Car rental agencies offer customers a wide selection of vehicle models with a base rate. The base rate looks enticing on the surface, oftentimes advertised at only a few dollars a day. Many customers think they receive a great deal from these agencies until they receive the final bill. This may lead the customer to the conclusion that they have been ripped off. Car rental agencies have a reputation for tallying unpleasant surprises in the form of taxes, phantom fees, and surcharges. These surprises may come involuntarily if the customer is uninformed; it is vitally important for customers to do their homework before renting a car.

Items you will need

  • A photocopy of an existing auto insurance policy.
  • A membership guide or membership card from an automobile club, senior citizens club, or frequent-flyer club.
  • A copy of a credit card agreement.

Before You Go

Step 1:

Customers should contact their primary car insurance provider to see if their policy covers them while driving a rental. Many customers opt for loss and collision insurance when their primary automobile insurance covers them. Customers can save a lot of money if they decline the loss damage waiver and collision damage waiver which acts as secondary insurance while on the road. If their primary automobile insurance does not cover their rental, then it would be wise to accept both forms of insurance through the car rental agency.

Step 2:

Customers should check their membership guide or membership cards to automobile clubs, senior groups, or frequent-flyer clubs to see if they offer discounts, insurance coverage, or provisions to waive fees.

Step 3:

Customers should stay away from car rental agencies located near an airport. Car rental agencies pass a portion of the concession fees they pay to the airport onto the customer. Airport authorities also charge taxes on car rentals. Aim to rent from local car rental agencies to save money. Remember that local car rental agencies may place mileage restrictions on their vehicles. In addition, they rarely offer pickup and drop off of vehicles around the clock. Therefore, consider if the convenience outweighs the savings involved with renting from a local agency.

Step 4:

Inquire within the car rental agency about existing drop-off policies. Many car rental agencies charge extra fees for one-way rentals or drop-offs at a different location. Others may allow customers to drop-off rentals at a different location for no extra charge.

Step 5:

Inquire within the car rental agency about frequent-flyer credit fees. Many agencies charge a small daily fee to process mileage associated with the rental.

Step 6:

Research the local gas prices the day before departure to assess how much it will cost to refill the gas tank. Compare the local gas prices with the refill prices charged by the rental agency. Rental car agencies charge customers the rate of a full tank of gas, regardless of how much gas is in the tank when they drop it off. Therefore, choose to fill the tank at a different location to save money on gas.

Step 7:

Take a close look at the extras offered by the car rental agency. Choose essential features over luxurious options. Most travelers need GPS and satellite radio to navigate around the area. All of these extra features do add up over the long run.

Returning the Car

Step 1:

Return the rental car on time to avoid extra charges. Many rental car agencies have eliminated their one-hour grace period. Some companies charge extra hour or day rates. Others may work with customers who call in ahead of time. Inquire with the car rental agency about late fees.

Step 2:

Inquire within the car rental agency about early return penalties. Many car rental agencies impose daily rates on the vehicle if it is returned early. Daily rates can be higher than the weekly rates at some rental car agencies.

Step 3:

Customers should contact the state's Better Business Bureau or State Attorney General if billing discrepancies arise when receiving the bill. These state-sponsored agencies have consumer departments that have information on what rental agencies can and cannot charge. If a car rental agency breaches state law, then the customer may have legal recourse.