company can charge you for a whole tank of fuel, at their highest prices. You may never find a gas station even near the rental car agency charging that much price per gallon. If you don’t watch out, you can end up paying much more than you needed to. So before you return your car, make sure you fill up at the gas station nearest to the rental car facility. Remember, even if you are used to filling up with premium grade fuel, you can save some money by using the medium or low-grade fuel when filling up these rental cars.
Saturday mornings are the best times to rent cars. Most business travelers have gone home for the weekend on Friday evenings and the car lots are full on Saturdays. So you will be able to save money on the rental cars and maybe even make some bargain deals if you negotiate well.
Overall, being prepared to avoid the extra charges on your bill and making sure that nothing is added without your consent can save you a lot of money and frustration. This will also help you enjoy your trip more!