Even with Uber and Lyft providing admirable services to those in a need of a car while on vacation, renting a car is still the best way to go. Renting a car can get pricey and sometimes infuriating, especially when someone tries to upsell you on insurance. Still, there is something freeing about cruising around in your own car, uninhibited, with a whole new region in front of you to explore.
Before you rent a car for your getaway, however, it's best to know what you're getting yourself into. Can you get a cheaper rate, do you need to prepay, and do you actually need that insurance? Here are 10 things you need to know about renting a car on vacation.
10 Book Early for Cheaper Rates
Like most traveling expenses, renting a car ahead of time can save you a decent chunk of change. When you find a car rental agency, you should do that at the same time that you book your flights and hotel room.
As long as you have the dates planned out, there is no reason not to do some price comparisons for your rental. Although you won't be able to gauge it now, your car rental will be exponentially lower than the prices you see when shopping last minute.
9 Airport Car Rentals Cost More
Picking up a car as soon as you land at the airport is time-saving and convenient. However, that convenience comes with a price tag. Generally speaking, the rental agencies on airport properties hike up their prices more than the ones down the street. They have to pay for that prime real estate in some way! Your car rental price can increase anywhere between twenty to thirty percent more with airport rental surcharges.
These fees are legitimized through loopholes like tourism tax. Some people have found that simply taking an Uber down the road saves them money rather than renting from the airport location.
8 Use A Credit Card
While it isn't common practice anymore, using a debit card to pay for a rental car means being subject to impending stipulations. Using a debit card for a car rental meant giving permission to the company to run your credit report. Again, this policy isn't seen much today, but just in case, it's safer to use a credit card when booking. A debit card can also mean hundreds of dollars being held as a liability caveat.
Plus, some credit cards automatically give driver's primary insurance coverage if the card pays for the car in full!
7 Anyone Under 25 Is Subject To Surcharges
Extra fees will apply for young adults or teens who are added on as drivers for a rental car. Unfortunately, even a spotless driving record isn't going to do them any favors, so pointing this out and arguing with the rental agent isn't the best idea.
Anyone under the age of 25 is subject to surcharges. Your best bet is to leave these travelers off the rental agreement. And if you're under the age of 25 and traveling solo, well then expect to pay those fees.
6 Shop For Car Insurance
It's palpable that shopping for car rentals a standard procedure, but the same ideology applies when shopping for car insurance for your rental. You can check to see if your personal insurance covers rental. If it does, then you make want to ask about primary coverage in case you get into an accident (or, as mentioned earlier, see if your credit card has that perk).
If you don't have insurance, see how much it would be to add it on. Chances are, it will be much cheaper than what the rental company has to offer.
5 There Are Plenty of Discounts
There is a bevy of discounts that you can apply to your rental car. So make sure you do your coupon shopping before paying the full price. Rental cars may even list these discounts on their website in order to promote their partners.
Car rental places often partner with the likes of AAA, AARP, and even hobby or shopping-based discounts apply. If you're a frequent flyer, chances are you already know about the discounts that apply to your card, but don't forget to use them!
4 You Need To Inspect The Car Before You Leave
Don't just do a fly-by scouting of your car. It's important to inspect every inch of your rental, inside and out. before leaving the property. This is true for when you pick up the vehicle and when you drop it off.
Car rental agencies don't hesitate when it comes to charging customers for potential damages. To be safe, make a list of any discrepancies you see and take pictures on your own phone for backup.
3 Don't Prepay For Gas
The price that rental agencies will charge you to fill up the tank on return is dramatically more expensive than it would be to do it yourself. Nevertheless, it has proven to be an effective motivator for people who have early morning flights that they don't want to risk missing.
To avoid this surcharge, just be sure to scout out some fuel up stations and plan time accordingly so that you can return the tank on full. So if the rental agent asks if you want to prepay for gas, just say no.
2 Check Return Policies
Most rental car agencies will have a "loss of use" clause embedded into their terms and conditions. This means that if you are to get into an accident with your rental, the agency will charge you for that specific car's loss of use, or the time they could not rent it out because of the damages. This isn't usually covered by insurance companies, but it is with credit cards. Visa, Mastercard, and American Express all offer this policy, but double check with your credit card company to see their rules for covering this area.
It's also worth noting that you need to check to see if your rental car has unlimited mileage or a daily limit so as not to accrue extra charges.
1 Pay Tolls In Cash
One sneaky charge that car rental places love to put to use is toll charges. If you're in a hurry and decide to bypass the cash toll lanes in favor of the E-Z Pass lines, just know that you may be paying double the tolls.
Rental car agencies like Hertz and Enterprise will charge an extra $3-4 dollars on top of the standard toll fee. Your best bet is to keep some cash on you while on vacation and take the time to utilize those cash toll lanes.