Looking to rent a car for the holidays in Europe? Good news for vacationers: car rental prices are expected to be more affordable in 2020. Reduced demand due to ride-sharing and expected slowdown will keep prices from rising significantly in the coming year.
Renting a car is a key component of the travel experience. However, without some proper research and guidance, it might not be as transparent and straightforward as it seems. Many travellers are usually unsure as to what the right questions are- hidden costs, insurance, damage claims and more can slip under the radar when you are at an airport rental.
Here are the 10 things you should look out for when renting a car before you embark on your next driving holiday.
1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
“Homework” and “Vacation” might be two words you never want to associate with each other, but doing your due diligence is the best way to avoid scams and unnecessary costs.
To get an idea as to what a rental car would cost, sites like Rentalcars.com, CarRentals.com and HolidayCars.com provide price matching and compare prices across the biggest brands in car hire. Do bookmark rentals that you are interested in and click through them several times as third party sites tend to have extremely low prices that will be raised at checkout.
Smaller rental companies might appear in the search results, so always do your research to check their legitimacy. When reading through reviews, important points to take note of are customer service, quality of cars, cleanliness and branch billing tendencies.
2. SIGN UP FOR A RENTAL CAR COMPANY LOYALTY REWARDS PROGRAM
It’s quick, easy, and typically free. Bonus perks may include free upgrades when you first sign up and the ability to skip long queues (highly appreciated after a long flight). If you are a frequent traveller who often rents cars, the five minutes it takes to sign up will definitely be worth your time.
3. PREPAY TO SAVE MORE
While checking out rental cars online, you may see two different price points advertised on booking sites: one for prepaying customers and a higher rate for customers who opt to pay when they pick up the rental car. Prepaying can help save you up to 20 per cent, and savings only get bigger the better the type of car you rent.
4. AIRPORT SURCHARGES
Airports may charge premiums for the convenience of picking up and dropping off your rental car. It might be worth it if you have just disembarked from a long flight, but if you are looking to avoid those premiums, do consider rental offices in the inner city. Car rental offices in inner cities typically offer lower prices, so weigh your options to see if it is worth waiting until you get into the city to rent.
5. DO NOT PAY FOR PREPAID GAS
It might seem convenient for the rental company to fill the tank back up when you drop off the car, but that convenience comes at a price. Prepaid gas plans are almost never cheaper, and appeal to travellers who are concerned about arriving late for flights. Rental companies charge a premium in lieu of the convenience, and some shadier car rentals might make you provide proof with receipts from your last gas refuel.
Even the option where the some rental companies charge you only for fuel you actually use is more often than not heavily tipped in the rental agency’s favor because the cost of having them refuel your car is almost always higher than the cost of doing it yourself.
Fortunately, paying for prepaid gas can be avoided by simply following the next step!
6. CHECK FOR PLACES TO REFUEL ON YOUR WAY BACK
The best place to find a place to refuel is immediately upon pick up. As you are driving away, take note of the nearest gas stations and plan for extra time on your last day before returning the car.
The unfamiliar neighbourhoods around gas stations near airports tend to be confusing, so driving in circles looking for a gas station before a flight is unwanted stress. For easy navigation, you can bookmark gas stations that are most convenient for you on mapping service apps like Google Maps.
For more tips on how to use mapping service apps on a road trip, check out 5 Things You Need To Do Before Going On A Road Trip
7. PURCHASE INSURANCE
Most rental car companies will try and get you to buy additional insurance, such as loss damage waivers or personal effects coverage. However, this can set you back $20-$40 or more per day, and it is much more economical to purchase insurance before you even reach the rental counter.
Aside from price matching across the board third-party booking sites (See: Tip 1) also sell insurance for less than what you would pay for over the counter. Standard travel insurance policies may offer additional additional rental car insurance buy-up, covering international rental cars, alongside trip cancellations and medical benefits.
Remember to look for policies with low excesses – Paying an extra $1,000 after an accident is going to eat into your bank account.
8. AVOID SNEAKY FEES AND TAXES
If you are running late to return the car, do give the company a call and ask if it would be cheaper to pay late fees or extend the rental. Always check for fees attached to GPS, electronic toll collection systems, and even car seats. If you are able to use your own navigation, as well as find toll-free roads into town (Hint: Google Maps), small fees that can eventually add up can all be easily avoided.
If you are travelling alone, do you really need to hire an SUV? Know what you need before arriving at the rental company.
9. DO NOT IGNORE POTENTIAL OFFERS FOR UPGRADES
It could be worth a shot reserving a low-priced car, and then inquiring about any available upgrades once you get to the rental counter. Especially during busy periods, rental company garages may be running low on its cheapest vehicles, and may offer free or very affordable upgrades if their inventory cannot cater to your booking request.
In most cases, it is up to the discretion of the rental agent in setting upgrade rates, so if you are asked if you are interested in an upgrade, respond that it depends on the price and you might find yourself getting an upgrade at minimal additional cost.
10. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS INSPECT YOUR RENTAL CAR
When you pick up your car, make sure you do a thorough check for anything that could potentially be considered damage the second you drive off. Look for any scratches, dents, scuffs, loose parts, and working power windows and mirrors.
Do not be in a hurry to drive off, and take photos and/or videos of a slow walk around the car. Never assume that a small crack in the windshield or a cigarette burn in the carpet is no big deal.
The most serious complaints about car rental companies in recent years have been disputes over damage claims. When returning the car, make sure there is an attendant and you should always receive a slip signing off that all is okay with your car.
It might seem like a lot of things to take note off, but it will all pay off in the end when you rent a car stress-free and spend all those savings on things that really matter.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the reply section below!
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