If you’re planning an out-of-town vacation or a road trip, renting a car could be the perfect solution to your transportation woes. While public transportation and ride-sharing services have their merits, renting a car offers a host of advantages that can make your trip far more enjoyable. Renting a car gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace without worrying about public transportation schedules or ride-sharing apps.
Before you head out on your next adventure, check out these five tips for a smooth and affordable rental car experience.
1. Understand Age Restrictions and Fees
First, if you’re a younger driver, check out the rental company’s age restriction policies. Most car rental companies have rules regarding drivers under the age of 21 or 25. Some refuse to rent to drivers under the designated age, while others may add a "young driver fee" to your bill.
While it might seem frustrating, it is standard across the industry due to the perceived risk of younger drivers. Don't despair though! Not all companies have this fee. A little research can go a long way, so shop around for the best deal.
2. Get Familiar with Your Insurance Options
When you get to the rental car agency, they’ll likely ask you if you want to purchase insurance. This can be a complicated question. If you’re already covered by a vehicle insurance policy, then you may not need it. Most personal auto insurance policies cover rental cars with the same deductibles and coverage limits.
Some credit card companies also offer coverage if you rent the vehicle with your credit card. However, this often doesn't cover damage to other people, vehicles, or property. Luxury vehicles may also be excluded from coverage. Before you head to the rental car company, get all the information you need by contacting both your insurance provider and your credit card company.
If you don’t have your own insurance, you will be required to purchase liability insurance through the rental car company. You'll also have the option to add additional coverage like collision and tire damage.
3. Beware of Extra Driver Fees
A road trip in a rental car can be a great idea! However, if you're planning on rotating drivers throughout the trip, adding extra drivers to your rental agreement could lead to additional costs.
To keep your budget in check, consider having just one designated driver for your trip. But be careful — if someone not listed in the agreement decides to drive and unfortunately gets into an accident, you might face complications with the insurance. It's best to clear these rules with your rental company beforehand, just to be safe.
4. Consider the Benefit of Defensive Driving
Driving a rental car you’re not used to can feel a bit daunting, but if you’ve taken a defensive driving course, you’ll have all the skills you need to feel confident behind the wheel.
Defensive driving teaches techniques for anticipating potential hazards and making safe decisions to avoid them. This can be especially handy when you’re driving in unfamiliar locations or on the freeways, where you're likely to share the road with semi trucks and other potential hazards.
5. Choose the Right Car and Location
Being smart about the car you choose can save you a lot of money. While you may be tempted to rent a flashy car or a large vehicle that will give you plenty of room, often, a small, simple car is the better choice. They’re more fuel efficient, easier to park, and typically less expensive.
Also, think about the location for picking up your car. A 2023 analysis conducted by NerdWallet found that it's 26% more expensive to rent a car at an airport. To save money, you may consider taking a ride-sharing service to a local rental car company instead.
Lastly, remember that each rental company has its own pricing and policies. Taking the time to compare your options can help you find the best deal.
Drive Your Rental Car with Confidence
At the end of the day, renting a car should be about enjoying the journey, not fretting over costs or complexities. With these five tips, you can steer clear of unwanted surprises.
Before you head out on your next adventure, consider giving yourself a confidence boost with a fun and easy online defensive driving course. iDriveSafely’s affordable course is designed to enhance your skills, help you anticipate common road hazards, and possibly save you money on rental car insurance. Check it out today!