Here are 8 no no’s when renting a car. And, this information is just in time. For a while during the pandemic, there was also the concern about rental cars. Well, they’re back and we’re back wanting to rent. You’ll be surprised with the costs and fees, but sometimes we still must sign on the dotted line, grab those keys and rent that car. Here are several no no’s when renting.
1. Grab the first price you find
A big mistake many of us make is not checking for the best price we can find. All the choices for renting a car can become overwhelming and our natural instinct may be to go with an old favorite. Not checking around and taking the first price you see can equal higher costs for you. Rates for car rental are very high. Check for areas outside of the airport to avoid airport delivery fees and other fees that may be associated with rental pick up and/or return. Rental offices in downtown areas and neighborhoods can be less expensive and many times are more convenient.
Here’s the kicker – Airport rental offices are the bigger location which means more vehicles and can appear to be the better choice. Don’t let that deter you from checking smaller places. Upgrades, discounts and other perks apply at smaller locations too.
2. Failing to check for rewards and loyalty programs
Sign up for rewards and loyalty programs ahead of time. They really can make a difference. Many membership programs have relationships with car rental companies and offer member perks. This could be an upgrade or discounted rates. And, if you are a member of AAA, AARP, airline and hotel programs double check for points added to your membership with those programs too. You could receive a car rental discount and points for your next hotel stay or airline ticket. Look-before-book, there may be a sweet deal waiting for you.
Here’s the kicker – Not using your rewards and loyalty programs when traveling is like leaving money on the table. It’s easy to sign up and they are easy to use.
3. Prepay for gas
Oh those offers for prepaid gas. The staff members are taught to offer up-sale items, and prepaid gasoline is one that rakes in the money for the company. Renting from an airport location is where this offer appears to make the most sense to offer, although you’ll find the offer at any rental location. The desire to cut out one more stop that could make you late for your flight is very tempting. No one wants to add additional stress to an already stressful time. Those few minutes saved can mean making your flight, train or bus or missing it. Don’t fall for the hard sell. Fill up the day before your return.
Here’s the real kicker – When you prepay, you’re paying for a full tank of gas. There is no refund for what’s left in the tank when you return. Half full, quarter full, it doesn’t matter. Cha-ching, you just spent a lot more than you needed to.
4. Not checking inside and outside of the car
You reached the rental car counter, signed the paperwork and now you’re ready to get the car, and go. But, wait. Before accepting the car as road and rental ready, take a few moments to look inside and outside to inspect the car. Look for scratches, scuffs, loose parts (bumpers), and working power windows and mirror, check tires and lights. Don’t assume there has been a thorough inspection of the car before the keys are handed to you.
Don’t forget the inside: Take a look in the back seat area, seat pockets, trunk and around the back window areas. You’re asked to take a look on the outside for damage, but also look closely inside too.
Here’s the real kicker – Double check for any items that may have been left inside by the last renter. This step is especially important to remove any illegal items that you could be held responsible for having in the vehicle; and you didn’t know they were there. Try convincing the authorities of that.
5. Thinking you’re taking too much time or being some kinda way if you take photos and video There is nothing wrong with taking photos of the car, especially if there is damage and you want to note that it is there before you agree to drive off in a particular car. Let the rental agent know about the photographed damage and time stamp your photos if possible. A video of the car as you walk around is a good idea also.
Here’s the kicker – Don’t let a picture not speak the full truth and allow the rental agent to say the photo may have been taken some place else. Make sure your photos and video show the rental area in the background.
6. Focus only on getting on your way Take a few minutes to get to know your car. Most cars we rent are different from our everyday car. Check out the operation of the lights, hazard signal, operation of the windows and locks. Where is the button to open the trunk or gas tank. Get to know the car before driving off. If you have questions on the operation or features of the car, the best place to explore this is in the parking lot of the car rental not on the street while driving or on the side of the road.
If you’ll need directions to your destination, sort out GPS or map before getting on the road. Ask the attendant if you turn right or left leaving the rental lot. Simple directions can get you safely on your way.
Here’s the kicker – Leaving the rental office without sorting out directions, operation of the vehicle or using the cellphone to update friends and family distracts you and puts you in danger of having an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gauges distracted driving accidents as crashes involving such actions as dialing a cellphone or texting and being distracted by another person or an outside event. Add to that trying to set up GPS or reading maps and you can find yourself in a very dangerous position. Do not rush to leave, take a moment and get yourself acclimated to the car and area.
7. Not noticing where the gas stations are
As you’re leaving take note of gas stations close to the airport. On your way to return the car, you’ll have an idea of what’s close and stations that are easy to get in, out and to the rental office.
Here’s the kicker – You can waste precious minutes trying to find a close gas station when returning the car. The natural instinct is to think there’s another one closer. If you return the can less than full, you’ll be charged the a higher fee than the prepay to fill the car. Take a look around. You’ll save money and most of all, you’ll be less stressed.
8. Returning the car and leaving without a final inspection
Plan time for a final check. If you leave before agreeing that all is well with the car, you could get a message later saying all was not well. Ask for a final inspection with the staff receiving the car when you return. Take another photo or quick video of the car in the return area. If there was damage when you received the car, make sure that is noted as before damage, not your damage.
Taking a few extra steps can save you money. Ninety-nine percent of the time when you rent a car all is well. But, one problem rental can mean hundreds of dollars and increased insurance rates, if you’re using your own insurance. A few minutes on the front-end and back-end of your rental can make a huge difference in your wallet, safety and stress-level.
Here’s the kicker – You can receive an email or notice saying you owe for damages to a car. If you have no proof that the damages were not there when you returned the car, it becomes a fight to win your claim. Do a quick walk around, take photos with your cell phone and it could save you a lot of hassle.