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Cover My Insurance Risk On My Rental Car
So you have booked your rental car and know you have an excess to pay if you damage the vehicle, don't allow yourself to pay over the odds for insurance sold at the counter. The rental company can charge a fortune for this little extra. Don't let this happen; purchase beforehand. Many companies offer excess waiver insurance for a fraction of the cost you would pay at the rental counter. You will see some adverts for them on this page. Please check them out, as they could save you a small fortune.
How to Avoid Extra Charges for Car Rentals.
Call your auto insurance agent to see if your policy covers you while driving a rental. Loss and collision insurance are two of the highest costs when renting a car. Opting to decline the Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) and the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) can save you a lot of money on U.S. rentals (in some other countries, you are required to pay for the insurance, no matter what). Consider accepting LDW if your existing auto insurance does not cover a possible loss of use (LOU) claim by the rental company.
Read the membership guides to auto clubs like AAA, or senior organizations like AARP, if you are a member, and check the benefit packages of your credit cards and frequent-flier programs. These memberships may offer discounts, some insurance coverage, or provisions to waive some fees, such as extra driver charges.
Weigh convenience over savings by renting away from the airport. Airport-based car rental agencies pay concession fees to the airport and pass a portion of that cost on to customers. Airport authorities often charge targeted taxes on car rentals, too. Rates may also be cheaper at "local" rental locations--the term Hertz and Avis describe places aimed at local renters--usually found away from prime travel locations like airports or hotels. Remember that regional offices rarely operate 24 hours a day and that mileage restrictions may be in play. Assess the cost and time involved in getting to the local agency and weigh it against the convenience and added expense of renting at significant locations.
Check the company's drop-off policies, which may include hefty charges for one-way rentals or drop-offs at a different location. In some popular tourist destinations--Florida, for example--some companies allow customers to pick up at one airport and drop off at another for no extra charge.
Request frequent-flier credit for your car rental, and you likely will be charged a small daily fee to process that mileage. The details of these charges are listed in the "Partners" section of the rental company's website and vary from partner to partner. For example, costs for American Airlines mileage credit with Hertz are based on a percentage of the federal excise tax, approximately six cents a day. In contrast, Delta mileage credit will incur a 75-cent daily fee, capped at $5.25 per rental.
Research local gas prices the day before you use tools such as GasBuddy.com, GasPriceWatch.com or Mapquest. On arrival, compare local prices with the refill price offered by the rental company. Note that the refill rate is for a full gas tank, regardless of how much gas remains when you return the car. Make your choice before you leave the lot: Opt for the rental company's gas, and you will not have to worry about finding a gas station when you return the car. Choose to fill the tank yourself, and you likely will save. But fill the tank at a nearby station--if you return your vehicle with less than a full tank, the rental company's price to top it off will likely double, if not triple, the street price.
Consider which extras are vital. Child car seats are required by law in most locations, so factor that cost into your rental. GPS may be a time saver when travelling on business, and satellite radio can be a godsend in areas of the country where radio coverage is limited, but they may add to your bill.
Returning the car
Return the car on time. Many rental companies have abandoned or reduced the one-hour grace period they used to offer. Charges for extra hours or days vary. Some companies like Hertz charge extra hours until the amount reaches the additional day rate, usually higher than your actual day rate. Others, like Enterprise, set extra hours until the cost matches the real day rate; others, like Avis and Alamo, may kick up your real day rate as a penalty for a late return. Are you running late? Call ahead and ask the agent which is cheaper--extending your rental or paying late charges.
Do not return the car early before checking with the rental company. Some companies will invoke daily rates on a weekly rental if the vehicle is born prematurely, which can be higher than the weekly rate.
Contact the appropriate state's Better Business Bureau or State Attorney General's consumer division if any billing dispute arises with the company. Many state BBBs and government consumer advocates have detailed information on what rental companies can and cannot charge as defined by state law.
The Above Guide Was Written By Robin Thornley and was featured in the USA Today travel section.
About The Author: Robin has been a successful writer for over 25 years, penning articles for national magazines, newspapers and websites. She specializes in various topics, including business, politics, lifestyle trends, travel and cuisine. She also is the author of two guidebooks.