You’ve probably heard all the rental car disaster stories you can handle. Charges for strange damages, hidden fees, or our favorite: that big security deposit charge on your credit card that never gets lifted.
Here’s what happens. When you rent a car, the rental car company places a temporary hold on your credit or debit card. They don’t actually take money out of your account, but the hold serves as a security deposit in case something goes wrong. Unfortunately, many people end up losing this money. But there are all sorts of ways to avoid losing your rental car deposit. Here’s our take:
Before you even book a rental car, you need to ask the right questions and do your research. This helps avoid any surprise fees and gives you the tools to keep track of the rental car deposit.
Familiarize yourself with the rental company’s policies via their website or by calling up a representative. If you give them a ring, ask, “How long does it take to get your security deposit back from a car rental?” In some cases it can take up to 15 days, so you’ll need to be prepared. But this way, you’ll know exactly when they’ll release the hold on your card. And if the payment doesn’t show up during that time frame, you’ll know when to reach out to the company.
You should also ask, “Do I lose my rental car deposit if I get into an accident?” The insurance policy you choose (or already have), can dictate the answer. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the rental insurance policies, which can be a little murky.
Once you arrive at your vehicle, give it a good look-over. Thoroughly inspect every area of the car, looking for flaws and keeping notes or taking photos. Some rental companies will provide you with a specific document to note these issues. That way, you won’t get knocked for dings or dents you didn’t create and can avoid losing your rental car deposit.
Look for dents or scratches in the body of the car. Be thorough. Heck, even turn on the flashlight in your phone if you’re in a dark parking garage. Check the wheels for proper inflation, the hubcaps for damage, and the windows for any cracks.
Review the seats and make sure the upholstery is intact and clean. Note any stains in the fabric or even stains on the floor mats. Make sure the seatbelts work. Check the trunk for a spare tire and the jack to change it if needed.
Make sure all the lights are working properly and the A/C and heat function. Do a quick look-over on the windshield wipers, the digital command center (if you have one), and the electronic alarm system. Also check how much fuel you have and make note of it so you know how much to fill up when you return the vehicle.
Once the rental company places a payment hold on your credit card, take a look at your bank account to make sure it’s the correct amount. These deposits can be around a few hundred dollars, and if you have a certain limit on your card and try to make another payment, you could exceed your limit. And if that happens, you won’t be able to use your credit card.
We don’t want to sound like your mom, but take extra precaution on the road. You’re likely in a new city (or even a new country), so check the local speed limits and driving rules, and be careful. Make sure you have your bearings and your GPS is squared away before heading out, and don’t mess with your phone while you’re at the wheel. Keep in mind many cities have restrictions against cell phone usage.
If you do get into an accident, make sure you know the right number to call. Your rental car company should provide you with that information.
No need to take the car to the car wash, but you could get charged extra if you return the vehicle in a rough state. Tell your travel buddies to keep their muddy shoes out of the car and snag a lid for that extra-large cup of cold brew you're sipping on.
When it’s time to return the car, fill up at a gas station close to the rental car place. Make sure you know the right type of gasoline to use and keep your receipt just in case.
Don’t just head out once you’ve dropped off the rental car. Wait for the representative to inspect the vehicle to help avoid losing your rental car deposit. Before paying the bill, double-check each line item to ensure there aren’t any hidden fees or issues.
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