What you need to know when you rent a car

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What you need to know when you rent a car

You may have had an accident and your car is in the shop, or maybe you’re going on vacation and will need a car during your stay.  No matter what your reason for renting a car, take a little bit of time to assess your needs and compare carriers and prices.  There’s a lot of differences and flexibility in the car rental market.  Let’s look at some options that may save you money and peace of mind.

Talk to Your Insurance Agent before making reservations

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 auto insurance policy will usually extend to the rental car but it’s a good idea to verify with your carrier or agent.

The biggest point of contention, almost everywhere, is the collision- or loss-damage-waiver (CDW/LDW). Legally it isn’t insurance at all, but most rental car agents use the term “insurance” to scare you and get you to buy it. At a cost of somewhere around $30 a day, it can as much as double the cost of a rental car.  Your current auto insurance policy may pay for the cost to repair a car if you damage it while renting, but it may 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 and you could have to pay that bill out of pocket. Most rental car companies include this “coverage” in their insurance terms, but it’s always a good idea to verify this with the rental agent at the counter before you sign on the dotted line.  Often, your credit card will extend insurance coverage to rental cars if the card is used when making the rental card reservation.  As a last resort, you can buy primary coverage for less than $8 a day from Insure my Rental Car and Protect You Bubble which is much more cost efficient.

Compare Rates and Look for Discounts

Don’t just compare rates from company to company, but ask about discounts that may be available as well. Often you can find deals on coupon sites. You may also get a discount from certain rental companies for being an AARP or AAA Road Service member.  Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts when making the reservation, and again when picking up the car.  Make sure you’re really getting a fair deal.  Everyone wants to hurry, finish up the paperwork, and get their car.  But it’s worth the few minutes it takes to have the rental agent go over the contract with you.  Don’t let taxes and fees eat up whatever savings you thought you found.

Make your rental reservation sooner, rather than later

Unless your rental situation is an emergency, there’s no reason to wait until the last minute to book your rental car. An early booking will help ensure that you get the type of car you want for the days needed. Booking in advance will also ensure cars are available despite other emergency situations. For example, a couple of years ago many Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents found themselves scrambling to find rental cars as Amtrak and Septa schedules were disrupted after the Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 derailment in Philadelphia. Hundreds of people who usually rely on public transportation along the affected routes found themselves in urgent need of alternate transportation, leaving those with a casual or vacation need wishing they had made prior arrangements by booking a reservation earlier.

Get it full, return it full

Make sure you return your rental car with a full tank of gas. If the rental company refuels it and adds it to your bill, the per-gallon charge may be double or even triple the going rate at the pump. And because gas gauges are so imprecise, the rental company will usually take the car to a pump and top it off immediately, which may be enough to charge you. Even when you return a car with a full tank of gas, an agent may ask for the gas receipt for a fill-up from a nearby station. A receipt is critical if you rent from Avis, Hertz or any other company that charges a flat $13.99 for any rental of less than 75 miles if you can’t prove you refilled the tank. That’s not a bad price if you actually drive 75 miles, but if you drive only 20 miles in a fuel-efficient car, that’s a huge overcharge.  So, make sure you save that final gas receipt and protect your wallet!

Rent a car you’re familiar with

It may be tempting to rent a fast sports car or a big SUV when you’re on vacation, but your safest and most affordable option is usually a car similar to the one you’re most likely to drive at home. If you’re traveling on business and need room for extra people and equipment, go for a larger van or SUV. Otherwise, the mid-size sedan or small compact car most like your own is your safest, most comfortable option, and will cost you much 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.  The experienced agents at Foundation Insurance Group are always happy to answer any questions.  Contact us today.

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