Renting a car can be daunting and you’re probably asking yourself “what should I know before renting a car?” There’s a lot to consider, but luckily there are plenty of answers and helpful tips out there. Car rental companies are quite discerning and particular when it comes to who can rent a car. After all, cars are expensive and you can’t just let anyone drive off the lot with a rental car. “Know before you go” gets thrown around a lot when traveling and car rental is no different. Here’s our list of what you should know before renting a car.
Use a credit card when picking up the car
Intuition might tell you that booking with a debit card would be easier, but it’s not. While many car rental companies will take a debit card, there are large authorization fees and holds placed on debit transactions by car rental companies to make sure they don’t get stiffed. If you need to use a debit card, it’s a good idea to call ahead and see what rules are associated with it. Using a credit card is preferred, as rental companies know they won’t be liable for the funds as long as the initial charge goes through. Some rental companies may check your credit score, but nowadays this is less common. It’s a good idea to call your credit card company before you rent a car and see if there are any perks that come with it. Some cards cover rental car insurance or have small discounts with specific rental car agencies. It may be just a few bucks, but it’s definitely worth a shot!
Don’t prepay for gas
Almost all rental car companies will ask you if you want to pay for gas. It seems simple, but the pre-paid gas costs are often sky-high, even if they charge a market price for fuel. On your way out of the airport, make a mental note of where the gas stations are. There are likely to be dozens within 5 miles of most major airports. When you refuel right before you drop off your rental car, you save lots of money for only about 5-10 minutes of your time.
Know your insurance options
Like we said earlier, see if your credit card perks cover any type of car rental insurance. Rental car insurance is a big upsell for a lot of rental car companies and can end up being expensive and a huge pain. How much rental car coverage should you get? What are you liable for if you get in a small accident? What if you get in a big accident? It stinks to play ‘what if’ at the rental car kiosk and catastrophize on vacation. Be sure to read the fine print on any rental car agreement and see if your AAA (triple-A) or AARP membership (if over 60) might help you get coverage. Some car sharing companies like Avail now offer insurance coverage, but they may not be available everywhere quite yet.
Younger people pay more to drive rental cars
If you’re under 25, you’re probably reading this saying “what the heck?!” While it may not seem fair, it’s common practice for most all traditional rental car companies. They tack on fees because drivers under 25 are often less experienced and more at risk to get into an accident. Even if you have a spotless record, you’ll likely pay up to $20 extra per day just to rent a car. It’s a real pain as young groups of friends usually have the most freedom to travel on breaks from school. Under-25 fees got you down? You might want to look into car rental alternatives like car sharing. Companies like Avail have no under-25 fees. You just have to be 21+ and have a valid U.S. driver’s license.
Try not to rent a car at the airport
We say ‘try’ because this one’s probably the hardest to avoid. After all, most people rent a car when they’re flying into a new place and don’t have the local knowledge of where the next most convenient car rental spots are. Airport car rental is usually more expensive than renting a car from a downtown location, so if you’re staying local, this can save you a lot of money. You can also save time, airport taxes, and not have to wait in line as long.
We weren’t kidding when we said there’s a lot to consider. If renting a car seems like a headache, there are a few alternatives like car sharing. Car sharing is just like car rental, but all the cars are owned by people like you, so there’s less overhead for the car sharing company. That results in lower daily rates, less hassle and insurance protection from Allstate for every trip.