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Ed Perkins, SmarterTravel.com | October 21, 2015
1. Overpriced insurance
The collision or loss of damage waiver referred to as ‘insurance” offered by car rental companies is often the biggest grievance against them. At an average price of $30 per day, this overpriced insurance can sometimes outweigh your total rental cost. While collision or loss of damage coverage is necessary when renting a car, purchasing through the car rental company is not. In fact, you make be covered by your own auto insurance within the United States. Beyond that, a lot of credit card companies offer secondary coverage at no charge and companies such as Insure My Rental and Protect Your Bubble offer primary coverage for less than $8 per day.
The one major benefit of purchasing “insurance” through car rental companies is that if anything does happen to the car, you’re able to return it free of hassle or extra fees, unlike with other companies where you may have to pay up front and file a claim after. Research all your options before making a decision.
2. Damage costs
Even if you don’t buy a rental company’s insurance, they’ve found other ways to charge you for extras when a car is damaged, such as:
“Loss of use”: the list-price daily rental rate for every day that the car isn’t available for rental use, even if the company has plenty of other cars to use.
“Administrative” fee for processing paperwork
“Loss of value”: the decline in the car’s resale value, even after repairs, due to the damage you caused
Credit card and outside insurance companies are staying on top of these extra costs, but car rental companies continue to seek ways to force people to purchase their insurance.
Overbooking is common practice for airlines, hotels and car rental companies to make up for no shows. Based on past experience, they only overbook to what they consider a “safe” level in order to decrease the risk of not being able to provide cars to customers with reservations.
The difference between an airline versus a car rental company overbooking is that airlines are able to provide customers with federally-mandated cash compensation or by offering large sum travel vouchers for customers willing to volunteer for a later flight. Car rental companies have no such luxury. When they overbook, they usually first try to upgrade your reservation to a nicer vehicle, for an extra fee, unless you’re able to convince them otherwise. If that doesn’t work, they may try to find a car at another rental company or ask you to wait around for a couple hours–possibly even until the next day for the next available car. A good way to avoid this is not arriving at a car rental company late at night needing a car.
4. Fuel Charges
Most car rental companies employ the “get it full, return it full” fuel policy, meaning if you return the tank with less than a full tank, they’ll charge you to fill it up. The catch is that they charge often double or even triple the rate of fuel. Some companies, such as Avis and Hertz, ask for a receipt to prove that you filled up the car at a nearby gas station. These companies charge $13.99 for any rental less than 75 miles if you don’t have proof that you refilled the tank. If you drove less than 75 miles, this is much more than you should be paying.
Always remember to fill up the tank and keep your receipt.
5. Additional driver charges
Nearly all car rental companies charge a fee for an additional driver, usually $13 per day, which is absurd considering it effectively costs the company nothing to have two drivers for one car. Luckily, there are ways to avoid this unnecessary charge. Spouses, domestic partners and coworkers on a corporate rental are exempt from this fee. Additionally, you can typically avoid the fee by renting through AAA, AARP or joining the rental company’s loyalty program.
6. Faux discounts
Car rental companies often list high prices and then offer huge discounts to certain organization members such as AAA or AARP. The discounts only apply to overly inflated daily rates and are much less significant on weekly rentals. Find a good rate and take it, don’t go crazy about finding the best deal or discount.
7. Less time, more money
They may charge you less money for renting a car for one week than for four days, and if you return a car a few days early, you’ll get charged more than if you kept it for a full week.
8. Bogus fees
When you look at your rental car bill from an airport, you’ll see a variety of charges such as base rate, airport concession fee, customer facility charge, convention center surcharge and parking fine recovery, vehicle licensing cost recovery and excise tax reimbursement, energy surcharge and taxes–generally putting you significantly over the base rate initially agreed upon. Even worse, the convention center fee and taxes are the only ones paid to governmental agencies, the rest are just because you rented at the airport and should be part of the base rate. The good news is that when you’re searching online, the price you see is all-inclusive. Beware of these extra fees.
9. Bad liability insurance
Most rentals in the U.S. only include the mandatory minimum for liability coverage, meaning if you hurt someone else you could be down a lot of money from your own pocket. Your own auto insurance may cover you and some rental deals, like AARP with Avis/Budget include higher coverage, but credit card companies don’t usually include liability protection. For this reason, you may be forced into purchasing the car rental company’s insurance.
In Europe, mandatory liability coverage is higher so the base coverage is suffice.
10. Hidden age limits
Not only do some car rental companies have age limits starting at 70 years old, but these restrictions are not displayed anywhere, including when you enter your age on the company’s website. It’s best to double check the company’s policy before you show up to the counter and find out you’re over the rental age limit.
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