Did you just have an accident? Are you going on vacation? No matter what your reason for renting a car, you’re going to want to take a little bit of time to assess your needs and compare carriers and prices.
Many insurance policies will extend to a rental car, but only for the type of insurance you already have in place. So if you have liability insurance with no comprehensive or collision, you may need to purchase insurance from the rental car company. If you already have that coverage, your insurance coverage will usually extend to the rental car but it’s a good idea to verify with your carrier or agent.
There is a case for purchasing insurance from the rental car company, though. Your traditional insurance may pay for the cost to repair a car if you damage it, but it will not pay for the rental car company’s “loss of use,” or the income they can’t make because they aren’t able to rent the car out to someone else. If you are in an accident, the car may be out of service for an extended period of time. You could be billed for “loss of use” and have to pay bill out of pocket. Most rental car companies include this coverage in their insurance terms.
A lot of credit cards also extend insurance coverage to rental cars if their cards are used to make the rental. Check to confirm the terms, as you could easily avoid the extra expense with that perk as well.
Don’t just compare rates from company to company, but ask about discounts that may be available as well. Sometimes you can find deals on coupon sites. You may also get a discount with certain companies for being an AARP or AAA Road Service member. Make sure you’re really getting a fair deal, no matter what you find. Don’t let taxes and fees eat up whatever savings you thought you found.
Unless your rental situation is an emergency, there’s no reason to wait until the last minute to book your rental. An early booking will ensure the type of car you want for the days you need. Booking in advance will also ensure cars are available despite other emergency situations. For example, many Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents recently found themselves scrambling to find rental cars as Amtrak and Septa schedules were disrupted after the recent Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 derailment in Philadelphia. Hundreds of people who usually take public transportation along the affected routes found themselves in urgent need of transportation, leaving those with a casual need wishing they had made prior arrangements.
It may be tempting to rent a sports car or a big SUV, but your safest and most affordable option is usually the one you’re most likely to drive at home. If you’re traveling on business and need to haul extra people and equipment, go for a larger van or SUV. Otherwise, the sedan or small compact car most like your own is your safest, most comfortable option, and will cost you less than a flashy convertible.
Car rentals can be complicated but they really don’t need to be. Do as much as you can to prepare and schedule in advance, including checking on your insurance needs, and you’ll be well on your way to a hassle-free experience.