Note to Self: What to Know Before Renting a Car as a Tourist

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Traveling is as stress-free as it gets when things line up nicely. There’s the hotel, the itinerary, and the car rental. While some can argue for commuting and walking, driving around a new, unfamiliar place has its perks such as more privacy and freedom to explore roads less traveled.

What do you know about car rental, or more importantly, what do you need to know before making an informed decision when renting cars?

The Car Rental Checklist

Where are you headed? Going out of state, road tripping and exploring? It’s high time to check what you can get to drive you around your destination and how to do it.

Do Your Research

The Internet does wonders for the modern-day traveler. The rental car and car rental keywords can pull up all sorts of information about companies providing these services in your chosen location.

In the U.S., there are the Big 3 and independent rental car companies. Take time to click on every relevant website, read the information on the homepage and the FAQs.

Make the Call

With your legwork, consultation with your co-travelers, input from people you know and random reviewers online, you probably have a handful of companies on your list.

Pick up the phone, or fill out a form online, and ask the important questions like rates, fees, insurance. Don’t hang up without a quote for a meaningful comparison shopping.

Book the Reservation

Haste makes waste and renting a car fresh out of the airport can drain your pockets. Always, make the reservation and any relevant arrangements in advance.

Book the reservation after you read through the cancellation policy to avoid incurring fees.

Ready Your Credit Card

You need a credit card for the reservation because the car rental company uses it to charge a portion or all of the deposit for the car. Present the same credit card and your driver’s license when you pick up the unit.

Some rental companies might accept debit cards or prepaid cards but the process is made complicated by a possible credit check and supplemental proof(s) of identity, among other things.

Age Matters

Two age-relevant policies you should know when renting a car:

  • You must be at least 25 years of age to get that rental car contract.
  • You can still rent the car if you are below 25 years old but ready yourself for a fee. It’s because you or anyone else driving the car is under 25.

Skip the Airport

Airports are great but rental companies operating near them can be three times more expensive than those operating beyond the airport grounds.

What you can do: grab a cab from the airport to take you to the car rental company where you will pick your unit.

Protect Yourself

Ask your car insurance company if it covers rental cars. This will save you on the extra costs of buying separate insurance for your rented car.

Remember, you will be responsible for any and all damage or loss, personal injury, and liability arising from your use of the car so confirm with your insurer beforehand.

Keep It Clean

Keep in mind that you have to return the car in the condition when you first rented it out. This spares you from unwanted fees, charges, or costs, including but not limited to:

  • A cleanup fee for dirty cars. Throw out any and all trash especially disposable food containers. If you have a weathertech floor liner, it should be easy to keep the car clean and tidy when you return it.
  • A per-gallon cost for an empty tank. Fill the tank up, ideally at the gasoline station outside, before you head back to the car rental shop.

Forewarned is forearmed so read up and do your homework so you can make an informed decision on your rental car package.


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