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9 important points you need to know before renting a car this summer

Renting a car can be a huge convenience when you need four wheels to get around quickly. However, it often comes with a series of choices that are occasionally tricky by design or pricey. Evaluating insurance prices, comparing costs or refuelling considerations may seem ordinary tasks but are often repackaged to trap unwary consumers.

Many renters aren’t aware of the hidden expenses that can burn a hole in their wallets. So, no matter if you are going to rent a car for the first time or you’ve rented a million times before, here are 9 important things that you should know before getting behind the wheel next time. Treat this as your personal cheat sheet to save yourself from a #RentalsGoneWrong nightmare.

1. To buy or not to buy insurance

Before you make that decision, we advice you to check your personal auto insurance. If you only have the “minimum permissible coverage”, chances are that your policy may not include coverage for rental cars. However, if you have what companies call “full coverage” or “comprehensive coverage”, you are covered – at least in your home country. Simply call or email your insurer to find out more details.

In general, the rule of thumb in most countries is that your personal auto insurance coverage extends to your vehicle rental as it is considered a replacement vehicle under the policy. Some policies also cover you even if the rental car is better or more valuable than your own car. But do remember that the rates will be higher if you make an accidental claim on a rental car on your personal insurance policy.


Did you know?

Anything that your own insurance does not cover, your credit card does!

In some cases, it is better than your auto insurance. In others, it acts as a great secondary insurance. To make use of this additional coverage, ensure that you pay for the rental car with your assigned card; merely having a qualifying credit card does not give you any protection.


2. Ensure that you have the required paperwork

Nothing can be worse than ending up at a car rental counter without your driving licence. In addition, many rental companies require you to present a valid credit card in your name as a guarantee to cover incidental charges like speeding, parking tickets, missing fuel, etc. Though cash deposits are accepted at the discretion of the rental company, it’s best to have all your documentation and identity proofs along with a valid credit card before you visit a rental counter.

3. Age matters

As a driver, your age plays an important part in determining your car rental cost. Most car rental companies levy a hefty fee for adding young drivers (under 25) to their registration. Additionally, van and car rental companies charge an extra fee for every additional driver added to the insurance policy.

It is suggested that you register at least two drivers to share the driving load during long trips and one person for short distances. This will save you from additional fees and unnecessary stress.

4. Inspect the rental vehicle before your trip

Before you hop on and drive off in your rental vehicle, make sure that you inspect the car thoroughly. If you don’t want to be accountable for another person’s misuse, look out for scratches, dents, loose parts or any other signs of damage. Also, take a look inside for any existing stains, marks or tears. If you spot any damages, have it recorded by an employee. The bottom line is - keep an eye out for problems, both small and big.

While most rental companies require you to sign an inspection form, many people rush through the process and leave in a hurry. Take this step seriously - never leave the final inspection to chance. While returning the car, make sure that someone inspects the car in your presence and verifies all damages to avoid unnecessary charges. If no attendant is present at drop-off, your best protection here is to take photos or record a video as you walk slowly around the car.

5. Refuel on your way back

Always remember the standard rule – fill the tank before you return the car.

An essential stop before you hand over the car should be to the local petrol station. If you forget to do this, you are in for one of the biggest car rental rip-offs. Rental companies often require the car to be returned with a full tank. Fail to do this and you’ll get charged for a fill-up. And this cost will be significantly higher than local petrol rates. So, make sure you fill up yourself at a local gas outlet.

Some rental companies have come up with newer options of car refuelling like prepaying for fuel. Unless you are pressed on time and are absolutely sure that you will return the car with its tank empty, do not fall for such schemes. The cost of them refuelling is always higher than the cost of you doing it yourself.

6. Stick to the paved roads

One of the most important rental policies to keep in mind is to avoid driving on unpaved roads. Uneven, wobbly or gravel laid surfaces can damage the tires and the rental vehicle. This might add unwanted numbers to your bill. If you buy collision damage protection or any other rental car insurance, the damage charge caused by unpaved surfaces can be waived off.

Often included only in fine print, this crucial piece of information is easily missed or forgotten. So, when in doubt, stay on paved roads unless you are willing to pay for your off-road adventures.

7. Try to avoid renting a car at the airport

You don’t want to be the one paying an exorbitant price for renting a car, do you? Being able to rent and return with the same car to the airport terminal can be a convenient option, but you will have to pay for that convenience through a substantial airport fee. Take some time to book your car online or by phone. By the time you land at your destination, your car will be waiting for you at the exit, and you’ll end up paying a fraction of the cost. Alternatively, you can hop on a shuttle and rent a car outside the airport.

8. BYOA – bring your own accessories

Car rental companies generally charge higher rates for extras and on a day-do-day basis. It’s better to equip yourself with portable accessories like child seats, GPS, portable speakers, etc. Save yourself some cash by carrying these travel extras and make sure to have the rental company remove theirs (from both the car and the bill) before you take the wheel.

9. Know your credit card policies

Before you share your credit card details with the rental company, verify everything that it covers. Find out about rental car damages, fees and any extras that are covered through your credit card. This way, you’ll be able to avoid any nasty surprises when you receive your bill.

It’s good to be prepared and do your research before you head to the rental counter next time. Don’t shy away from asking plenty of questions and know exactly what you will be getting and what you’re paying for. As long as you keep in mind the above points, your rental experience will be easy and convenient.

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