Renting a car can be a confusing situation when you’re already dealing with the hassles of traveling. Many drivers are all too happy to simply pick up their car and get going with their trip as quickly as possible. The same goes for dropping off their rental as they’re anxious to catch a flight home. However, a few extra minutes before and after getting your rental car can be a great way to save money and protect your belongings. Use these tips the next time you rent a vehicle.
Picking Up Your Rental Car
When picking up your rental car, don’t rush through the details with the sales rep at the desk. Instead, be armed with specific questions and always make sure you are getting the best deal for the vehicle you want. The following checklist outlines the various questions and steps you need to go through before driving off in your rental.
- Ask about any deals or specials the car rental company is offering. You may be able to get a last-minute deal.
- If you made a reservation with the rental company, make sure you’re getting the same make and model that you reserved beforehand. If they don’t have your vehicle in stock, you should be offered a price that’s equal or less to what you would have been charged for whatever vehicle they give you as a replacement.
- Go over the details regarding your charges. Make sure you are fully aware of what the costs will be for gas and insurance.
- When it comes to insurance, don’t assume that just because you have coverage through your auto insurance and/or credit card that you’ll have complete coverage in the event of an accident. While your coverage may pay for repairs, you may still be charged by the rental company for things like administrative fees and “loss of use” fees depending on the company’s policies. Paying for the rental company’s collision coverage may exempt you from these fees. Whatever the case, always read through the fine print on your rental car contract to avoid unexpected charges.
- Ask the sales rep about any specific things you’ll need to know before heading out on the road. This includes the location of the proof of insurance and car manual, any local laws that you might not know about and who to call if you need emergency roadside service.
- Once you’ve determined what car you’ll be driving and what the charges will be, make sure to inspect your vehicle for any damages (scratches, dents, etc.) and note the current gas level. Make sure these things are noted on the rental car contract – if they aren’t, go back to the sales rep to note these changes.
- Take a bit of time to familiarize yourself with the car. Look for all the gadgets and switches you’ll be using, like the turn signals, windshield wipers, headlights and radio. Adjust your seat, rearview mirrors and lights during this time.
- Figure out your directions before setting off. Obtain a map or a GPS unit from the rental car counter if you need to.
Dropping Off Your Rental Car
Once your trip is complete, it’s time to return your rental car. While many companies tout their speedy drop-off services, you shouldn’t be in such a rush to get rid of your rental. Instead, you should always check-in with a sales rep and go over your receipt in detail before heading home. Here are the items to add to your rental car drop-off checklist.
- Make sure you know the hours that the rental car counter will be open. Plan to drop off your vehicle at a time when the counter will be staffed.
- Look over the entire vehicle when dropping it off. If possible, have an attendant go over the car with you. You can also take photos as an extra precaution. If any new damage is present, figure out how to handle on the spot rather than having them bill you later. If no damage has been done, make sure it’s noted on your receipt or contract.
- Return your car with the same amount of fuel that you started with. If it’s easier to return it with a full tank, keep your receipt from the gas station and give it to the sales rep when checking out.
- Go over your receipt before leaving the counter. If you have any questions about charges, settle them there.
- Hold onto your receipt and contract when leaving. In case any new fees are charged to your account or any disputes come up, it will be much easier to protect your finances if you kept documentation of your rental.
Getting a rental car can be much less overwhelming if you have these steps in mind going in. Use the information here to protect yourself when renting a vehicle. You’ll enjoy your trip more when you know that you’ve gone over all the details with your car and that you’ve done everything you can to avoid unexpected charges.