There are many reasons to rent a car.
Sure, you may be on vacation or traveling for business, but maybe:
- You're a car-less city dweller who just wants the occasional wheels to do your weekend errands.
- You need a van or truck to help you move.
- You want to impress a hot date and your compact sedan just isn't going to cut it.
Regardless of your reasons, renting a car can be tricky business if you don't do your homework. You could end up spending more than necessary, or getting roped into charges and fees that you don't actually need.
Before calling up a rental car company, run through this quick checklist of car rental tips:
Are you Eligible for a Car Rental?
There are a couple big reasons why you could hit a snag with your rental car.
First, your age. It used to be that you couldn't even think about renting a car unless you were validly licensed and 25 years old, but that has changed in recent years. Many major car rental companies will now rent to licensed drivers who are 21 to 24 years old (for an additional fee). If you're younger than 21, however, you will have a tough time finding a company willing to take the risk - this is due to higher accident rates among younger drivers.
A poor driving record is another potential road block. A few parking tickets or speeding citations probably won't keep you off the road, but a more serious violation, such as a DUI/DWI or a conviction for driving without a license could keep you on the sidelines.
Oh, and if you don't have a driver's license, don't even think about it.
Check Your Insurance: Does Your Policy Cover Rental Cars?
If you own a car, and therefore already have car insurance, you will want to verify the extent of your policy. Sometimes, your personal auto insurance contains provisions that cover part or all of the insurance required by the car rental company.
Don't have car insurance? Check your credit card. Many major credit card companies feature clauses in their agreements specifically geared toward rental car insurance. Be warned, the type of coverage offered by your MasterCard or Visa may only address part of the required coverage in your state, and in order to activate the credit card coverage, you have to use the credit card to make the purchase in most cases.
Shop Around: Check Different Car Rental Companies
As with any big purchase, the more research you do, the better.
Luckily, when it comes to car rentals, you have the whole worldwide web as your guide. Check various travel sites as well as car rental company websites for deals and coupons. Unlike booking airplane tickets, booking a car rental reservation often doesn't require an immediate charge (that happens at the time of the actual purchase).
Also, if you are a "weekend warrior" renting a car within your own city, try to find a neighborhood rental office rather than one at an airport. Airport rentals sometimes automatically tack-on additional fees and surcharges.
With Gas or Without?
Many rental car companies offer a deal that allows you to "pre-pay" for the gas that you may (or may not) use during your rental period. While it may sound like a good deal at the counter, when they tell you that you will be pay less per gallon to pre-pay than if you bought from a gas station, this "deal" can actually cause you to spend more than you need.
Before shelling out for the pre-paid option, estimate how many miles you anticipate driving. You may also need to figure in the average gas mileage of the type of vehicle you are renting. Unless you plan to do a lot of driving, the pre-paid option could make your rental unnecessarily costly.