Five Things You Must Know Before Renting a Car
You've locked in the cheapest flight and found a great hotel. Now it's time to sort out your local transportation, but first make sure you know these five critical things about finding a rental car.
What's Your Insurance Situation?
Believe it or not, you probably have all the insurance you need without purchasing any coverage from the rental agency. Avoid the gouge by first checking with your credit card or personal auto insurance company—many of those policies extend to rental cars. Also, if you're reserving your car through an Online Travel Agent (OTA) like Expedia or Priceline, check to make sure they didn't bundle in their own insurance in your final price.
You'll Pay More At Certain Locations
Want to stroll off your flight and into your rental car? Be prepared to pay for the privilege, as most rental agencies charge more at airport locations than at those further out. If you can take public transportation, a free shuttle, or get a ride to a non-airport location (even just a mile or two off-site), you'll likely save big. Most airport locations get charged extra fees and taxes for operating there, and they pass those costs on to the renter.
Your Booking's Not Really Confirmed (on Either End)
If you book directly through a rental car company, most don't require you to put down a deposit or even a credit-card number to reserve. That's because your booking isn't really reserving your car. Ever shown up to collect your economy compact, only to be told that you'll have to upgrade to a
''better'' model—and pay the difference? Your ''reservation'' won't help you there, as it's usually subject to availability. Work this in your favor and reserve the lowest rate you can find, but keep shopping around and swapping your reservation for cheaper last-minute rates. You may also want to make reservations at two different places if you're really concerned about availability. The majority of places don't charge a cancellation fee, but always double-check before double-booking, just in case.
Who's Going To Be Driving?
Planning on sharing the driving duties during a long road trip? Think carefully about whether or not you really need a second (or even a third) driver on your reservation. You'll usually have to pay extra for another person to be able to drive the rental car, and that can really add up per day. But remember, if an accident happens while someone who's not officially on the rental car agreement is driving, your insurance (or any additional insurance you bought through the rental car company) may not cover the incident.
Search For Discounts
Take a quick scan through all those membership cards in your wallet—carrying them around may pay off. If you're a member of AAA, USAA, the NEA, or warehouse shops like Costco or BJ's, you may find a discount code you weren't expecting. Shop around even after you find a discount—sometimes the discount is taken off the highest regular price, and a car rental company's sale price might be lower.
Readers, what are your best car rental tips? Share your suggestions in the comments area below!
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