Renting a car is an easy way to get more out of your next vacation. A rental car allows you to explore areas outside of your original destination. You’ll also benefit from fewer time restrictions, like catching a bus, or the cost of a taxi. If you’re in an accident and your car needs repairs, a rental car gives you the ability to keep your normal routine.
Renting a car isn’t difficult, but there are ways to make it less expensive and stressful. Check out our top tips for renting a car, whether you need it for vacation or after an auto accident.
Don’t Rent at the Airport
Your flight lands and you immediately head to the car rental desk. After filling out some forms and swiping a credit card, you get the keys and are ready to go.
What you probably didn’t realize, however, is the inflated price for your rental. Rental company locations at the airport must pay taxes and fees to operate a shop there. They then may pass these fees onto the customers.
Save money by getting a cab or taking public transportation to the nearest rental shop outside the airport. Even with the cost of a cab, you’ll probably save enough on the rental to come out ahead. If your flight lands late in the evening, you can get a cab or take a rideshare directly to your hotel. This way, you’re not paying the full day price for a car you’d only use to get from the airport to the hotel.
Get Used to the Car Before You Leave the Lot
Once you have the keys in hand, don’t hop behind the wheel and take off. Unless you end up with the same type of car as your personal vehicle, it’s smart to take a second to acclimate yourself to the new car. Make sure to locate tools you use often, such as the windshield wipers, cruise control and the gas tank.
It’s also a good idea to take a quick pictures and videos of the car to help you remember the make, model and color. The last thing you want to do is lose your rental car in a parking lot because you forgot the make or color.
Be sure to take pictures and video footage of any damages on the car that was there before you start driving it off the car rental lot. Although there’s usually a representative that does a quick inspection around the vehicle, it is likely that they could accidentally overlook some areas. Some agents may think some areas are only minor damages and wouldn’t count against you, but upon returning the car, a different agent may think otherwise and suspect you of those damages. Documenting everything before you hit the road could save you money and time in the long run.
Compare Weekly Rates to Day Rates
Why should you check weekly car rental rates for a three-day trip? You might end up with a better deal by booking weekly. Many rental companies offer discounts for longer bookings. You could end up paying a lower overall rate for a week-long rental than renting the car per day.
Most weekly booking rates also include unlimited mileage, whereas day rates might have limited miles. If you go over the allotted miles per day, you’ll be charged an extra fee. If you plan to drive a lot, a weekly rate might make more sense.
Break down the total price to rent a car for a week versus a daily rate to see which is the best deal. Just be sure to check if the company charges early return fees.
Let Your Smartphone Do the Work
Your rental company is probably going to offer you a lot of extras, like a GPS system, satellite radio and Bluetooth phone capabilities. Of course, each of these extras will also cost an extra fee. Most modern smartphones can provide the same services without the added cost.
Use a maps app on your phone in place of a fancy GPS navigation system. Download a few free radio apps or listen to the local radio in the car for music. Your phone already has a built-in speakerphone, so there’s probably no need to connect it to the car. Most cars often have an auxiliary or USB port for you to plug in your phone to listen to music from there.
Don’t Forget to Fill Up the Tank
When you return a rental car, you’re expected to bring it in with a full tank of gas. If you don’t the rental company will gladly fill it for you at a premium price. The cost to have the rental agency fill the car can be two to four times as expensive as it would be to fill it yourself at a gas station.
Taking five or ten minutes to find a gas station on your way to the rental shop could save you a lot of money.
Rental Company’s Insurance
Rental companies like to push their insurance coverage. Some agents might even continue to offer the coverage throughout the rental process, letting you know all the terrible things that could happen while the car is in your possession.
The coverage from the rental agency, however, is usually unnecessary. Most auto insurance policies cover drivers renting a car in the United States. Wawanesa, for example, provides the broadest level of coverage you currently have in force for a vehicle on your policy if you’re renting for vacation. If you’re renting a car because one of your vehicles is in the repair shop, Wawanesa provides the same level of coverage to the rental as it does to your car in the shop.
Skip Multiple Drivers
Most people want to split driving time on a long road trip. This helps reduce fatigue of the main driver. This isn’t always a cost effective idea with a rental vehicle.
Rental agencies often charge an extra fee for each driver added to the rental agreement. You also don’t want to let someone who isn’t on the agreement drive the car. If they get into an accident in the rental, you are violating the terms of your agreement. You could wind up paying for the damage out of pocket.
Have someone volunteer to be the driver and be sure to make plenty of stops to give them time to rest. It’s best to choose someone over age 25, if possible. Rental companies often have a surcharge for young drivers, regardless of driving record.
Renting a Car After an Accident
Most people think of vacation when discussing rental cars, but you may need to rent a car after an accident. If you’re in an accident and your vehicle needs repairs, rental expense coverage can help cover the cost of a rental car while your vehicle is in the shop. This is an optional coverage that’s available for cars with Collision or Comprehensive coverage.
Rental expense coverage is often an inexpensive addition to your insurance policy that can make your life a lot easier when you need it. Even if you’re in an accident where the other driver is at fault, their insurance may take several months to approve your rental or repairs. With rental expense coverage, you can get a rental car right away.