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Person holding car keys in front of a rental car
Kurhan | Adobe Stock

5 Red Flags to Watch out for on That Too Cheap to Be True Car Rental

You can feel pretty confident when you reserve a vehicle through a big name rental car company like Hertz or Avis—you have a decent idea of what the experience will be like. So what should you do when you search for a rental car and find an amazing price that’s hundreds of dollars lower than what competitors are offering—but it’s with a rental car company you’ve never heard of like Zezgo or Nu car rentals? Is the cheaper deal worth the gamble?

Before you book with that no-name car rental, here are five red flags to look out for. 

Person holding out a set of car keys to the camera
puhhha | Adobe Stock

Mandatory Insurance

Pretty much all rental car companies will try to get you to pay extra for insurance through them. However, most credit cards offer free rental car coverage, so additional insurance isn’t always necessary. Some cheaper rental car agencies make a profit by requiring you to book their exorbitantly expensive insurance and they will refuse to accept any other insurance.

To avoid this, read the fine print when making your reservation and add in any mandatory fees or insurance to the total cost of your booking to find out if it’s really a deal once everything is accounted for.

No Phone Number (or No One Answers the Phone)

Scammy rental car agencies don’t want to make it easy for customers to contact them with complaints or questions. If a rental car company doesn’t list a phone number—or if you’ve tried calling multiple times during normal business hours and no one ever answers or returns your voicemail messages, this could be a bad sign. 

Payment By Credit Card Not Accepted

A non-recognizable rental car brand isn’t automatically a bad thing—they could simply be cheaper because they have less of a marketing budget. On the flip side, the unknown name could be because the company doesn’t actually exist. 

Amy Nofziger, AARP director of fraud victim support tells SmarterTravel of a common scam in which fraudsters create websites or phone numbers for fake car rental agencies. “Customers would search the internet for good deals on car rental and find these phone numbers or even fake websites,” says Nofziger. “The criminals would then offer a discount if the victim would pre-pay, and always with gift cards, or another nontraditional form of payment.” 

Upon arrival at the fake car rental agency’s address, customers would discover the company didn’t exist, or there was no reservation at a legitimate agency. 

A company asking for payment via gift cards or wire transfers should be a red flag, as consumers won’t have as many payment protections as they would when paying with a credit card. 

Person signing car rental documents at a desk
JD8 | Adobe Stock

Unlimited Miles Aren’t Included

The majority of car rentals include unlimited miles these days—but you’ll always want to verify that your booking does before you commit. Some unscrupulous rental car agencies will set a very low limit for included mileage, and then will tack on high charges for every mile over that—which can cause your final bill to skyrocket.

Consumer Complaints

Odds are, if someone else has been scammed by a bad rental car company, they’ve written an angry review about it on the internet. Before booking with a company that you’ve never heard of, do a quick Google search of the company name to see what type of reviews are out there. Check Yelp for reviews of local branches, and also be sure to read any complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau.

Searching “rental car company name” + scam can also help turn up complaints about suspicious companies. 

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