If you’re planning a trip and are going to rent a car when you get to your destination or you’re going to rent one to make the trip itself, the following are six important things to know, including what happens if you’re in a car accident while driving a rental.
1. You’ll Need a Credit Card When You Pick Up a Rental Car
If you rent a car online, whether it’s through a travel site or the car company’s actual website, be aware that you’re going to need a credit card to pick it up. If you use a debit card, you might be charged an authorization amount. It can be hundreds of dollars more to use a debit card than a credit card, at least initially.
The hold will eventually be released, but not until you return the car.
It’s common for rental companies to check your credit score when you use a debit card, too, although not always.
If you are planning to rent your car with a debit card instead of a credit card, call the company ahead of time to know what their requirements are and what to expect.
2. It’s Best Not to Rent at the Airport
Usually, there are rental car counters at the airport, but then there are other rental car locations not too far from major airports. If you pick up a car at the airport, you’re going to pay more.
Yes, it’s convenient, but most rental car companies will offer a shuttle to their offsite locations, and you can save quite a bit of money.
You can also get a cab to your rental car.
3. Fill Up the Gas Tank Before You Return Your Vehicle
If you rent a car, before you return it, make sure you find a gas station and fill it up. Yes, it’s more convenient to have the company do it for you, but you could be paying three or four times more per gallon to take that option.
Car companies will often offer you the opportunity to prepay your gasoline charges, but they rarely go over just how much more expensive that might be.
When you’re leaving the rental car company or airport, be on the lookout for gas stations on the way that you can use when you’re coming back to drop off the vehicle.
4. Being In An Accident in Rental Is Similar to Being In Your Own Vehicle
You may feel extra nervous about driving a rental car, but if you are in an accident, the protocol and outcome are similar to being in an accident in your own car.
To protect yourself, do a little research before getting a car. First, check with your credit card companies to see if they offer insurance for rentals. Many companies do. This may provide you with a secondary layer of insurance beyond your own car insurance, which should also provide some coverage.
If you don’t have car insurance, you should think about buying rental car insurance.
No matter where you get it, don’t drive a rental without some insurance. There are third-party companies that offer insurance for rental cars, in addition to the company itself.
5. Prepare to Pay If You’re Under 25
Some rental car companies won’t let you rent if you’re under 25, so that’s something to check first. Then, even if they do, they may charge you higher rates. If you’re over 25 but you’re traveling with someone younger, don’t sign them up to be a driver, and don’t let them drive. If you register them as a driver, you’ll probably pay an additional fee.
With that in mind, keep drivers to a minimum in general. For each additional driver, you’re going to have to pay a daily fee, whether they actually drive the car or not.
You may be able to get the rental company to waive the fee for your spouse, but not always. So many of the fees a rental car company might charge you aren’t advertised directly, so you need to specify on things before you ask for them or agree to them.
6. Bring Your Extras
If you need something like a car seat or a GPS, don’t get it from the rental company if at all possible, because you’re going to pay an additional daily fee for each piece of equipment you rent from them.
Most airlines let you bring car seats and booster seats on for free, so if you’re flying into your destination, just have them on the airplane and put them in the car yourself.