Car Rental Primer: What You Need to Know

Whether you need a car to take a vacation or to borrow one while your car is getting repaired, a car rental can get you behind the wheel of a vehicle quickly. Car rental periods may range from hours to weeks or longer, with nearly any make or model available. Each car rental company establishes its own rules and guidelines, therefore we will examine the general practices of the industry and include tips on how you can secure a quality rental for less.

Car Rental Overview

The car rental industry is made up of multiple players, but three companies dominate. Enterprise, Hertz and Avis lead the industry and all three own other companies.

For example, Enterprise owns Alamo and National, Hertz owns Dollar and Thrifty, and Budget belongs to Avis. Other car rental companies include Advantage, Payless, Rent-a-Wreck, Fox, and Sixt. There are regional operators too and you also may be able to rent a car from your car dealer.

Shop and compare prices online; booking via the Internet will often bring you the best deals.

Flexibility Equals Savings

Expect to pay more for a car if you rent it on a weekday than on the weekend. Business travelers usually rent from Monday to Friday, driving up prices on those days. Weekend rates will often kick in on Friday and provide you with a car until Monday morning.

If you need a car for four or five days compare that cost to renting a car for an entire week. Usually, the rental rate for a week is less than a five-day rental. You should be able to return the car early without a penalty too.

Car Insurance Considerations

Besides the basic daily rate for renting a car, you will find that car insurance is offered. Rates vary, but can range from about $8 to as much as $30 per day reports Also, your credit card provider may have you covered should you get in an accident. Contact your provider and ask if damage and total loss are covered. If so, charge your next car rental to that credit card.

Your auto insurance company may have you covered as well. For just a few extra dollars per term, your rental car can be protected. However, a deductible will apply and your insurance rates may be affected if you file a claim. Moreover, it won’t cover the rental car company’s loss of use, a cost the company will charge you for as long as the vehicle is out of commission or until a replacement vehicle arrives.

To Upgrade or Not

You’ve asked for a compact car and for $37 per day that is a price you can live with. That said, it isn’t uncommon for car rental companies to bump customers up to a larger vehicle at no extra cost, putting you behind the wheel of a midsize sedan or an SUV instead.

A larger vehicle will drive up your fuel costs, so decline the offer if that matters to you. In any case, you will also want to refuel the car yourself as car rental companies may charge you more than twice the price of a gallon of fuel if you opt for this service.

Higher Mileage Vehicles

Rental car companies have typically turned cars over after 25,000 to 30,000 miles, selling these vehicles to the public or at auction. In 2006, Hertz held a car for about 10 months, but by 2012 it extended its hold to 18 months.
The car your rent today can easily have 35,000 miles on the odometer to well over 50,000 miles according to the Wall Street Journal. Rental cars are usually very well maintained, thus mileage is rarely a concern. You can, however, ask for a replacement car at the rental counter.

Vehicle Safety Check

Always check the rental car before you get behind the wheel and drive off. You are liable for damages and if an existing scratch, ding or dent is not noted on the rental agreement, you could be held liable.

Don’t overlook examining the tires as any car with higher miles should have had at least one tire replaced. Bald tires are dangerous, reducing grip when you need it most. Check the headlights, the turn signals, navigation and audio systems as well. Your agent will supply you with an emergency contact number before you begin your journey.

Surveying the car rental car market can help you find deals. Moreover, if you are a regular renter, join the company’s loyalty program for additional discounts and perks.

See AlsoYour Rental Car Insurance Options

Photo Credit: By Clotee Pridgen Alloc…, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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