Congratulations! You just booked your tickets to discover a new place, now you want the maximum freedom so you are renting a car, but where should you start? Don’t worry, I’ll guide you through the journey so you select the best option.
Where should I be looking and what company should I choose?
This is probably the main thing you are looking for in this article and I’m sorry to tell you that there is not a good answer for this one. There is not a single best car rental company. There are many booking sites like Rentalcars, Expedia, and Priceline that will compare Car rental companies at your destination that will get you really nice deals. The problem is that the cheap deals will most likely become the most expensive. I’ve seen a lot of inconsistency from companies depending on the country I’ve booked the car, and even at different locations within the same country.
My Recommendation? Google is your friend. Look for the car company and the location on Google and you’ll get real reviews from previous customers. You’ll see that some locations continually try deceiving customers and make them pay way more than what they booked. Whenever I’m traveling somewhere new I just search for “Car Rental in X airport” and filter them by 4.5 stars and up ( if very few show up or they don’t have many reviews lower it to 4 stars and up) then check the prices for the Top 3 and go with the most economic.
If you are renting in the U.S. I Have rented with ACE Rent a Car the last couple of times and haven’t got any problems with them, and their rates are pretty economic.
Book it in advance
Like everything when it comes to travel the earlier the better, don’t wait until the last minute to book your car and for sure don’t wait till you are at the counter, not only you will end up paying way more, you might not even be able to get a car at all.
This is a must every time you rent.
First, you must have some form of CDW (Collision Damage Waiver). You have 3 options for this:
- Your Credit Card Company. CDW might be provided by your credit card company (If you don’t know if you have it you can give them a call and ask *Don’t forget to ask which countries it applies to.)
- Get The One Offered By The Car Rental Company. The second option is to purchase it directly from the car rental company. This option will normally reduce or eliminate the deposit you need to leave for the car which normally ranges between $250 and $1300 (USD), and if it covers it fully you won’t need to pay anything in case of an accident, this will normally be a bit expensive so you can try the third option, an external Insurance Company for car rentals.
- Third Party (cheaper) Insurance. This is more complicated in case of an accident as you will have to pay for the damage and then file a claim to the third party company, but you can save hundreds of dollars per rental.
When returning my car they told me that with the information I gave them and the police report there wouldn’t be any charges for the damage made to the car. A day later when I had already left the country, I got a charge on My Credit Card for $230. I emailed Europcar back and forth for 2 months and they said they would not pay it even with the police reports.
I contacted Rentalcover and within 2 days they refunded me all the money.
* Not every car rental company accepts 3rd party insurance and some will make you pay their basic insurance anyways, so carefully read the Policy Terms.
(Europcar in the Dominican Republic also made me get their insurance because they wouldn’t let me use the Rentalcover one. They made me pay $180 for insurance that didn’t even cover the accident later. Funny how the insurance they did not accept ended up paying for the damage to the car)
Take pictures or a video of all the damage that the car has.
This step will only be needed if you don’t get the full insurance with the car rental company. Car Rental companies will likely give you a car with some cosmetic damages, such as a few scratches and maybe even some bumps. They will mark these damages on a paper but sometimes miss some spots and they will hardly ever mark any damages in the interior but will charge you for everything. (And most insurances do not cover interior damages).
My suggestion is to record a video when you are given the car and another one when you return it. That way you have proof of how the car was at pick-up and how you returned it.
My parents booked a car in Morrocco and they returned it in perfect condition. The problem? They returned the car after hours so they just dropped the keys and took their flight home. A week later the car rental company reported that the car had been returned with damages and they were charged. Good thing I recommended them RentalCover.
Filling up the tank
ALWAYS and repeat, always return the car with the same amount of gas as they gave it to you. They will charge you way more for refilling the car if you return it with less gas unless you have prepaid for fuel.
Now, should you get the option of prepaid fuel? The answer is Maybe. The gas they offer is normally cheaper, but first, you’ll have to keep a couple of things in mind.
- You have to return the tank almost empty for it to be worth it (this means being constantly looking to check if you are going to make it).
- They will always give you a price without even knowing how big the actual tank is. Once they offered me this option and then let me choose any car I wanted with the tanks varying up to 5 gallons (20L).
Read the small print before booking.
Not only do car rental companies have extra charges for everything. They also have rules that will prevent you from booking or rules that you should know before driving. For example, when I was booking a trip to Honduras I stated on the booking website from Avis that I was under 25 and made a reservation for a car.
After reading the Policy Terms for the location, I discovered that you couldn’t even rent a car if you were under 25. If it wasn’t because I read it I would have arrived at the counter and left with few options as there was only one company that rented cars to anyone under 25.
Another thing you will need to look for is if they let you cross any borders with the car and if there are any extra charges for doing so. These are the main two things that you should look for plus checking what insurance and options are mandatory at the counter.
Extras, are they worth it?
There are some extras that you will need to pay for no matter what, for instance, if you are under 25 you will probably need to pay an extra fee, normally between $10 – $25 every day. (Check before renting because this can make the price skyrocket).
What about paying for an extra driver? Well, if the other driver is just going to take the car here and there, then you could just pass on it, but it is always recommended as anyone else driving the car would be breaking the contract terms and therefore you would not be covered in case of an accident even if it wasn’t your fault. You could also get in trouble if you get pulled over and your name is not on the contract. Third-party insurances and liabilities will also cover only the drivers that are stated in the Car rental agreement.
The rest of the extras like navigation systems, or a child seat, depends on your needs, sometimes it will be even cheaper to fly a suitcase with the child seats than to rent them. For navigation, I prefer using my phone (Google Maps is great and you can download offline maps) and getting a cheap Phone Holder That attaches to the AC.
Don't park on the street
This does not apply to every location. Generally, you will be able to tell if your location is safe and in case of doubt ask a local or just pay for parking.
When I was in Mexico my hotel did not have any parking and there was no parking nearby so I parked on the street. They forced the trunk and stole the spare tire and tools plus a jacket and other belongings that I had in there, so even if you leave nothing valuable in the car you should park it somewhere safe.
The Car Rental Company charged me $270 to fix the trunk body and paint and the tools and tire they stole.
Dropping the car off in a different location? Try this first.
Recently I discovered that there is a term called vehicle relocation, where car rental companies will need cars moved between their locations and they will offer you really cheap rentals ($1 a day) and sometimes even some money on gas. I will be writing a full post on this soon, but meanwhile, you can check.
- Imoova (They offer car relocation rentals in: Australia, New Zeland, USA, Canada, UK, and Europe)
- Movacar for Europe.
Some companies will just offer it too, so just look for vehicle relocation and your destination and you might find an option.
Charge all your electronics while you drive your rental with this Power inverter, perfect for drones, cameras, and laptops.
If you think I forgot to mention anything, or have some car renting experience to share don’t hesitate to write in the comment section!
Thank you for reading!