How to Rent a Car on Vacation

How to Select a Car Rental Company

There are a number of national car rental companies and a number of things to consider when renting a car on vacation.  Being on vacation means you are on your own time.  It also often means that you are out town and that your car is waiting back home for you in an airport parking lot. If you want to make sure that you have the freedom to enjoy yourself and to come and go as you please, having a car at your disposal is the best way to make sure this happens.

AVIS, HERTZ and NATIONAL are considered by most national publications to be the best companies to use when renting a car. AVIS has the distinguished honor of having been named  “World’s Leading Business Car Rental Company” at the WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS…for the last FIVE years in a row.  It is not the purpose of this article to endorse any particular company, but rather to inform the reader of what is likely the most trouble-free route to renting a car.

The price of a rental can depend on the type of car you choose, the duration of the rental, mileage during use, and other optional services. Consider the following:

  • Opt for or negotiate unlimited mileage if you are uncertain where your travels will take you.  If your rental package includes a set number or miles and those miles are exceeded, you will find yourself paying considerably more than you planned when returning the vehicle
  • Car rentals, not unlike plane tickets, are often less expensive when booked in advance.  You are also more likely to have your choice of vehicle and the have the invaluable option of changing your mind if arrangements are made in advance.
  • If pre-vacation rental was overlooked, you can often save money by renting OUTSIDE of an airport setting.  Agencies located at airports often have additional fees or “value added taxes” that can seriously impact your final price. Take a shuttle to the next closest agency and realize substantial savings.
  • Even if you do not plan on driving the rental every day of your vacation, inquire about weekly rentals to save money over “per day” rates. These discounts can be substantial
  • Initial or advertised prices can often dramatically increase by the time fees and surcharges are added.  If possible, call or visit the rental agency and get a “final price” before making a reservation.
  • Insurance:  There are many opinions on this aspect of car rental.  Be prepared for a headache if you do not opt for it and something happens to the car.  Be prepared to pay more than you planned if you decide to take it.  You can also contact your own insurance company to see what provisions or suggestions they can incorporate into existing policies to help you make a decision.
  • Research gas prices where you are vacationing.  Most rental car companies offer prepaid refueling options.  It is likely that the rental company will levy a surcharge to any fuel they provide.  It  will likely be less expensive to refuel the car yourself.

All of the major, national car rental companies have websites that will allow you to book your reservation from beginning to end without any interruption and without any interaction by personnel of any kind.  While this can be convenient and can save time, the posted or advertised price is not always the best possible deal available.

  • When visiting an car rental office or calling in be sure to have any credentials from your workplace, auto clubs or other preferred customer groups.  After getting a price quote, inquire as to any additional savings by way of your affiliation with these groups
  • Be sure to ask about unadvertised specials or discounts.
  • Inquire about any fees for services that you did not ask for and do not want. While giving a company representative credit for being well intentioned, ask if there are any charges on your invoice that are optional or that can be waived.
  • Check with your auto insurer for preferred rental companies and any discounts that may be available for using an affiliate company.

Make certain that you pick that right vehicle for your trip.  Consider the environment, temperature and terrain, as well as size, overall weight, and cost of operation.  Picking the wrong car can result in uncomfortable, unsafe, or inconvenient driving conditions.

  • Many companies have options and options for off-road vehicles and special provisions for use in difficult driving situations.
  • With gas prices rising, you may consider one of a growing number of Hybrids or “smart cars”. Keeping these smaller, more efficient cars fueled will not eat into your “fun” budget as much as a truck or sports car and can make for easier parking.
  • Ask about special deals on “sports” models or convertibles.  These will likely have a premium price over a more conservative vehicle, but anything they lack in good sense can often be made up for in a fun and an out of the ordinary driving experience.

Budget concerns aside, you will want to make sure that whatever the cost, that the car is the best convenience, the best conveyance, and the best possible deal for your vacation vehicle.

  • Stick with a reputable rental company
  • Ask about unadvertised pricing
  • Ask about weekly rentals
  • Get a bottom line price before making a reservation
  • Consider operating costs in your overall budget
  • Make sure the vehicle is appropriate for the intended uses
  • Whenever possible rent outside of an airport setting
  • Plan ahead and rent early whenever possible
  • Opt out of prepaid fuel

Along with all of the other considerations explore the details on “club” and preferred renter programs with rental agencies that can save you money on both your initial rental and can earn you additional benefits and discounts on future travel expenses.

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