Renting a car for a vacation just makes sense. It saves you money that you’d be spending on taxi rides and keeps you from being reliant upon the schedule (or unpredictable schedule) of public transportation. But the entire process involved in renting a car can be daunting for both first-timers and veteran travelers alike.
Here are 8 valuable things to know about how to rent a car.
1. Use a credit card when picking up the car
Renting a car on Skyscanner is a breeze, but make sure you use a credit card when picking up your wheels. When you use a debit card, an authorization amount will be charged, and a substantial (i.e. potentially hundreds of dollars) additional incremental hold will be assessed as well. Rental car companies used to check your credit score when you used a debit card to make sure you can pay any charges, though that policy has recently been changing among most of the larger rental companies. If you prefer to rent a car using a debit card, call ahead or check online to see what the policy is so you don’t wind up with a hold on funds that you weren’t expecting.
2. Kids cost more to drive rental cars
Your 23-year-old daughter may have a spotless driving record, but car rental companies don’t care. Rental companies only see them as a possible liability to their goods. Even though young drivers can rent cars at 20 or 21 years old, they’ll likely have to pay an additional fee if they’re still under 25. If you’re traveling with someone under 25, just don’t add them as an additional driver (and make sure they never get behind the wheel!) and you won’t need to worry about incurring this extra fee.
3. Keep drivers to a minimum
Whether you’re going on a family vacation or a getaway with some friends, keep the number of drivers to a minimum. For every additional driver, you’ll need to pay a daily fee, whether or not they actually end up driving during the rental period. Sometimes, though, rental companies will waive the fee for corporate rentals or a spouse or domestic partner, but you’ll want to double-check to see what their policy is, as it varies by rental company.
4. Shop around for car insurance
You can get insurance on your rental car from the agency, but insurance at a car rental shop is extremely high, and should only be used if you have exhausted all other options. Take a look at your personal vehicle insurance, which could potentially cover rentals too. You should also give your credit card company a call, as many of them offer some type of car rental insurance as a card benefit. Many are quite good and would allow you to waive insurance carefree as long as you reserve the car with that specific credit card (that last point is a must if you plan to use this card benefit for the duration of your rental period). Don’t forget to shop around for car rental discounts, too!
5. Try not to rent a car at the airport
When thinking about how to rent a car, the question of where to rent a car from is just as important. We know it’s easy to just pick up a car at the airport, but what you may not realize is that you pay a premium for the right to pick up the car moments after stepping off the plane. Rental companies are obligated to collect and pay fees to the airport where they do business, so they pass these fees onto the customer. You can get around this by simply hailing a cab to take you to the car rental shop that isn’t on airport grounds. If you’re renting a car on Skyscanner, you can actually see where the rental place is by clicking on “Show location” on the search results page.
6. Stay on paved roads
This one probably sounds pretty obvious, but hear us out. There are not many rental agencies that are fine with you taking a rental car off-roading. And off-roading doesn’t have to be someone going mud running. Let’s say you’re in Hawaii and want to visit a scenic part of the beach that doesn’t have a road laid out to it. Same goes for tailgating on a plot of grassy land. Both of those are technically off-roading, and both of them would be a violation of your rental agreement. If you wind up getting stuck in the mud with a rental car in a place where you shouldn’t have been driving, the fees to get it unstuck and cleaned up fall on you.
7. Fill up the tank before returning the car
Your vacation was a blast, but now it’s time to turn the car in and head home. The only problem is you brought the car back with an empty tank. Could you let the rental shop fill it up for you? Absolutely, but you could wind up paying two, three or four times the going price per gallon. We can all spare 10 minutes and top off the tank before returning the car. Even if you’re already pulling into the airport, it’s worth your time to turn around and find a local gas station to fill up at.
8. Bring your own extras, when possible
Sometimes you need more than just a car for the trip, and rental car companies are great about having extras available for rent for your vacation. To save the convenience fee, you can bring some of the extras with you from home. For instance, instead of using the GPS from the agency you rent from, just use the maps app on your phone for navigation, as long as it won’t kill your data plan. Same thing goes for satellite radio. Listening to the 80s on 8 is great, but it’s a little more enjoyable listening to the goofy ads on the local stations. Some people think that renting an electronic toll pass is worth the cost when you consider the time it’ll save you on the road. However, you will be charged a daily rate for the convenience, whether or not you use the pass each day. Take the fee into consideration when determining whether it’s worth skipping the toll lines.