Travel Tips--Car Rental                                           Back to Travel

How can I save money on my Rental Car rates?
  • Shopping the Internet can be the quickest and best way to compare many Rental Car rates.
  • If you are planning on purchasing extra items such as a damage waiver or insurance, you should also comparison shop those rates.
  • Make sure their mileage policy is favorable to you so you can avoid extra charges.
  • Airport fees can be quite large so you might see if it is worth it to use an off-airport facility. However, if the off-airport company picks you up at the airport, you'll probably still have to pay some of the fee.
  • You can check their national reservation centers and their local offices; one may be offering a better deal than the other. ASK, if this is the best rate they have available.
  • Make your reservation as soon as you have decided on plans. Most Rental Car Companies increase their rates as reservations come in and their fleets become booked. Also, certain classes of cars will sell out and you may have to end up reserving and paying for a larger vehicle than you want.
  • Being flexible about your travel plans can save you money. Rental Companies that focus on the business or replacement market customers often have great weekend specials. The best rates are found during the off season and at other times when the Rental Companies have extra cars sitting around.
  • Check into booking your vacation as a package. You might be able to save by booking your car along with a certain airline, hotel or attraction ticket package.
  • Book the smallest car that you will need and hope for a free upgrade. But, remember you may get stuck with that small car.
  • Check into other size class vehicles. They may have extra cars in a certain class and be offering discounts for that size class.
  • Use coupons, but read them carefully for exceptions. Most upgrade coupons are "based on availability", so if you have an upgrade coupon that you wish to use and also have a monetary discount coupon, bring them both. If they canít honor the upgrade, they may still give you the monetary discount. Also, remember to book any coupons or discounts in your reservation.
  • Apply any special discount programs for which you are eligible.
  • When you get to the counter, ask if there are any upgrade specials available, they might have some good deals.
What types of special discount programs are available?
  • Check for special deals with your memberships in associations or clubs.
  • Memberships in Premium Clubs, loyalty or frequent flyer programs can offer discounts.
  • Some credit cards have special discounts or upgrades with certain Rental Car Companies.
  • Package discounts can be found when booking your rental car with certain airlines, hotels or attraction ticket packages.
  • Discounts are often available for government, military or corporate employees. Some Rental Car Companies will even extend these discounts during leisure travel.
  • Some special airport rates require you to present your arrival airline ticket. You may need to have arrived within 24 hours to get the special rate.
Is it better to take the daily or weekly rate?
Seven days or more is obvious; you take the weekly rate. If you are going to keep the car for more than five days, you can also check into the weekly rates. Generally the sixth and seventh day end up being free in the weekly rental. You might not need that free seventh day, but if your plans change, itís there. If you reserve on a daily plan, they might not let you change to a lower weekly rate if you need to keep the car longer. However, you can also be punished if you turn the car in too early. They might charge you a higher daily rate than you could have reserved, so check the Rental Companyís policy on this.
How will I know which is the best Rental Car Company for me to use?

You can check some of these issues if they are important to you.

  • Ask around and consider their customer service record.
  • Consider their rental policies and qualifications, are they favorable to you or do they penalize you in some way.
  • Do they offer a Premium Club that offers the services you need?
  • Check to see if you belong to any groups that entitle you to a special deal with a particular Rental Car Company.
  • Find out what partnerships they have that could save you money in other areas. Many Rental Car Companies have agreements with hotel chains, airlines, or credit card companies.
  • See if they credit your frequent flyer or frequent guest programs with points.
  • See if they carry the types of cars that you like to drive such as new, used, Ford, GM, and luxury or specialty vehicles.
  • Check their locations. Do they have them where you travel? Do they have international locations? Are they mostly on or off-airport? Do they have 24-hour facilities, so they will always be there if your flight is late?
  • What types of extra services do they offer? Could they deliver a car to you or do they offer a pick-up service? Do they have 24-hour emergency road service?
  • Can they honor your special requests?
  • Consider their rates and the availability of any coupons or discounts.
Do Rental Companies offer any clubs with special perks?
  • Yes, you should inquire about the Rental Companyís membership clubs.
  • Some free clubs allow you to have most of your rental information on file in their computers before you show up to speed up the rental process.
  • Some offer Premium Clubs where you can sign up all your rental information in advance to shorten the time youíll spend at the counter or eliminate it all together. This can include keeping your vehicle preferences on file, as well as, your decisions on insurance coverage and fuel replacement.
How much do the Premium Clubs cost to join?
  • Some Rental Companies Premium Clubís charge a membership fee. The fee is generally around $50.00 a year.
  • If you ask, some Rental Companies will waive this charge for the first year just to get you on board.
  • Some Premium Clubs may be available to you for free if you rent enough or belong to the right company, association or group.
What are the advantages of joining a Rental Car Companyís Premium Club, is it worth it?
  • If you plan on renting often, the membership fees will seem small considering the time saved.
  • These Premium Clubs can help you skip lines all together and are the quickest way to get on the road.
  • These clubs will sometime offer special rates, discounts or upgrades to their members only.
  • Sometimes extra fees, such as those for certain additional drivers, are waived for members of Premium Clubs.
  • These Clubs often reserve the newest and nicest cars in the rental fleet.
  • Some Clubs will reward points that can be exchanged for free rental days, upgrades or even gifts.
  • If it looks like the company has overbooked and will have to break reservations, they usually will take care of their Premium Club members first and break the reservations of regular customers.
What is the minimum age requirement?
  • All Rental Companies have a minimum age requirement, usually 25.
  • Some will rent to those 21 years old with a surcharge, which tend to range from $5.00 to $25.00 a day. Ask about this policy if you are under 25.
  • Some Rental Car Companies will rent to those 18 and above in certain situations. Government or Military personnel on official business are often allowed to rent. Some companies will rent a car as an insurance replacement vehicle.
  • The minimum age requirement applies to the renter as well as any additional drivers.
Can I rent a car if I am less than 25 years of age?
  • Some Rental Companies offer rentals to those less than 25 and over 21. They will usually charge a daily surcharge ranging from $5.00 to $25.00 a day.
  • The minimum age policy and surcharge policy varies from company to company and can even vary between a companyís different locations.
  • Youíll not only want to find out who will rent to you, but also shop their surcharge fee to see if you can save some money.
  • Some Rental Companies that have a general policy of renting only to those over 25, have special agreements with certain corporate accounts allowing rentals to corporate employees who are under 25. In some cases, they will also wave any surcharge for those employees. However, the corporate employees are often limited to renting the car for only business purposes. You can check with the Rental Companies or your corporate travel departments to see if you are eligible for these programs.
  • U.S. Government employees or military personnel as young as 18 years old can often arrange to rent if they are on official business and traveling with orders.
Who else can drive the car?

Additional drivers usually need to be listed on your rental contract. Ask about the companyís additional driver policy.

  • Who else is allowed to drive the car?
  • What are the additional costs if others drive the vehicle?
  • What requirements must be met for additional drivers to be listed on the contract?
What types of requirements do additional drivers have to meet to be allowed to drive the rental car?
  • Additional drivers are often required to meet most, if not all, of the same requirements as the renter. Rental Companies may be flexible about the credit card requirements.
  • Additional drivers must usually also be present to present their valid driverís license to the Rental Companyís representative.
  • Many Rental Companies will charge a fee to list an additional driver.
Is it a problem if I let someone else drive the car without first listing them as an additional authorized driver?
  • Yes, and it can be a big one. If someone else drives the car without the Rental Companyís permission, you have most likely violated the contract terms and any protection you had under that contract may be voided.
  • This violation could complicate or even negate claims against your personal insurance and negatively impact any coverage you receive from your credit card.
  • If the police stop an unauthorized driver, that driver can be detained or even arrested because they donít have any legal right to have possession of the car.
What about all those tickets I have; will they effect me?
  • Yes, they can. Some states, including Florida, allow Rental Companies to do online driverís license checks at the time of rental and some will refuse a rental based on this check.
  • If you have a questionable driving record, especially a D.U.I, you should ask the reservation center about this part of the rental qualification policy.
  • You might be able to find these policies on the companyís web page; or the reservation centers should have it available in their computers; or have another phone number available to call to check these policies.
  • Your reservation is useless if you donít qualify to rent.
Do I have to return the car to the same location?
  • Not always, some Rental Companies allow you to drop off their car at their other locations in town, in other cities or even other states.
  • Youíll need to ask about each particular case to see if it is allowed.
  • Youíll also need to know the cost since there is usually a charge for this convenience.
  • Some companies have special low shuttle rates available between two popular locations.
  • Some companies have special low rates available if they need the car moved to another location. Often, parts of rental fleets are moved south to north for the summer and north to south for the winter to adjust for seasonal needs. So, if you do happen to be going that way you can really find some good deals.
How far can I drive the rental car?
  • Ask about any mileage charges and limitations.
  • There may be limits placed on the mileage if you take the vehicle out of state.
  • There may be mileage limits for certain types of vehicles especially specialty or luxury vehicles.
  • If you go over these limits, the charges can add up quickly.
How are rentals outside the United States different from those here?

Every country has its own rules, but hereís a list of some items you may want to consider.

  • You may need an international driverís license or permit in addition to your U.S. driverís license.
  • Some countries charge a fee for a permit that allows you to drive on their roads.
  • The rental contract may not be in English. See if they have rental contracts or at least an explanation of contract terms available in English. Also, see if they will have any English speaking counter personnel available to assist you when you arrive.
  • Your personal insurance or credit card coverage may not be valid or acceptable to the rental company, so you may need to purchase extra coverage.
  • Most rental car fleets outside the U.S. are made up of much smaller cars.
  • Many foreign rental fleets will have a large percentage of manual transmission automobiles.
  • A car with air-conditioning may be considered an upgrade in some foreign fleets.
  • Road signage may be in unfamiliar languages and the colors and shapes of those signs may be different than those in the U.S.
  • The direction of the lanes may be opposite of those in the U.S.
  • Road conditions may be considerably worse than those found in the U.S.
  • Gauges may only read in the metric system, 100 kilometers=60 miles.
  • Gasoline is usually considerably more expensive and is often sold by the liter, 3.78 liters=1 gallon.
  • Many countries have even higher taxes on rental cars than those in the U.S.
  • Fuel prices are often considerably higher than those found in the U.S.
  • Some countries have both a minimum and a maximum rental age.
How can I get an International Driverís Permit?

The American Automobile Associationís International Driving Permit web page. This site contains information on how to get an International Driving Permit. This permit, used in conjunction with your valid U.S. driverís license, is valid in 150 countries. Check out the siteís IDP FAQ link for further information.

What can help me prepare if I'm planning on driving in Europe?

This site contains information on traffic codes, road signs, parking and road vocabulary for these planning on driving in European Countries.

What forms of payment are accepted?
  • Some Rental Companies only accept major CREDIT CARDS and DO NOT accept DEBIT CARDS. Donít be fooled by the credit card logo on your debit or checking card. Although, you can probably use a debit card or cash to pay for the rental on return, you may not be able to use them to pick up the car. Check with the reservation center or company web site to verify that youíll have an acceptable form of payment to secure the vehicle on pick up.
  • Be advised that the name on the credit card you present must be in the renterís name.
  • If you plan on booking with a travel voucher, verify the procedures directly with the Rental Company. The voucher may not include taxes or additional fees. Make sure you understand exactly what the voucher will cover. You may also be required to present that voucher to pick up the car.
If I donít have a credit card, can I rent a car by leaving a cash deposit?
  • Very few Rental Companies accept a cash deposit for a rental car. The ones that do are much more likely to be a small local operator than a large national chain.
  • Some national chains do have a program to put you on their own internal charge card or they may pre-approve you for cash rentals, but these can take time. These programs need to be worked out and approved in advance of your reservation.
  • Cash rentals usually have special requirements above and beyond the Rental Companyís normal requirements, so you will need to check with each individual location so that you see if you can qualify under their cash rental program.
  • If you do need to leave a cash deposit, find out when the remaining positive balance will be returned to you after you return the car. Donít count on the deposit to get you home. Many companies cannot return the deposit immediately and will only return the deposit by check through the mail.
What types of requirements are there for cash rentals?
  • You may need advanced approval on file before you can pick up the car.
  • You may need a local address with a phone or other bills in your name.
  • If you are from out of town, they may require and even hold your return airline ticket.
  • Need for approval based upon your credit rating with the credit bureau.
  • They will require a cash deposit to be left that exceeds the entire rental bill.
  • Possible requirements for you to purchase their coverage or damage waiver.
  • There may be limits on the types of cars you are allowed on a cash rental.
  • There may be minimum or maximum number of days allowed for a cash rental.
Can Rental Companies honor my special requests?
  • When making a reservation, donít forget to make your special requests. Itís not a guarantee, but letting them know your special request up front helps them to find a car that will make you happy.
  • If smoke bothers you, most companies take requests for nonsmoking cars.
  • Would you prefer to drive an American car instead of a foreign car?
  • Rather have a Chevy instead of a Ford?
  • Heard little voices telling you that only Satanís messengers drive red cars?
  • Oh yes, theyíve heard it all so most reservations have room for special requests.
Can I rent a car seat?
  • In many states, children under 40 pounds or under 4 years of age must be in a car seat secured in the rear of the vehicle.
  • Most Rental Companies have car seats available, ask about their cost at reservation. You might find it easier to leave yours at home, unless you need to use a car seat during air travel.
  • Booster seats are harder to find at Rental Companies, so youíll probably have to do some checking or bring your own.
What will I need to know to reserve my Rental Car?
  • The name of the person that will be picking up the car.
  • Credit card type, number and expiration date of the card to be billed.
  • Location where youíll be picking up and returning the car.
  • Date and time youíll be picking up and returning the car.
  • Size of the car you want to reserve.
  • Any special requests, such as smoking/nonsmoking, child seat or model preference.
  • Any discounts or coupons that you are planning to apply to the rental.
  • If you have it, some Rental Car Companies like to have your flight information. That way they can keep track of delayed flights.
  • Make sure you get a confirmation number when you do make your reservations.
What does economy, midsize, standard or full size, mean exactly?
  • Whatever the Rental Company says it does, so ask for examples of familiar model names. Rental Companiesí classifications of models vary and this will help you to compare rates and understand the size of the vehicle you are reserving.
  • The Rental Companiesí classifications usually differ from car manufacturesí model classifications. Your personal carís manufacturer may classify your model as a midsize, while a Rental Company may classify the same model as a full size, so again ask for clarification.
What size car do I really need?
  • Reserving the appropriate size car in advance is a good way to budget.
  • Many will tell you to reserve the smallest class and hope for a free upgrade, but this can be risky. If the smaller car is available, and you need the bigger car, you might be in trouble. The larger vehicles might all be booked or the upgrade charge may be considerably more costly than if you had reserved the larger car in the first place. This is especially true during peak rental times, when many car and van classes are sold out.
  • Remember by law every passenger must have a seat belt available to him or her so you canít put five in a four-passenger car.
  • Remember trunk space. The smaller car may hold all your passengers, but donít forget the luggage, golf clubs and souvenirs youíll want to bring back home. Convertibles are great, but they do have very small trunks.
Does the Rental Car Company have an on or off-airport facility?
  • Check on the location of that cityís particular rental facility to see if it is on or off-airport.
  • Off-airport facilities can be cheaper, but transportation off the airport property will add time to your rental.
  • If they use a shuttle, find out how long the trip will take you.
  • You should always verify the location. Some Rental Companies will have an on-airport facility at certain airports while having off-airport facilities at others.
How will I get to the rental facility?
  • Find out where you are to meet the Rental Companyís representative. Do they have a fixed meeting place or do you need to call someone once you arrive.
  • Ask if there is a shuttle service available since both on and off airport facilities may use shuttles.
  • If they use a shuttle, find out how often it runs and itsí hours of operation. See if they will still be open if you are delayed, you might need a 24-hour facility.
  • Find out how far your rental car will be from the terminal. Get an estimate of the time it will take for you to get to your rental car.

Where can I find information on airports so that it will be easier for me to find the rental car counter or meet the Hotelís airport shuttle?

Go To:  US Airport & Foreign Airport Links

This page contains web links to many major U.S. and foreign airports. Although, each airportís site is different many contain airport layouts and other information that could save you time and help make your visit a safe one. This links page also lists many airport codes that can be helpful when making Airline reservations so you and your luggage will be heading to the right airport.

What is the total? Does it include additional fees and taxes?
  • Get an estimate of your total charges including all taxes, fees and any mandatory charges. Unfortunately, the government gets a big chunk of rental car bills.
  • Remember that this total may change based on your choices of coverage and fuel purchase options.
  • Often the rate quoted only includes the per day or week rental charge.
  • Unlimited mileage is often included, but not always. You'll definitely want to check on their mileage policy. Be sure to reverify their policy if you get an upgrade. Some companies that normally offer unlimited mileage do have limits on specialty or luxury vehicles
How far beyond the reservation time will the Rental Company consider this reservation good?
  • This is a great question and one you should ask the Rental Company in case you are delayed.
  • You should notify the Rental Company if you are delayed so that they will still have a car available for you.
  • If you can make it within your reservation grace period, make sure they only update the pick-up time and donít rebook the reservation at a new higher rate.
  • If your flight is coming in only a few hours before the rental car facility closes, you may want to consider a company with a 24-hour facility so a delayed flight wonít continue to ruin your trip.
How can I decrease the chance that the Rental Car Company will break my reservation?

Just like the hotels, the Rental Car Companies must cover the costs of all those rude people who reserve cars, donít cancel and never show up. This means that at certain times, especially during holidays and other peak travel times, they may get caught overbooking and have to break some reservations. Hereís a few ways to keep you at the top of the list for available cars.

  • See if the reservation center will guarantee your reservation. Some do offer this service and they will usually have a much bigger penalty for themselves if they donít have a car for you. However, to get this guarantee you are usually charged a fee if you donít show or cancel within a certain time frame.
  • Confirm your reservation. Make sure everything is correct and they are aware youíre coming.
  • Update your reservation. If youíre going to be late, call to let them know.
  • Rent often from the same company. Some reservation lists show high volume renters, and management will know that you are not the type of customer they want to lose.
  • Join their Premium Clubs. These groups include their high volume renters and their big corporate accounts. If it comes down to who gets the last few cars, you probably wonít be seeing the Premium Club members waiting around.
  • If you really fear that your chances of getting burned are high, you might call the location directly and speak with a manager. Let them know you will be there at a certain time and you want to make sure youíll have a car waiting. If youíve made that extra effort and they know youíll be looking for them, most managers will also make an extra effort to have a car for you. If you do call and they do produce, donít forget to thank them for their efforts.
Does my company provide for any insurance coverage?
  • If you are on a business rental, check with your company about their policy concerning rental car insurance coverage.
  • Will they reimburse you the expense or should you decline the coverage?
  • If you are to decline, does the company have insurance to cover the car?
  • Will the company provide coverage for additional drivers of the vehicle?
  • If they do cover additional drivers, do those drivers have to be fellow company employees?
Does my regular insurance coverage transfer to rental cars?

Check these items with your insurance agent before you leave.

  • Is your policy up to date and valid during your entire rental period?
  • Are you covered in a rental car?
  • Is my coverage valid if Iím renting or driving outside the United States?
  • What is your deductible?
  • Does your coverage protect you against underinsured or uninsured motorists?
  • Does your coverage pay for downtime, or do you have to pay the Rental Company for lost rental days while the car is being repaired?
  • Will your coverage transfer completely to any type of rental, i.e. luxury car, convertible, sports car or van.
  • Does your coverage have a time limit that will only cover part of the rental period?
  • Would your coverage transfer to others in your party that might also drive your rental car?
  • Will your coverage protect you against the medical claims of your passengers and others injured in the accident?
Does my credit card offer enough insurance coverage?
  • Most credit cards that say they will cover the rental car, offer only secondary coverage, so they will look to your personal insurance to cover the claim and then reimburse you any out of pocket expenses.
  • If youíre depending on your credit card for coverage, read your credit card agreement carefully so that you can fully understand the type of coverage they offer.
  • You at least want answers to the same questions that you would ask your insurance agent if you were planning on using your personal insurance for coverage.
  • Ask that current written copies of their policies be sent to you, so you can read them yourself.
  • Make sure you understand their claim procedure. The renter is ultimately responsible for any damage to the vehicle.
Should I accept the Rental Companyís damage coverage?
  • After checking with your agent and credit card company, you can then make an informed decision about coverage at time of rental.
  • Weigh the cost of the Rental Companyís damage waiver and/or accident insurance against the cost of your deductible, possible rate increase, legal costs and the hassles of making a claim.
  • Remember that youíll most likely be driving an unfamiliar vehicle, on unfamiliar busy roads with lots of new things to see and distract you while you are surrounded by lots of other drivers in the same situation.
Do I need to confirm my reservation?
Yes, it never hurts to directly reconfirm your reservation, especially if you depended on someone else to book that reservation. Also, be sure to verify where you are to pick up your rental car and that any special requests youíve made are listed on your reservation.
Besides confirming my reservation, what else should I do before I leave on my trip?
  • Make sure you bring your license, check to make sure it is valid, and that it wonít expire during the rental period.
  • Check your credit cards. Make sure they wonít expire and that your limit is high enough to cover your vacation budget plus emergencies. If you need your limit raised, call your credit card company in advance of leaving, since it usually takes time for the new higher limit to take effect.
  • Make sure you have verified your coverage with your insurance agent and/or your credit card company.
What if I am delayed, but will still need the car later?
  • Call the Rental Company directly to update your reservation. Let them know the new time youíll be arriving so they will still have a car available for you. See if they will still honor the rate on your original reservation. If you have to rebook, it may raise your rate.
  • Get the name of the person who updates your reservation. Also, note the time you called.
What if it turns out that I donít need my rental car after all?
  • As soon as you are absolutely sure you wonít need the car, you should cancel your reservation. Keeping cars available for "no shows" is a major cost to the Rental Companies and this makes the rental rates higher for everyone who does show up. A few companies are starting to charge a "no show" or late cancellation fee.
  • Although many Rental Companies don't yet charge a fee for no shows or late cancellations, some reservations can carry those penalties. This may be the case for guaranteed or peak season reservations, reservations made as part of a package deal or reservations for certain luxury or specialty vehicles.
  • Note the name of the person you speak with when you cancel your reservation.
How can I find out about the local road conditions before I arrive?
Go To:  Department of Transportation Links
Check out the roads before you go. This page contains links to the Departments of Transportation for all 50 States. Each stateís site is different, but most sites contained detailed information on highway construction, road closings, rest areas and maps. Many of the sites also contain links to major cities within their own state.
What if I get there and they donít have a car for me?
  • Make sure that it is just not your particular class that is sold out, but that they donít have any cars at all. If they have more expensive cars available, ask to be upgraded for the same price.
  • If they have other locations in town, see if any of the other locations have cars available.
  • Have them call around to check to see if they can find you a car at one of their competitors. If the price goes up ask that the rental company pay the difference.
  • If no other cars are available, see if they can at least get you a ride to your next destination.
  • Donít give up. See if they will have any cars available for you tomorrow.
  • If you did everything right and they donít have a car for you, ask to be compensated.
  • This has obviously created a customer service issue, so you can also look for help in our Customer Service Issues section.
Will the Rental Company rent to me if Iím a drunken fool?
Huh, NO. If the company has any reason to believe you are under the slightest influence, they are required to refuse the rental. Now, we know you know this, but we just wanted you to remember it when youíre ordering those drinks on the plane.
How can I shorten my time waiting for a rental car?
  • You can grab their brochures and read about their policies, so you can quickly make your decisions concerning their optional programs when you reach the counter.
  • Check out the local map and find out where youíre going next.
  • Dig out your documentation, so youíre ready when they call your name.
  • Check into joining a Rental Companyís membership club to help speed you through the line or skip it all together.
What documentation do I need to pick up my car?
  • Bring your confirmation number with you. There are many reasons they might be unable to find the reservation under your name. Your confirmation number may be the only way to find that low rate you worked so hard to secure.
  • Have your driverís license, coupons and credit cards ready.
  • Your frequent flyer or other bonus program numbers you want to be credited.
  • Some companies are also beginning to require proof of insurance if you decline their collision or damage waivers, so bring along your insurance card.
Is there a chance for an even better deal when I pick up the car?
Yes, after you find out what the company has available for you, ask about upgrade specials. Just as Rental Companies can sell out of certain models, they can also have too many of a certain kind around. This could mean big savings for you, that luxury car or specialty vehicle that was so much more to reserve could now only be a few dollars away.
Where do I return the car and how long should it take?
Find out how much time to allow for returning the car and making it back to your flight, as well as, the return location. Also, find out the phone numbers to call in case of an accident or breakdown.
Whatís the best way to get to my next destination?
Most Rental Companies provide free maps of the area, take one. If you havenít yet gotten directions, nowís your chance. Bring along your hotelís address since the big chains often have several of their hotels on the same major roads.
How much gas should the car have in it when I pick it up?
Most Rental Companies provide a full tank at pick up. You can check the contract, but you probably signed it out as full, so make sure that it is full.
How do I know if my rental contract is correct?
Since you are signing a legal document, you might want to look at it. So many people just sign and go and assume everything is correct. Confirm the return time, location, and additional drivers. Make sure it matches your reservation pricing. Also, make sure you are clear on any optional charges you have agreed to pay and that any coupons or discounts have been applied. This will help you avoid problems on return, as well as, any potential legal problems. It is what is in writing that matters; not what you say should be there. If you have any questions the counter representative cannot adequately answer, ask to speak with a manager.
What paperwork will I need to keep in the rental car?
Verify this on pick up, but you will probably need to keep your rental contract in the car. Your rental contract might be used as the carís registration, and it will also prove you have the legal right to drive the car if you are pulled over. You might want to cross out your credit card numbers on your rental contract if the Rental Companyís computer doesnít automatically cross them out for you.
What do I do if I have a problem with the car or need to keep it longer than planned?
When you pick up the car, be sure to find out the phone numbers to call in case of an accident, breakdown or rental extension. If you donít and the local office is closed, check with telephone information. Information may list a national reservation center that is open 24 hours and will be able to help.
What options do I have about refueling the car?
You will probably have several; you can usually replace the gas on your own, buy the whole gas tank up front or pay a per-gallon refueling charge. Youíll have to listen to each option and decide for yourself based on your own personal situation.
Can I just replace the fuel myself?
Replacing the fuel yourself is generally the cheapest of your options, but youíll have to find a gas station close to the rental return location. This can be challenging, because gas stations are limited around airports. The FAA doesnít allow them too close to flight paths in case of a plane crash. Airports also tend to be in the less desirable parts of town, where getting out of your car and pumping gas can be a safety concern. If youíre going to refuel it yourself, check the area for safety and find out where the gas stations are located. Also, leave plenty of time to refuel, return the car and still make it to your flight.
Should I buy the whole gas tank up front?
When considering buying the tank up front find out the per-gallon charge. It is generally competitive with the local station prices and will save you the time and hassle of refueling your own tank. If the per-gallon cost is at a competitive rate and youíll be using the whole tank, buying the tank up front can be a good deal. It will be much more convenient than refueling yourself, at about the same cost. You get to avoid delays and smelly gas on your clothes. However, you donít get a refund on any unused gas, so if you wonít use much of the fuel it can be costly and might not be your best option.
What if I donít have time to refuel the car when I told them I would?
The Rental Car Companies will usually charge a per-gallon refueling charge if you didnít take their refueling option up front. Itís convenient, no delays looking for gas stations, no nasty gas smell on your clothes, no missed plane, but the per-gallon charge is often much higher than the local stations. A few gallons at this rate wonít kill you, but many more than that and it would probably be cheaper to prepay the whole tank. So, listen to their options and pick the best one for you.
What if when I get to the car, it has existing body or interior damage?
  • You might want to ask for another car if youíre unhappy with the first vehicle.
  • Have the Rental Companyís representative describe the damage on the contract, so you wonít be held accountable on return.
  • Have them put down their name or employee number and keep a copy.
What should I do if I lose my keys or lock them inside the rental car?
  • Donít, most Rental Companies donít keep extra sets of keys at their locations.
  • Because of liability claims most police departments wonít let their officers jimmy the locks.
  • Check the driverís side door for a key code panel if youíre just locked out of your car, the Rental Company may be able to release the code to open the door over the phone. If the trunk is open check it for stickers, many manufactures print the key code numbers on a sticker in the trunk.
  • Still stuck? Call the Rental Company so they can recommend what you should do next. They may have the ability to cut another key or be able to recommend a locksmith.
  • Here is the real bad news. Security systems on cars are getting better and many have ignition keys that are very difficult to copy. Every year another model is issued with a system that requires newly cut ignition keys to be programmed into the carís computer before they will work. The keys themselves have chips in them and even just cracking the plastic cover on the key can be enough to make the keys useless. Yes, this will take time and money.
  • Before you have someone dispatched from the Rental Car Company, see if and how much you will be charged. If you created the problem, there is a good chance youíll be charged. You may be able to find a cheaper solution yourself. Your auto club membership or credit card may offer a free locksmith service. However, donít get too creative, youíll be held accountable for any damage done to the automobile.
What if Iím in an accident with my rental car?
  • You want as much information as you can get.
  • Make sure to get the name and driverís license number of the other parties involved in the accident. Youíll need to get a current address and phone number, as well as, their insurance information.
  • You'll want to a description of their vehicle including its license plate number.
  • You'll want to note the date, time and location of the accident.
  • Youíll also want contact information from any witnesses to the accident.
  • State laws vary on the need to report the accident, but if the accident is serious enough to involve the police, be sure to get a copy of the police report.
  • Notify the Rental Company as soon as possible for further instructions.
  • If you declined the Rental Companyís collision or damage waiver, youíll need to notify your insurance agent and/or your credit card company that a claim will need to be made.
  • Remember to allow extra time on return for an accident report if you keep driving the car.
  • Depending on the Rental Companyís policy and the circumstances of the accident, the company may deny you a replacement vehicle.
What should I do if I only have a small accident and the Rental Company tells me to keep the car until Iím ready to return it?
  • You can follow their instructions, but make sure the vehicle is still safe and legal to operate.
  • You wonít want to get in another accident or get a ticket because of a broken taillight.
  • You need to leave some extra time planned when you return the car. Donít cut it close to your flight because youíll have to fill out an accident report when you return the car.
What do I need to do before I leave the rental lot?
  • Youíre in a big hurry now that youíve got the car, but take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with this new car.
  • Check the car for interior or exterior damage.
  • Find the lights, radio, wipers, turn signals, cruise control and side mirror controls before you leave the lot.
  • Set the seat and the mirrors to a level where you are comfortable.
  • Itís also a good idea to study the map and find the route to your destination before you begin driving.
Why do summer rainstorms cause so many accidents?
These often occur during the heat of the day, when the heat has pooled oil on the surface of the road. Before the rain has had the time to wash the oil off the surface, this will first make for an extremely slick and dangerous combination. You should slow down, allow for extra braking room and use your low beam headlights during rainstorms. Using your low beam headlights in a rainstorm is law in Florida and many other states.
How do I avoid confrontations on the road?
Avoid the temptation of road rage. Honking and yelling at the drivers around you is probably more likely to make someone get out their tire iron than to help get traffic moving. Be patient. Also, read our Beware of Scams section.
How can I avoid losing my car in the parking lot?
  • Remember what and where you parked. You donít want to spend your time looking for your rental car, the one that is mixed in with several hundred identical rental cars in a 10,000-space parking lot. Even worse, youíll have half a lot worth of minivans to try and see over.
  • Check the key chain, many Rental Companies label their key chains with the carís make, model, color and license plate number in case you forget.
  • Beware the valet, they may give you the right color, model and even have the right Rental Companyís name on the key tag, but make sure they give you back the one for which you are legally responsible to return. Their lot is probably full of rental cars and mix-ups do and have happened.
What are some of the road scams that I need to know about?
  • Avoid flashing your lights at other cars that are driving without their lights on at night. This used to be a common courtesy, but unfortunately some gangs will drive around with their lights off and pick the first car to flash them as a victim to harass. You may think itís just an urban myth, but our local police put out a memo about this to all the Rental Companies this year.
  • Beware the pull over. If youíre in a new car coming from the airport thatís so full it barely clears the ground or you have those out of state plates, youíre targeted as an easy mark with a big payoff. Sometimes, criminals will try to get you to pull over by pointing and saying something is wrong with your car. They might even fake a small accident, a little tap on your bumper to get you to pull over. Since this has been used as a scam, youíll want to be careful about where you pull over if you need to, be sure to pick a well-lit public place.
  • Stick to the major roads, since you donít know the side streets you might just pick the one all the locals avoid. Youíll also find more people and better lighting on the major roads; these factors make the "pull over" riskier for the criminals.
How else can I avoid being the victim of a crime?
  • Many states prohibit Rental Car Companies from labeling their cars with stickers that identify them as rental cars. They passed these laws because criminals could use these stickers to help them target victims. So, if your car has a sticker that identifies it as a rental car, you might ask that the sicker be removed.
  • Always keep your car's doors locked.
  • Park only in well-lit parking lots. Check the lot for safety before opening your doors.
  • If you have to leave your valuables in the car, they go in the trunk.
  • Lock the doors since most cars have a trunk release inside that doesnít need the key to pop the trunk. Many new cars also have a back seat pass through that makes for easy entrance into the trunk.
  • Donít make yourself a target, flashing expensive jewelry, lots of cash or even tourist brochures and maps left in the seats can label you as a potential victim.
  • Avoid looking like a tourist. Dress like the locals and use a local newspaper or magazine to wrap around the outside of your map and guidebook so you won't stand out as a tourist.
  • Keep an eye on all your belongings while at the rental counters and on the shuttle bus.
What do I need to do at return?
  • Give the car a complete search before you return it. Check the glove box, visors, back window area, console etc. or you may listen to little Kimmy whine for the whole four hour flight home that she left her souvenir sunglasses in the door pockets of the car.
  • Remove all of your keys from the rental carís key chain or you may find yourself explaining to your spouse that they should have brought their keys because they should have known you were going to leave yours on the rental carís key ring. Oh yes, this will signal that the vacation is over.
  • Remove your copy of the rental agreement from the car, it probably has some personal information printed on it.
  • If the car had any problems, notify the return agent so they can see the car gets fixed before it is rented again.
  • Get a receipt when you turn in the car, check to make sure it is correct and that you have been given credit for any frequent flyer miles or other bonus program points. If you paid in cash, make sure your receipt is marked "paid in cash".
Should I trust my hotel to return my rental car?
As a service to their customers, many hotels have become involved in the rental return process. Some hotels even have a Rental Company location inside their lobby. Unless you are returning the car directly to the Rental Companyís personnel, you need to be very careful about what you do. You signed the contact and you are legally responsible for the car until it is returned to the Rental Company. There are many possibilities that the return could be mishandled. You could end up being charged for additional hours, days, miles, fuel or even damage to the vehicle. If you plan on using the hotel to return your car, call the Rental Company directly. They need to be involved to make sure the return is handled properly.
What should I do if I have any problem with the Rental Car Company?
  • Speak with the counter representative, explain the problem and ask for it to be fixed.
  • If you can think of a satisfactory solution to the problem, suggest it to whoever is working with you.
  • Allow for a reasonable response time considering the nature of the problem.
  • Remain calm and keep it business like. Donít make it a personal attack against the person who is trying to help you. The person is human and your professionalism will bring you better results than unleashing your anger.
  • Donít play the "big shot" game unless you really are one. "Do you know who I am and how often I rent from you" might be greeted by "yes, once over the last two years". Computers are doing a wonderful job keeping track of customers and they may have your information right on their screen. If you try to fake them out by acting like a big shot, they might just think you are trying to get something for nothing and doubt your whole story. You are their customer and that is enough to demand good service.
  • If you donít feel the person whom you are dealing with is helpful, ask to see a supervisor.
  • Calmly explain your situation to the supervisor and allow them to fix the problem.
  • If you have gone up the local chain of command and are still unhappy, contact the Rental Car Companyís customer service department.
What information should I have if I need to contact the Rental Car Companyís customer service department?
  •  Write soon after the incident, while the information is fresh and you are still within time limits.
  • Include as much specific information as possible when describing the problem.
  • The date, location and time of the incident.
  • Your name, and reservation, confirmation and/or rental agreement number.
  • Keep the originals, but include any relevant copies.
  • Name, title, employee number or physical description of those you dealt with, if you have them.
  • If you doubt that you were treated according to proper company policies or feel those policies donít provide for proper customer service; question the customer service department about your treatment.
  • Include the effect this problem will have on your past and future impressions of the company. But, donít baselessly threaten "In any case, Iíll never use you again", they might just write you off and leave you unsatisfied.
  • If you can think of a satisfactory solution to your problem, suggest it to the customer service department to give them a chance to win back your business.
  • Include your name, address and telephone number where they can reach you with their response.