Every now and then I have to rent a car.
I don´t like renting a car because it comes with so many uncertainties about the costs, plus with a lot of additional liabilities.
You find below a few tips to save money, but my little article is in the first place about traveling with a peace of mind.
Here is my personal checklist for renting a car. It helps me and maybe it also helps you.
1. Save Money when Booking the Rental Car
Book online for comparing prices.
Avoid renting at an airport.
Use a company account. My firm has a Sixt company account, free of charge. It gives me discounted fees, together with unlimited mileage. It also waives 2nd-driver fees and it comes with a free insurance package. And I get a free extra one-hour late return time window. Similar deals exist for all other car rental companies.
Go for a more expensive rental car from one of the big car rental companies. I have never encountered a problem with one of the car rental market leaders when returning a rental car. It were always the small and cheap car rental companies that tried to cheat me. Getting such a wrong claim cleared takes a lot of effort and time.
Avoid all extra insurances.
Avoid prepaid gas plans such as ‘Full to Empty’, which means you pay for a tank of fuel at the counter and can return your car as empty as you like.
The Google Maps on your smartphone is a good GPS system, so don´t rent a GPS. It also helps you to avoid toll roads. So don’t pay a fixed rate for all tolls upon booking a rental car, except if you are in Florida and in some European countries.
It never works for me but there are websites that offer car rental coupons, in case you want extra savings, for example here www.groupon.com
2. Cheap online Car Rental Websites
3. Have the End in Mind: use your smart phone and take pictures of the car before driving off
This applies especially if your rental car is run down, with small dings or dents or with stains at the seats or with other damages of any sort.
When you pick your car up, the rental company staff will usually go through a ‘check-out form’ with you. This form includes notes on any damage already in the car before your rental starts. Before you drive away, check that there’s no more damage to the car apart from what’s written in that form. Get a copy of the car rental ‘check-out form’ and put it into the hand glove department.
Take pictures of both the outside and inside of your car in case they try to charge you upon return for damage that was present when you got the car. I have already successfully used such “before” photos after returning a rental car.
4. Peace of Mind when Returning the Rental Car
It goes without saying that you never pay the Lazy Gas Fee and that you try NOT to fill up at the closest gas station to the car return at the airport. Gas stations close to airports are always more expensive because they exploit human laziness. Google Maps will show you gas stations in small towns, left and right from the highway to the airport.
Avoid what happened to me in the past, more than once. I had very little time left to check in at my flight. I arrived at the petrol station late. When I tried to locate the petrol cap I found out that it was at that side of the car that faced away from the petrol pump. I do not like that extra time lost for driving the car to another petrol pump. Only recently I found out that a little arrow next to the symbol on your petrol gauge shows me on which side of the car is the petrol cap, see the next picture:
Finally, arrive early enough for dropping off your rental car and wait for the rental company agent to check over the car. Get a copy of the ‘check-in form’ that they will complete. Make sure that it has not more damages than those that are present in the ‘check-out form’. Take both forms with you.
Here is my short checklist for picking up and returning a rental car. I have printed it out and put it into my travel currency wallet:
- use your smart phone and take pictures of the car before driving off
- get a copy of the car rental ‘check-out form’ and put it into the hand glove department
- before you drive back to the airport, locate on which side of the car is the petrol cap (check the little arrow next to the symbol on your petrol gauge)
- arrive early enough for dropping off your rental car and wait for the rental company agent to check over the car. Get a copy of the ‘check-in form’ and make sure that it has not more damages than those that are present in the ‘check-out form’. Take both forms with you.