What to Check before Renting a Car
Rental cars are often dismissed as being too expensive. But this is not always the case, since it can save you money, especially if you don’t own or use a car regularly. Renting a car has become an option that more and more travelers choose since it offers them freedom of movement and allows them to discover many places for very little money. However, this procedure can be a bit tricky, especially if you haven’t rented a car before. In this article, I will provide all the information you need to know about renting a car and how rental car companies work.
1) If you are planning a road trip. Renting a car is a good idea when you don’t have your own car or if your car is not very reliable. Not all types of cars can be driven on forest roads or winding mountain passes. In addition, you can avoid adding mileage to your own car and you also have the protection of the car rental company. For tips on how to plan the perfect road trip, click here.
2) If your destination can be reached only by car. Many places are not served by mass transit and if you need or want to visit this place, you don’t really have a choice.
3) If you need the freedom and comfort of having your own car. Mass transit, like buses and trains, are not always convenient. Renting a car is often more cost effective than using a cab to get around.
4) If several people are headed to the same place. Renting a van and splitting the cost is a good idea, let alone if the passengers have two or more pieces of luggage.
When shouldn’t I rent a car?
When everyone is driving on the other side. If you are visiting a country where they drive on the other side of the road, it is advisable to avoid renting a car there. It will be easy for you to get confused. Also, avoid a rental in a country whose language you don’t speak or you can’t understand the signs.
If it easy and convenient to get to your destination by mass transit. You obviously save a significant amount of money if you use a bus or a train instead of a rental car.
If your driver’s license is flagged. If you’ve had several violations you will most probably not be allowed by the rental company to rent. The same occurs if you’ve damaged a rental car in the past and didn’t pay for the repairs.
If you’re younger than 21. Almost all rental companies refuse to rent to you if you’re younger than 21 and some might not let you rent even if you are younger than 25. However, the age limits are based on the terms and conditions of the country you rent in so make sure you check before you rent overseas.
If you’re just planning to stay at a hotel.
Which are my rental options?
Go local. Searching for local car rental companies is probably the most common option but it can be a hassle, especially if you’re arriving at your destination by plane. Make sure that you do an Internet research for the local car company you chose and ask questions over the phone in order to learn how this company works.
Book a car online. Sites like Zipcar, Turo and many more are companies that provide rental cars worldwide. Some of these companies require a membership fee and you usually have to plan ahead a bit, since you must be an approved member to rent. Other websites like RentalCars, are specialized in car rentals from airports. Check out their sites for more details.
Use a travel agency. You can either ask your travel agent or use an online travel agency to rent a car. Companies like Expedia, Orbitz and more offer virtually a variety of car rental brands. Keep in mind that the travel agencies get paid commissions on rentals so they may steer you toward a rental company that pays them the highest commission.
What is the Rental Car Classification?
Car rental companies offer cars in different classes, just like the hotels have star ratings. They are supposed to represent the quality of the car but they are subjective since a car can be considered a “full size” by one company but a “luxury” by another. I’ll briefly name the most popular classes that companies use in order to rate their vehicles:
1) Economy car rentals: Ideal for short term travel and for travelers on a budget. They can typically accommodate 4 adults and 2 medium-sized suitcases.
2) Compact car rentals: Offer superior fuel economy and adequate space for luggage (about 3 medium-sized bags).
3) Mid-size car rentals: These are more comfortable and offer enough space for 3-4 medium-sized suitcases.
4) Full-size car rentals: Offer decent fuel economy and can comfortably stow 4 medium-sized bags.
5) Luxury car rentals: If you want to travel in style and comfort, this class offers a variety of high-end sports cars.
Types of Rental Car Fees
Except for the daily charge for a specific class of car you will be charged additional fees and facility charges. You might not be able to find out about all the fees you’ll be charged until you show up at the rental car counter. Make sure that you carefully examine your contract and that you understand all the charges before you sign it. Here are the types of rental car fees that you might be charged:
Early/Late Return Fee. You will be charged if you bring the car on a different date and time than the one written on your contract. If you return the car earlier, it will be called “rental change fee”. If you return the car late, you will be charged a fee and an hourly or daily rate for the extra rental time.
Refueling Fee. Some companies charge a fee if you return the car without fuel or if you do not show them a receipt for your fuel purchase. To avoid this fee, refuel the car before you return it and keep the receipt with you.
Driver Fee. Some rental car companies charge a fee if you add another driver to your contract. You might also be charged depending on your age; drivers younger than 25 are usually subject to additional fees.
Lost Key Fee. If you lose the key of the rental car, you will be obliged to pay for its replacement. The replacement cost is usually high and be aware that if you lose the two-key ring, you will be charged for both keys.
Cancellation Fee. If you rent a luxury car, you may be asked to guarantee your reservation with a credit card. If you decide not to rent the car, some rental companies charge a cancellation fee if you cancel after a specific deadline. This deadline varies depending on each rental company so make sure that you cancel in time.
International Travel Fee. This applies only if you plan to drive outside your country of choice. Make sure that you mention to your rental company where you will be traveling before you start your trip so they can inform you of any additional fees you will need to pay.
Insurance Car Fee. You might be asked to pay some additional fees in case you have an accident or collision. These are often referred to as Collision Damage or Loss Damage Waiver.
Mileage Fee. Some car rental companies add an additional mileage fee, which is usually small but is charged per kilometer. However, this is not the case if your contract says unlimited mileage.
How does insurance work?
In most countries, the price of a rental car includes a basic package of three types of cover: damage, theft, and third-party cover. This kind of cover is not actually insurance but a waiver, which means that the company waives its right to make you pay for the damage. Here’s some information about the cover:
1) Collision Damage Waiver: It protects you if the rental car gets damaged. However, it doesn’t cover every part of the car, but only the bodywork and not the windows, wheels, or interior. If you damage any of these you will have to pay the full cost of the repair. In addition, if the bodywork of the car gets damaged while you were illegally speeding, parked, or drink-driving, for example, the waiver will not protect you.
2) Theft Protection: If the rental car gets stolen you won’t have to pay for a new car. Again, like the Collision Damage Waiver, the Theft Protection will not cover the cost if the theft was your fault and you didn’t follow the rules of the rental agreement. If, for example, you forgot the keys in the ignition, you will have to pay for the theft.
3) Third-Party Liability: Once again, only if you stick to the rules of the rental agreement, this waiver will pay out if you hurt anyone or damage anything with your hire car.
You can choose to buy extra insurance to cover your rental, which are likely to cover parts of the car beyond the bodywork. This kind of cover is optional, so it’s clearly up to you.
What if your rental has any preexisting damage?
Make sure that you photograph your rental car before you leave. Find a bright space, out in the open, and take pictures of the outside and the inside of the vehicle. Most car rental companies do not adequately document the condition of the vehicle and might file a damage claim after your return. If you spot a preexisting damage, scratch or dent while you’re photographing the vehicle, inform a car rental employee immediately. Record the damage and make sure that a car rental employee signs it. You also have the right to ask for another rental car. Not because you are picky, but because you don’t want to be blamed for those damages later on, despite how small they may seem. Make sure that you keep your photos, receipts and signed documents for at least six months; that’s how long it takes to file a claim. You should also reject your rental if the car is not the one you reserved, doesn’t appear safe to drive, or has high mileage. In general, don’t be afraid to return your car if you feel that it is not working properly.
If you’re completely certain that you returned the car undamaged, here are some strategies that will help you dispute a claim:
Send an email to the car rental company. Make sure that you send a polite and detailed email, explaining why you reject their claim. Your first email will probably be rejected but you need it to be recorded as a first step of your denial.
Send again an email, more strongly worded this time. If your initial email is rejected, restate your arguments in a second email.
Ask to speak with a manager.
The Bottom Line
As you’ve probably realized, renting a car is not an easy procedure but if you are careful enough it really pays off. All you have to do is take some of the precaution steps mentioned in the article and you’ll be ready to start your trip without any worries!
Edited by Eleni Gkovedarou
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