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When it comes to car rentals, it’s all about the little details. Before you sign on the dotted line (or give them your initials electronically), you might want to read about some car rental do’s and don’ts.

Do make your reservation as far in advance as you can. Availability matters, and rental companies take after airlines: prices can change from minute to minute. Make sure you carry a copy of your confirmation number on a hard copy or in an email on your smartphone. And double-check the REAL price—the one after all the fees and taxes are tacked on. They’re pretty hard to avoid, but it’s best to know them up front.

Do check your insurance coverage. You should already have insurance for your vehicle—you may be covered when renting a car. Barring that, call and check with your credit card. You may not need to accept the loss-damage waiver, though supplemental liability insurance is not a bad idea. If you’re renting internationally, however, it’s highly recommended to take the full insurance coverage. Just make extra sure when paying through a third party—will your credit card cover you if you don’t pay directly? You won’t want to be saddled with the responsibility for the cost of the full car should something happen. It could also be beneficial to make sure your rental is post-paid and not pre-paid.

Do check for savings. Are you a member of the SkyMed Travel, CarRentalPro, AAA, AARP or a member of the military? Other membership companies such as Alliance also offer discounts on car rentals. Plus, it never hurts to ask the person at the rental desk if they have any current coupons or specials you can take advantage of.

Do read the agreement. Really, don’t just skim it. You’ll want to know what you’re initialing and signing before you end up giving away your first born child.

That means the fine print. Ask about charges if your flight is delayed or if there is any other penalty charges before you sign. That includes change of airports, reservation cancelation, etc.

Don’t fall for the upgrades—unless it’s free. When rental companies run out of the class of vehicle you reserved they usually offer to upgrade you for free—but first they’ll try to talk you into doing it first so they can charge you. Wait for them to offer… and make double sure you won’t get charged for it.

Don’t buy the gas. This is probably the one place where rental companies make the most money. Some companies offer you the option of buying a tank ahead of time at a “reduced price.” Unless you’re always running behind, you might want to stop by the cheapest gas station and fill it up yourself. And ask about surcharges—they can be up to $10 dollars for tanks that aren’t “full.”

Do have all drivers sign the rental agreement. You never know when you’ll need your companion to take the wheel, and if anything happens… You’ll probably be charged a fee, but it’s nothing compared to the alternative.

Do examine your car carefully before you drive away—and make sure the agent jots down any damage on your contract, regardless of how small. You don’t want to be made responsible for someone else’s damage. You might want to use your smartphone to take pictures or video of any previous damage. If there’s a lot of it, you might want to ask for another vehicle.

And finally…

Do consider how long you’ll need that car. If the city you’re visiting has an excellent public transportation system, you might want to rent for a shorter period of time and take advantage of the cheaper transportation. On the other hand, if you’re leasing your car and going on a road trip, renting a car might be cheaper than tacking on all those extra miles on your lease’s annual mileage limit.

Safe Travels!


No matter where the road—or the plane—takes you, do consider taking along an emergency medical services membership from www.SkyMed.com. We’ll bring you home in case of an unexpected critical injury or illness.  

Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash


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