Whether you’re new to car renting or you’ve rented many vehicles over the years, considering several different factors may help keep you from overspending. Some of these items involve the rental car company directly trying to get more money out of you, while others are things you can take into consideration to reduce your bill.
Rental car rates often seem quite inexpensive when you’re shopping around, but when the time comes to pick up the car and your plans have already been made, unexpected expenses can suddenly make the price not so attractive anymore. Depending on your situation, it may be too late to back out, so you’d do well to show up prepared and knowing what to look out for.
Before you do business with any rental company, make sure you understand their pricing structure. Some will offer different rates based on the length of the rental period, for example, and in some cases, you can even end up paying more for the car to keep it for a shorter time than if you had rented it for the whole week. Ask about rate differences.
Whichever car rental company you decide on, they’ll most likely try to sell you insurance. It may seem like a good idea to go ahead and add that cost to be on the safe side, but the reality is that there’s a good chance your own car insurance company will already cover your rental. Check with the company that insures your car and verify what they cover for rental cars before you make this decision.
If you want to keep your bill low, don’t rent a bigger vehicle than you need, because chances are you’ll be paying for every square foot of extra space. Get an idea of the options that are available.
Like insurance, the car rental company will also likely try to sell you a variety of features with your rental, whether it be GPS, satellite radio, or even gasoline (which will almost certainly be more expensive than paying at the filling station). Unless you’re willing to pay extra for any available feature/service, be sure to tell them that you’re not interested. Otherwise, watch your bill go up.
Renting from an Airport Location
Renting from an airport-based location will likely cost you more than renting from a stand-alone branch. As you may know, most things are more expensive at airports, and rental cars are no different. If you can avoid renting from the airport, do so.
Before you drive off the lot, make sure that you do a thorough inspection of the vehicle along with an employee of the car rental company to make sure any existing damage is accounted for. If the company notices damage when you bring it back that wasn’t already recorded, you may find yourself paying the penalty.
Be sure you understand the company’s policy on refilling the tank. They may give you a full tank and expect you to fill it up when you bring it back, or they may give you a non-full tank and expect you to return it to the same level. Either way, you’ll be paying for the gas on your bill if it’s not returned accordingly, and you’ll be paying more per gallon than if you just stop and fill it up yourself.
Make sure you’re clear on any mileage limitations that come along with your rental. You may be able to save some money if you agree to a flat fee for a limited number of miles, but if you do that and exceed your allotted mileage, you’ll be paying for it.
Other Penalties and Fees
Other things you may be charged extra for include: returning the car late, returning the car early, returning the car to a different location, getting an upgraded vehicle, smoking in the vehicle, using a debit card. If you’re unclear on company policies about any of these things, make sure to ask about them.
If you’re going to be driving in another country, make sure to research that country’s laws as they apply to rental vehicles. Some places have different taxes, fees, and requirements associated with driving rentals. The last thing you need is to get pulled over and fined for something you didn’t even know existed.
Don’t forget to look into discounts and rewards programs that can save you money on your rental. The rental companies themselves have programs that you can take advantage of if you expect to be renting with any regularity. You can also get discounts from airline programs, and other offers available online via services like Groupon, LivingSocial, etc. Your credit card company may have a program with a partner car rental company, or you may qualify for a discount with AAA, AARP, or another group. Every little bit helps in reducing the cost of your car rental so you’ll have more money to spend on your trip.*
*Planning a dream vacation? Click here for an article on how to finance it.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A.
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