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What You Need to Know About Renting a Car

The process of renting a car can often feel overwhelming and complex. From reviewing the details of a rental agreement, to understanding how to protect yourself as a consumer, there are many things a renter needs to know when approaching the rental car desk. Make sure you're prepared with these rental car tips:

  • Look for cosmetic damage. Just like rental housing, if you rent a car with damage and don't document it the time of pick-up, you may be on the hook for it later. Take a walk around the car and make note of anything that looks out of place. If you do find any damage, make sure to report it before you leave the lot.

  • Check vehicle operations. You'll also want to get in the rental car and get comfortable with the new dashboard, brakes, shifter and other controls before leaving. Being comfortable with the car before you leave the parking lot will help you stay focused and safe on the road.

  • Ask about fees. Fuel fill-up fees, extra mileage fees, late return fees, equipment rental fees...all of these are just part of what you'll have to decipher at the desk to be sure the company won't end up charging you more than the agreed rate. Review the fees thoroughly before you sign the agreement and ask for an explanation of the costs if you don't understand them.

  • Decide who will be driving. Some companies may charge a different rate for a "multi-driver" agreement where two or more people take turns at the wheel. And car rental companies typically require renters to be at least 18 years old, and some may require a minimum age or an incremental charge if you're under 25. Take these driver choices into consideration when booking your rental car to ensure you're appropriately covered should something happen while you or someone in your party is driving.

  • Check for rental car insurance. One of the last questions you'll get asked at the rental car counter is if you'd like to opt-in for additional insurance. Do you need it? If you currently have a car with insurance, you may also be covered in the rental car. But the key is to know exactly what kind of insurance you already have in place. Will you have enough liability to cover major damage to a new car? Will you have collision coverage for the rental vehicle? The best plan is to call your own car insurance company before you ever rent and ask exactly what coverage you have to ensure you're protected.

With a thorough review of the car and the rental agreement you can ease out of the rental car parking lot knowing you're prepared – because you did your homework.

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