Renting a car seems pretty self-explanatory at the beginning, right? Once you start the process, however, you discover a number of things you need to think about, including questions of insurance, size, fees, and price. Rather than getting caught unawares, do your research beforehand so you can get the right car at the best price.
Always Comparison Shop
You probably comparison shop for any big purchase, just to see where you'll get the best deal. You need to do the same thing with a rental car. The company down the road might seem cheaper than the rental company by the airport, but a comparison could show that you get more amenities from the company that seems more expensive.
Similarly, you'll have the chance to see who offers gas reimbursements, which company offers pet-friendly rentals, and which place costs less per day, per week, or even per month. That means you also need to have an estimate of how long you need the car.
Read Reviews Online
Reviews are your best friends. Take yourself to the Internet and start looking up reviews on company websites—but don't stop there. Do a search for the companies in which you're most interested, check out a blogs and independent review sites, and ask questions if you can't find any answers. Don't pay attention to all positive or all negative reviews; look at a mix of the two and make up your mind from there.
Answer the Insurance Question
Ah, the question of insurance and rental cars. No matter whom you ask, you'll receive different answers. "It's a scam," your brother tells you. "You'll regret it if you don't get it," your father-in-law insists. What do you do?
Well, you don't take it for granted that your insurance will cover your rental car, nor do you blindly believe it when your rental car agent tells you it's a must-have through the company. Instead, call your insurance agent and go over your policy to see where you're covered. Then read the small print on the rental companies' policies and see if their insurance costs more than it's really worth. You should also visit a reputable rental car insurance blog post to get the goods from an unbiased source.
Come Camera Ready
You always want to cover your butt with a rental car. When you go to pick it up, bring a camera. Use your phone, use a real camera, just make sure you have something that takes good pictures. When you see the car you're renting, take pictures of:
- Any scratches, dings, or dents inside and outside
- Every square inch of the interior and exterior
- And the ashtray, cup holders, and other crevices that accumulate debris
Read Your Contract - Twice
Sometimes those contracts are tricky. Just to make sure you understand everything, read through it twice. Ask questions about anything you don't understand. If there are items you don't agree with, at least find out why they're necessary. This falls under the "covering your butt" clause as well.