How to Achieve a Stress-Free Car Rental – 5 Keys to Success

The average car rental is a process that should be given more than last minute attention during travel. Unfortunately, many families (and business travelers) fail to do a few small things in advance that could lead to a more stress-free car rental travel experience. As any frequent traveler knows, getting the car rental right at the beginning of the trip can certainly result in a much more enjoyable trip for all concerned at the end. Below are 5 keys to a successful car rental that every traveler should make note of:

1. Do a little homework. As with any wise buying decision, even a little preparation can save dollars. For example, the wise and experienced traveler will make sure their own automobile insurance is up to date and sufficient for their planned car rental needs. It is widely accepted that travelers need not take the rental company insurance offered if their own coverage can protect them adequately. The only exception to this might be: lack of insurance because the renter does not have a personal car. In this case, the higher-priced rental company insurance is better than none at all.

2. Understand your rental agreement. Wise car rental customers will make absolutely sure they understand the terms and requirements of any car or vehicle rental agreement. This is a major part of preparation for travel and car rental, and should not be something that is studied only when a problem arises. Some details that should always be confirmed include: 1) How many miles are allowed per day (experienced rental customers agree that unlimited mileage is best for most travelers), and 2) Is the customer required to refill the gasoline tank when the car is returned? Rental companies generally offer a fuel option that allows the customer to pay up front for a tank of gasoline. This means that the driver can return the car without filling the tank. In most cases it is best to buy gasoline when needed, filling the tank just before returning the car.

3. Know what you are renting. While many travelers will actually consider insurance, mileage and gasoline when renting a car, most will not take the time to look at the car’s physical condition to check for dents, scratches and other appearance problems. Feedback from customers and customer complaints indicate that car rental companies will sometimes try to blame these problems on the current renter. To avoid this difficulty, wise car rental customers will point out any problems prior to taking the car, making sure that the company representative notes scratches, dents and upholstery problems, in writing. Tip: Experienced renters use their digital cameras to document any problems before driving away.

4. Look for value but pay for happiness. The car rental industry has grown quickly and now includes dozens of choices. This level of competition has led to reduced prices, even from some of the top-name companies. Of course, the best deal for the lowest price is everyone’s goal. However, experience in the field of car rentals has taught many people that the lowest price is not always the key to happiness. (It’s always a good idea to pay particular attention to the “howevers.”) As the choices expand, customers are tempted to choose lesser-known companies to save money. Many of these occasional renters assume that state and federal laws will protect them from any major problems. While it is generally true that the “name-brand” corporations and many smaller companies will provide a quality, worry-free experience, problems can arise with some of the smaller start-up businesses. The wise renter will be sure to clear up any doubts about terms and car conditions, especially with smaller fleet businesses. The pressure of creating and growing a business may lead some to cut corners. In the end, the customer may have to pay for that pressure.

5. Stress the small details. There are a number of items in the small print of rental agreements that can add to or subtract from the overall cost you finally end up paying. Two that should be understood fully at the start are: 1) Return requirements – Is the original renter required to bring the car back to the same location? There may be a charge for returning the vehicle to another site. 2) Will there be an extra charge if the driver is under a particular age. Companies may include a surcharge if the driver is under 25, for example. These are the most popular and can mean hidden charges at the end of your trip you weren’t counting on. Make sure you read the small print and ask questions before driving that rental car of the lot.

Vacations can be hectic enough without adding the stresses of a bad car rental into the equation. The mistakes that the average traveler makes when renting a car vary from a lack of planning before the trip begins, to doing small things during the rental process that end up costing him or her more money in the end. Wise travelers can avoid these mistakes by following the five tips outlined above to achieve a successful stress-free car rental.