Believe it or not, there are a lot of things you need to know before you book your rental car that could save you hundreds of dollars.
What do You Need to Know?
1. Search Expedia for Company with Best Rates and then Book Direct
Going onto a site like Expedia will give you a quick overview of all the rental car agencies offering vehicles for your itinerary and indicate cost, mileage allowance and whether or not the rental kiosk is located in the airport terminal or if you will require a shuttle. Select the vehicle that best suits your budget and itinerary and then go to the rental car agency’s website directly. The reason you should do this is not only will you save a few bucks (Expedia does have a mark-up) but you can also earn travel rewards with that specific rental agency or gain frequent flyer points (not an option at Expedia).
2. Rental Cars Do NOT Have Snow Tires
If you will be driving anywhere where there is a chance of snow, regardless of the vehicle you chose, it will not have snow tires. I have yet to find a single rental car agency that equips their vehicles with snow tires and the reason being is added expense. It is cheaper for them to write off the odd vehicle that is in a collision due to inclement weather than it is to invest in snow tires for each vehicle in their fleet. The best option is to rent an AWD or 4×4 vehicle BUT not if it is old and has bald tires. When you arrive at the rental car kiosk, request a new vehicle and be sure to inspect the condition of the tires before you accept the vehicle. If the tires are bald, you are better off driving a newer FWD that has tires that are newer and in better condition. Rental car companies do not spend a lot of money maintaining their vehicles like you and I may do. Furthermore, most people who drive rental cars, drive the s^%& out of them, so be sure to check those tires before you leave!
3. Do NOT Purchase Insurance Through the Rental Car Agency
Every single rental car agency tries to sell you on purchasing their insurance which can be in excess of $23 per day! In most cases this is completely unnecessary. In most states and provinces, the car insurance that we have on our own vehicles covers us when renting a vehicle. Additionally, several major credit cards include travel insurance, specifically rental car insurance. Not sure if you are covered by either? Call your insurance company and your credit card company before you depart.
4. Do NOT Pre-Pay for Fuel: Plan on Fueling Up Before You Return the Vehicle
This is probably the second biggest waste of money next to purchasing insurance. If you agree to pre-pay for fuel, you are paying for a FULL tank of fuel regardless if you use it or not. This way you are paying to fill the ENTIRE fuel tank as though you brought it back completely empty which would never happen.
If you opt to return the vehicle with a full tank of fuel and forget, you will be billed up to 3X the price of regular fuel PLUS a refuelling fee! When the agency bills you for fueling up, sometimes they don’t even pay attention to the exact size of the fuel tank of the vehicle you are driving and just bills you for some random sized fuel tank. This happened to me once when I returned a Chevy Impala with a tank ¾ full, and got billed for 88L (or 23 gallons) of fuel! The tank of the car was only 63L (or 17 gallons)! When I complained, they informed me that their calculations were based on an average sized fuel tank, not specifically the one I used. What “average” vehicle at a rental car agency has a tank size of 100L?
5. You Can Not Reserve a Specific Vehicle
The vehicle in the picture on the website when you are making the reservation is only a representation of a general vehicle type. If you reserve say a Chevy Impala, you might not get that same make and model but rather anything similar in its class, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t get the precise vehicle you thought you reserved.
6. Don’t Assume You Have Unlimited Mileage
When booking your reservation, be sure to note if the mileage is restricted on the vehicle. Often the ‘discounted” vehicles do not come with unlimited mileage. If you plan on driving any significant distance in your travels, be absolutely sure that your rental car package comes with unlimited mileage otherwise you will pay a hefty fee for each km/mi you drove over the allowance.
7. If you Drop off a Vehicle at a Different Location You will Incur a Fee
If you plan on picking up and dropping off your vehicles at different locations, be prepared for additional fees. If your plans are somewhat flexible, for instance you can either go from A to B or from B to A, be sure to check out the fees for both options. When I travel to Alberta, it is almost $1000 cheaper for me to pick up a car in Edmonton and drop it off in Calgary than it is for me to pick it up in Calgary and drop it off in Edmonton. Do your homework before you book. You could save a small fortune!
I hope that in reading my tips, you will be much more prepared before you rent your next vehicle and possibly save a lot of money.
Safe travels my friends.