Common Car Rental Questions

Top Travel Scams and How to Avoid Them
March 3, 2016
21 Top Safety Tips for Budget Travelers
March 4, 2016
Show all

Common Car Rental Questions

If you’ve never rented a car before then it can be a very confusing process the first time you decide to do it. What you first thought was a simple process suddenly becomes a nightmare as you are bombarded with a multitude of options and costs. Trying to figure out which is the best deal is not always easy and all that fine print is beginning to wear you down. But don’t worry, you’re not the only one, I’ve been there myself which is why I though it’d be a good idea to compile a list of the most common car rental questions people have.

Whether this is your first time renting or not, it is always important that you never enter a car rental arrangement without researching all of your options first.

Which car should I choose?

Most people start off with choosing the car first. it makes sense as it’s important to choose a rental car that matches your needs. Obviously the smaller cars are cheaper but do they all have enough space for your baggage and will it be comfortable for long trips?

When you rent a car you can choose between several different types of cars. To try to make renting a car, or a type of car, easier, rental agencies generally break all cars down into five categories. Each of these categories usually comes with a different series of rates, and although limos and vans are available, just about all other vehicles will be classified as one of the following: economy car, compact car, mid-sized/intermediate car, full sized car, and luxury car.

A car in the economy class would be a smaller two door car, like a Geo Metro. These cars usually have room for two adults, two children, and two small suitcases. These are also generally the cheapest. The next step up would be to a compact car, which could be two doors, or four doors. Two of the most popular rented compact cars are Ford Escorts and Chevy Cavaliers. These are generally seen as having room for two adults, two children, one large and two small suitcases.

The next step is up to the mid sized, or intermediated sized, car. These are two or four door cars that include cars like the Ford Tempo or Buick Skylark. These vehicles have room for four adults, and several large suitcases. The full sized car would be a large car like the Ford T-Bird or Buick Century. These have room for four adults, plus plenty of leg room, and a lot of luggage.

Then there are the luxury cars. These cars generally have four doors and include the Ford Crown, Lincoln Town Car, or Pontiac Bonneville. These cars have room for five adults and four large suitcases, plus extra bags. These are good vehicles for family vacations. There are convertibles available, too, but they will obviously cost more and are not as good for family travel.

Most travellers will recommend at least a mid sized car, since these models offer the engine power and special features needed to tackle most terrains (such as mountain roads) while having safety features like air-bags. Think of what you need the rental for, where you will be going, what you need the car to provide reliably over the course of your trip. Based on that, match your needs with the class of rental car and make your choice from there. Especially in new places or long trips, having a car you are comfortable with is very important, and will help guarantee a safe and comfortable trip.

What about insurance?

Insurance is one of the more confusing parts of renting a car as there are plenty of options but they can soon double the price of your car rental if you choose a top tier so remember to check out your options first.

The four most common types are: collision damage waiver (CDW)/loss damage waiver (LDW), supplemental liability insurance, personal accident insurance, and personal effects coverage. Most rental car companies will pitch the CDW really hard, as well as the theft insurance. What you should know is that usually you don’t need either of them.

Before you shell out $15 per day or more for these options, check your normal auto insurance already covers rentals. The other thing to look up is your credit card’s policy on rentals. Almost every rental company requires a credit card for payment. That is because it makes it easy for the company to add charges for “damages” later.

As a side note, because of this, DO NOT use a debit card, ever. You will have no opportunity to dispute the charges if you get cheated. Make sure you use a real credit card. Since you have to use a credit card, see if your credit card offers automatic insurance coverage as long as you charge the rental to that card. You would be surprised how many do.

Who pays for the fuel?

The next major rip-off is the fuel purchase option. The idea is that you pay for a full tank of gas ahead of time so you can return the vehicle on empty. The catch: it’s virtually impossible for you to use all of the gas in the car, so it’s best to decline the offer and fill up the tank just before returning it. That way, you only pay for what you’ve used. Otherwise, the cost is usually far more than what you actually use.

I’m young. Do I have to pay more?

Aside from hidden costs, most rental companies will only rent to someone who is at least 25 years old or even older (this varies country to country so be sure to check first). Some companies will rent cars to persons 21 years or older but often charge an additional ten to twenty dollars a day. Also, only the driver who is renting the car is covered under the insurance, so don’t let a buddy drive because if he wrecks it, you’re responsible.

Are local taxes included?

Keep this basics in mind, and watch out for local taxes. With the internet, it can be easy to search out the most expensive and least expensive cities and to plan your rental accordingly. Use all the tools at your disposal, and your experience is much more likely to run smoothly without any unpleasant surprises.

What about baby seats and GPS?

Another way that the charges can stack up is from the optional extras. A baby seat or navigation unit do not always come with the rental and they are costs that can be avoided if you just take your own. If you have a smartphone then you can use one of the numerous apps available to help with navigation, just buy a mount so that you can attach it to the windscreen.

Baby seats can be bulky and you may not feel like taking one if you’re travelling internationally but if you know that you need one then take it if you want to save some cash. If that’s not an option then it may be cheaper to buy one at your destination than hire it for the rental period. I’ve done this in the past and it’s worked out well. Just check out some online stores in you destination country (Amazon is a good choice) and see what’s on offer. If you only need to have the booster seat then there are travel versions available which are inflatable and compact while meeting safety standards.

Now get that rental car

Hopefully this article has made a few things more clear and you have a better grasp of the costs involved in renting a car. It’s important that you also hire your car from a reputable dealer so why not use the TravelSkunk comparison engine to sort you out a great deal on car rental today.