If you’re on a leisure trip (sometimes business depending on the nature of your work), it is the best way to be flexible, get around and see things. Often it is the cheapest way to get around, especially for longer periods of time, and if you are traveling for an extended period on a budget. In other words, take the time to research and do your homework. You might just find that renting a car is the best way to sightsee and be mobile at the same time, while not breaking the bank.

Here are 10 tips to consider when wanting to rent a car for your next trip.

1. Use car rental comparison portals

The first thing that may come to your mind is to use a car rental website of a company that you may know or advertising you may have seen, however, this often leads to a pricier rent – not always, but in a majority of cases, this is true. First off do a direct search on a comparison portal. You will tend to find better prices and you will save a lot of time versus the search through each car renting company website.

While there are a lot of websites out there we tend to start off with the Rental Cars website. This does not mean that you too should book there as well, but it’s a great place to start. You can also do a web search and see what websites you may find locally that do comparisons of all the car rental companies at your destination. You just may find a better deal.

It’s worth your time and money to do a few searches on a few of these comparison websites to see who offers the best deal. Often taking the same dates, times and location will give a different price on different comparison portals, the company website and elsewhere. So do your homework.

2. Do not book a navigation system

Typically, for most rental car bookings there is no navigation device installed as a standard feature. Some cars, especially in the luxury class or SUV class, and depending on the model, will have the navigation system set, however, will not have the SD card with the license needed to run the navigation system. This logically being that the company wants to rent this as an add-on (or upsell) feature in your car rental contract.

Fees vary, yet for most you pay on a per day basis anywhere between 5-12 Euros per day. This can add up fast when you are traveling especially on a budget.

It makes much more sense to then simply use a smartphone app and buy a holder and charging cable, or if you own a car at home and have these things, to take them with you. Most modern fleets will also have a USB port in the car making it all the easier to charge your phone while using it as a navigation system.

If you have an international data plan then you can use Google Maps or Android Auto. You can even download maps locally onto your phone ahead of time while on WiFi to save any expenses while traveling.

Other good apps include:

3. Note the one-way fee

If you plan on traveling from your destination of arrival and are heading in one direction, say down a coastline or through a country than you may be looking to rent a car in one city and leave it in another. In order to do this, you will have to pay a one-way fee (in 90% of cases). These fees vary by country and car rental company.

The important thing to note when booking, is to make sure that the one-way fee is already included in the displayed price so that you don’t have any surprises when you go to pick up your car.

4. A day has 24 hours

When it comes to renting cars, the day always has 24 hours, regardless of the time you plan to pick-up your vehicle. This means you do not orientate yourself based on the days, rather the times of your booking.

In other words, if you book a car at 10am you won’t need to return it until 10 am the next day. If you book it for 16:00 in the afternoon, you won’t need to return it until 16:00 in the afternoon. However, do note that this is based on what you actually book for. If in the online booking you put 10:00 am pickup and 22:00 return the same day, then you will need to return the car by that time or often incur a fee. The price would have been the same had you just kept the car until 10:00 am the next morning. Logically it’s better for car rental companies as they can rent out the car again, however, keep this in mind when booking. Chose meaningful times. You can for example (depending on your travel itinerary, pick up your car a bit later the first day so you can return it later on your last day. This allows you more time on a trip.

Also note as mentioned above, if you have 10:00 am listed and return it at 11:00 the next day, you incur another full day of rent. Some companies are lenient on the fee, especially if you are part of their membership rewards program, however, do not rely on this. Make sure to clarify up front or simply be punctual when returning.

5. Inform yourself about the place of rental and delivery

Prior to your trip’s departure, while doing your homework make sure to note where you pick up the car after landing. Sometimes the companies may be located in the terminal of arrival, and at other times they may be off the airport grounds and only reachable by a bus service (often provided by the rental companies to reach their site). So when it comes to renting you have 3 choices.

  • Car rental company at the terminal
  • Car rental company off-site with shuttle service
  • Car rental company off-site with car delivery service

The last option will typically accrue an extra service charge, however, you’ll have the car waiting for you at the terminal. The big players are usually located at the terminal and typically your budget companies are off-site.

Just make sure to know where you need to go so you don’t get stressed out when you arrive and so that you can plan your time accordingly (especially if your traveling as a family).

Another important factor is to note where the return is. Even when during the booking process you selected the return to be the same, at times it can be that the pick-up and drop-off locations are different.

Do your homework and base your booking decision on this factor as well.

6. Price is not everything

Everyone wants a good deal, but sometimes when it comes to booking a car, not every Euro is important. There are a variety of soft factors to consider – things like insurance, tank options, pickup location, customer service, etc. For the latter, do a quick search on the company to see what other customers have said about the service and quality. This may be a strong indication that albeit the price is worth it, the troubles, later on, may not.

In addition to customer service quality and the way customers are treated, also consider other fees like the aforementioned navigation device or one-way rentals. Other things include young drivers under 24 years of age, child seats or an extra driver. This can all heavily go into your pocket, hence, pay close attention when booking, that cheapest may not always mean best.

See our last point as well that covers a few more areas around pricing that may be of interest to you.

7. Inform and secure the deductible

Typically (and often with cheap rental car companies) you will pay a deductible in case of damage. Do this rather than expensive insurance especially for short trips. Refrain from paying extensive insurance or even a larger sum if something goes wrong. Often deductibles are around 1000 Euros.

In what ever case it may be the car rental company will always try to sell you on extra insurance to eliminate the excess. Yet often this makes it more expensive. Just break down the daily cost and it tends to be just as expensive to take the insurance as it is to rent the car.

There are several options and inexpensive solutions to secure the deductible. Inquire about rental car insurance. This is an insurance that jumps in at any time you rent a car in case of damage. These types of insurance not only cover the deductible in the event of an accident but also pays for theft and vandalism as well as for roof, glass and tire damage (which often has to be additionally insured by car rental companies). There are even worldwide insurance policies, sometimes with a few countries excluded like Afghanistan, Iran or Cuba. This depends on the company you purchase the insurance from and their policies.

If you plan on traveling in a region for the majority of the time, say Europe, then take regional coverage instead.

8. Pay attention to the insurance coverage

When it comes to car rentals, be careful on pricing especially when it comes to the insurance coverage. There are a variety of packages. In comparison portals, these are usually clearly marked. You can even filter by the amount of protection. Often you book the insurance through the portal and not through the car rental company itself.

For example if you book through Rental Cars, you have the option for additional insurance that covers a premium, however, even with this, you need to be careful that when you pick up the car the car rental company doesn’t force another insurance on top of what you have. Often with poor customer service, you’ll hear things like;

“Even if you booked insurance through this site, you’ll have to pay and then claim it all back…”, and other things along this line. In the U.S. this tends to happen often.

The most important aspect of the insurance should be the full insurance and liability (damage to others). There is no perfect strategy here in regards to the amount to pay or the insurance coverage, however if it barely makes a dent in rental price than make sure to have a high cover sums and no deductible. The liability indemnity should be at least one million euros (or dollars). If you’re not careful, it’s often just a few thousand dollars in the U.S. That isn’t good enough in case you inflict damage on someone.

Theft protection from our standpoint is not something to concern yourself too much with (depending on country of destination) and aside from this, you will have insurance for glass, tire and underbody damage.

Especially when traveling for longer periods or kilometers that option of a breakdown service. This means, that in case your car breaks down, and you don’t have the coverage, you will need to take care of the problem yourself and at your own expense.

Nonetheless, the important thing is to be wary and cautious about the overall price and check what insurance is included and what you may need in addition and what the price of that would be versus a full coverage or other insurance options. Make sure all the benefits line up before booking a car.

In closing

A few additional inputs in closing when it comes to car rentals.

  • Kilometers included – make sure that the range of distance is absolutely free. Some companies, especially cheaper ones will limit the total amount of kilometers you can travel per rent and charge obnoxious costs per kilometer should you go above that.
  • Tank regulations – we recommend always renting “full to full” policy. You get the car full and when you return, prior to returning you fill it all up. Should you not, then you will be charged. Other policies include “full-empty” where you get it full and return it empty and you pay the tank upfront and even if you only use half of it, you pay it in full.
  • Age of driver – rental companies charge higher fees should you be under 24 years of age. In most countries if you are under 21 you cannot even rent a car.
  • Air conditioning – not all cars alway have air conditioning. Especially when you travel to hot countries or places where you should keep the window rolled up, make sure this is part of the car you rent
  • Automatic transmission – not everyone is a fan, but it sure makes driving a lot easier, especially for countries with left-hand traffic or vice versa depending on where you are from.
  • International drivers license – You should be able to get this in your home country for a small fee and despite not really needing it in most cases, it may be best to have one with you abroad, especially in case you are in an accident.
  • Fuel costs – consider the type of car or car class you are renting, especially if you are traveling with multiple people (eg: families, etc). Look at consumption rates and how fuel costs may add up to your bill.
  • Type of car – When booking you’ll typically see pictures of beautiful cars with the small statement “Car Type X or similar…”. Ensure this is the case when picking up your car. Most fleets are modern with only thousands of kilometers, however, some car rental companies specialize in older cars. The risk is higher and hence eventual costs of anything may be as well.
  • Delivery of car – Last but not least, take the handover of the car seriously. Check the car for any damages aside from the noted ones in the contract/handover log. Especially if you do not have comprehensive insurance. Often car rental companies, in retrospect after your rental will charge you for damage you did not cause. Make sure to note everything in the log prior to leaving the lot.

We hope you find these tips useful and would like to here about your experiences, any additional tips or tricks, or things to consider when renting a car.

Feel free to comment below!

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