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What Should I Consider When Renting a Car?

By Donna Reynolds
Updated May 23, 2024
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Many people are intimidated when it comes to renting a car. There seem to be so many variables and hidden costs, and with so many choices available, it can really be overwhelming. But the process doesn't have to be painful and being informed ahead of time will help.

Perhaps the most obivous thing to consider when renting a car is the price. Most car rental agencies offer daily and weekly rates, and mileage can either be included or reflected as a separate charge. Some plans offer a set number of free miles, after which a mileage fee is charged. Consider the kind of driving that you will be doing in the car, and then try to calculate an approximate number of miles that you will travel.

When renting a car, you should also consider the kind of car you want to drive. Most agencies offer economy, compact, mid-sized, and luxury cars, and rates vary depending on the car that you choose. Consider the way you will be using the car. If you are renting a car for a short trip or to use while your own vehicle is in the shop, you can probably choose to rent a compact or economy vehicle to save some money. If you are going to be taking a long trip, however, you might be more comfortable in a larger vehicle. Keep in mind, however, that you might also be able to get an upgrade to a larger vehicle if the car you want is not available.

Once you have determined the type of car that you want to rent and have figured out the best type of rate, you are ready to go online and compare the rates offered by different car rental agencies. The major agencies have interactive websites and offer an online calculator that will allow you to enter your city and the dates that you will need the car. You will then be offered a selection of vehicles. Select the one that fits your requirements and a price will be displayed. In a matter of a few minutes, you can comparison shop the different agencies and determine which one has the best deal. Be sure to calculate in the sales tax as this figure is normally not included in the online price.

There are other considerations to keep in mind when renting a car. Often, agencies have special deals that are only available when you book in person or on the phone. Don’t be afraid to call and ask. Be sure to ask about the company’s gas fill-up policy. Normally you must return the car with a full tank or face a substantial penalty. You should also check the company’s policy on damage. Your insurance may cover the cost of damage on a rental car, but if not, it might be wise to consider paying for the agency’s loss damage waiver coverage, which will insure you against damage under the deductible.

When renting a car, be prepared to show your driver’s license. There also may be age restrictions, and rates are often higher for customers under the age of 25. Seniors may also face restrictions. You may be required to use a credit card to secure payment, and debit cards are not usually accepted. While it is possible to rent a car using cash, there is generally an approval process that can only be transacted during business hours, and this can be very costly.

Once you have researched your options and reserved your vehicle, there are a few things to keep in mind when picking up your car. Remember to bring the confirmation number from the transaction, your license, and credit card. Once the paperwork has been completed, be sure to read the contract carefully. Once you sign it, you are obligated to its terms. When you finally get your car, be sure to verify that the mileage matches what is printed on the contract and that any damage is noted.

When your trip is over and you are ready to return the car, be sure to bring it back within the allocated time frame. Normally you have an hour over the time limit to return the car before any additional charges are assessed, but after that, you usually will be charged an hourly rate. Be sure to check that your receipt matches the contractual price.

With modern technology, renting a car doesn’t have to be a difficult experience. With some pre-planning and a little knowledge, an educated consumer can be assured of getting the best possible deal and avoiding the pitfalls of renting a car.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Heavanet — On Feb 19, 2014

So true Rundocuri. When I was in college, I went on vacation with some friends and we rented a car to get to our destination. On the way home, a stone hit and cracked the windshield. We didn't even think to check to be sure if glass breakage was covered under our insurance policy. Needless to say, we ended up owing for the entire windshield. It's vital to make sure you have total coverage when you rent a car, or you could end up being out of a lot of money.

By Rundocuri — On Feb 18, 2014

When renting a car at any rental agency, it is always important to double-check the insurance coverage. First, check with your car insurance policy to see if your rental is covered. If not, make sure you get proper coverage from the rental agency when you pick up your car.

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