Renting a car is such a common aspect of travel in the US that you might think the process is silly. But there are a lot of mistakes people make when it comes to rental cars – and pay well.
“Car rental is often the purchase that tourists think less about – with flights and hotels always being the primary concerns – when in reality it is a purchase that can break budgets, especially now across the country. With a severe reduction in the number of cars available to rent,” said Alan Fayal, Visit Orlando chair associate dean of tourism management and academic affairs at Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
“It shouldn’t (and shouldn’t) happen if tourists put in as much time and due diligence as they do with flight and hotel purchases,” he said.
To help save people valuable time and dollars, we asked Fayal and other experts to share the common mistakes travelers make when renting a car. From overpaying on add-ons to forgetting to check the car before leaving the lot, here are 12 costly rental car errors—and some advice for avoiding them on your future trip.
waiting to book
“These days, the biggest mistake with renting a car is simply not locking it in with enough lead time, or assuming it will be $30 a day like in the ‘old days,’” said Summer Hull, of Travel People in the director issue of content. “These days, renting a car can cost more than your flight, so don’t skip that step for the end of the process.”
Start early, do your research and get a deal early. Just make sure booking is flexible.
“It’s a mistake to book a rental car that doesn’t include free cancellations,” said Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer. “I recommend booking your rental car as far in advance as possible so you have at least something safe. As it gets closer to your travel date, rental car prices often drop . Keep checking prices because you can probably find a better deal.”
buying unnecessary insurance
“The biggest, and most costly, mistake is that tourists pay for expensive additional car insurance when more often than not it is needed,” Fayle said. “Many major credit cards have insurance built into their purchases (American Express is good either way) while your regular car insurance premium often includes some flexibility with rental cars.”
So before you pay for rental car insurance you don’t need, check your car insurance and credit card terms or make a phone call to see if you already have primary or secondary is coverage.
“With primary coverage, you contact your credit card company before contacting your personal auto insurance in case your car is stolen or damaged,” Dengler explained. “With secondary coverage, you contact your personal auto insurer first, but your credit card company will cover any remaining charges, such as your deductible.”
prepayment for gas
Sure, it can be convenient not to worry about filling the rental car with gas before returning it, but ask yourself how much that convenience is worth.
Andrea Voroch, money and budget expert said, “Prepayment for gas is going to come with a premium, not only because they charge more, but because you have to pay for a full tank even if you left it.” have been given.” , “So if you have half a tank or more, it’s clearly a waste of money because it’s hard to predict how much you’ll use over the course of your trip.”
Given the state of gas prices today, you can save major dollars by filling the tank yourself on the way back to the car. Voroch suggests using the GasBuddy app to locate the cheapest gas station near the drop-off location. Factor in the extra time if you’re doing it before the flight.
“I recommend finding a gas station a mile or more from the airport because they tend to be less expensive than ones very close to the airport,” Dengler said.
unseen parking fee
Don’t forget to take into account additional fees, such as hotel parking, when you’re determining whether a rental makes sense for your vacation budget.
“If your hotel charges a daily parking fee, ask yourself if you really need to rent a car,” Voroch said. “If you’re traveling to a city that has easy access to public transportation, skip the rental. In some cases, even a taxi or ride-share service can be used when you consider the hotel’s daily parking fee.” Can be cheaper to use. Many hotels may even offer free hotel shuttles. You just have to find out in advance!”
Pay for Expensive Add-ons
“You shouldn’t have to pay for expensive add-ons like GPS if you don’t need them,” Dengler said. “In most cases, your phone is capable of handling all navigation duties, but be sure to check cell service in the places you’ll be traveling. If you’re going to a location where you could lose service, extra Consider spending the money. Otherwise use Google Maps and save money.”
Varch similarly recommends renting car seats if you’re traveling with the little ones.
“You’ll pay a hefty fee of up to $15 per day for a car seat or booster,” she said. “Considering airlines can check you car seats at no charge, bring your own! For a five-day trip, this could save you $75.”
There is no need to spend on upgrading the vehicles or on other additions offered by the counter agent. Be sure to read the fine print and total cost carefully before signing anything.
not comparing prices
“Many people fail to compare prices between different car rental agencies and even between different car sizes and models,” Voroch said. “It can really affect how much you spend.”
She suggests comparing rates with search engines like CarRentals.com to see which car rental companies are offering the best deals.
“Just be sure to look at the different car sizes because sometimes the bigger cars or trucks are actually cheaper if the smaller cars are booked up or in more demand!” she added.
Remember to look at several rental locations, not just airport options, as they can be more expensive.
“It’s also a good idea to try to rent a car from a location that’s far from any airports to avoid additional surcharges,” said travel blogger Rocky Triffery. “You’ll find more competitive pricing by looking at additional options in a nearby area. Many rental companies may also offer shuttle service between their airport and their office.
Even if there is no shuttle service, rental locations farther from the airport may have more inventory and better prices.
“Just be sure to review transportation options like taxi or Uber travel costs first,” Voroch said. “However, you may find that it is still much cheaper to pay for a ride to another location.”
Buying Toll Packages
“Don’t buy an expensive toll package if you don’t have it,” Dengler said. “In almost every situation, you have to pay more than you need to.”
He recommends checking to see if you are traveling with any tolls. And if so, plan to pay them cash or bring your own pass.
“Ideally, you take routes that avoid all the tolls,” Dengler said. “If a toll cannot be avoided and it is a cashless toll, you are still likely to be better off going through it and having the rental car company bill you than to prepay for a package. “
Not checking the car before leaving the lot
“It’s a big mistake to leave a rental car without thoroughly checking your vehicle,” Dengler said. “This includes looking for dents, scratches, paint chips and other damage on the exterior and interior of the vehicle.”
Compare any damage slips or vehicle reports included with your rental and report anything that isn’t listed.
“It is especially important to do a thorough scan at night because it can be hard to see any damage,” he explained. “Unless you’re comfortable with a loss slip, don’t let the rental company kick you out.”
Dengler also recommends paying attention to how much gas is in the tank before leaving the lot.
“The rental car company expects you to refill the tank to the level at which you raised the vehicle,” he said. “Take a picture of the fuel gauge as well as the mileage figure before you leave.”
Forgot to join free membership programs
“Be sure to enroll in that car rental company’s membership program ahead of time, because in many cases, that will allow you to skip the line at the airport counter and walk straight to your car and start your vacation,” Hull said.
In fact, joining a loyalty program for car rental companies like Enterprise or Hertz is usually free and easy to do. While the perks may not be particularly lavish, every little benefit can make a difference in the transit process.
exempt from exemption
Don’t assume that the listed price is the same as what you would have to pay for a rental car.
“You can overlook savings by not redeeming loyalty points with a credit card, so look into that or use hotel points to save with partner car rental companies,” Voroch said.
She also suggests checking out the travel savings available through your membership at a warehouse club store like Costco, which has options from major rental car brands. Don’t forget to check for coupons and cash back opportunities as well.
“Sites like CouponFollow.com offer free upgrades to Avis at car rental companies or 10% off site-wide at Enterprise,” Voroch said. “Booking a car rental online is also important because you can earn money back using credit cards and cash-back plug-ins like Cently, which offer 1% back on Enterprise, 1.5% back on Budget and 1% back at Avis. provides.”
Casey Brogan, a consumer travel specialist at Tripadvisor, recommends bundling your car rental into a vacation package in which you combine a flight, hotel, and car rental online.
“Many online travel agencies offer this feature,” Brogan said, noting that stand-alone rental costs have skyrocketed amid supply chain issues. “So the bundle can be a way to find savings across all your travel bookings.”
Booking unnecessary rental cars in the first place
Another mistake travelers make when it comes to rental cars is choosing to book one.
“I’ve seen people rent a car in destinations where they don’t need it,” said Ravi Roth, a travel expert and host of “The Gecation Travel Show.” “If you’re traveling to a big city like New York, London or Vancouver, you’re better off taking public transportation, biking, ride-sharing with Uber or Lyft, or walking. You can spend so much money on parking and time management between activities. Will save.”