7 Things to Know Before Renting a Car

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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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Renting a car is a terrific convenience for any and all travelers who need four wheels to get around. But even as routine as renting a car is for some people, many travelers don’t know or question the car rental companies’ policies. While there are some things you just can’t change, such as the allowed driver age or damage policies, you can always argue unnecessary charges or just take your business to another car rental company. Here are seven important things to know before renting a car.

  1. Additional drivers cost more: Just because your car is full of people over the age of 25 doesn’t mean each one needs to be registered to drive the rental. In fact, some car rental companies charge drivers a fee for each additional driver added to the policy. While it’s not a bad idea to register at least two drivers to share the driving load, you may want to consider keeping it to one person if the driving distance or trip is short to avoid unnecessary fees.
  2. Inspect your rental beforehand: Before you hop into your rental vehicle and drive off in the wind, you should inspect the rental for scratches, dents, and other signs of damage first. Be sure to also take a look inside for any stains, tears, or marks on the interior. The rental facility should already have these damages filed, but it’s always smart to double check and make sure they have these dings noted. When you return the rental, don’t just hand over the keys and take off. Make sure someone inspects the car and you verify existing damages to avoid an accidental charge.
  3. Stay on the paved roads: When in doubt, stay on the paved roads. This information may or may not have been brought to your attention at the car rental facility, but it’s a common company policy that drivers tend to forget about. Driving on gravel and uneven surfaces can damage the car tires and vehicle, so be sure to avoid unpaved roads at all costs. In some cases, even when you buy collision damage protection or rental car insurance, companies can and will still charge you for damage caused by unpaved surfaces.
  4. Know your credit card’s policies on rentals: Before you hand over your credit card and go on your merry way in a rental car, be sure to verify what exactly is covered by your credit card policy. Know what rental car damages, fees, and extras are covered on the credit card beforehand and you’ll avoid any surprising costs when the bill comes.
  5. Pump gas elsewhere: One of the standard rules of rentals is to fill up the tank before you return the car. A common mistake so many drivers make is returning the car without a full tank of gas and letting the rental car company add the difference. Most rental car companies will overcharge drivers who didn’t return a fully gassed-up vehicle. Their rates are significantly higher than what you’d pay if you just filled up the car yourself. Go to a nearby gas station and you’ll save a little money.
  6. Airport car rental counters charge a fee: Airport car rental desks are notorious for tagging on an airport fee when you rent a car from their counter. Unfortunately, car rental companies are required by law to collect these surcharges for the airport and they can’t do much about it. If you want to avoid this fee, consider taking a shuttle or taxi to a car rental company outside of the airport where you won’t get dinged with this extra cost.
  7. Bring your own extras: Little things like child-safety seats, GPS systems, and DVD players can add up quick when added to a rental car. Save yourself some money by bringing these travel extras yourself. If you get a rental car with unnecessary extras, ask to have them removed, or get a new vehicle so that you don’t get stuck with a higher bill.

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