Car Rental Overview
Renting a Car Overview
All too often renting a car means standing in long lines, discovering that the car you reserved is not available and learning that the price quoted over the phone doesn't include additional charges such as Insurance, coverage for more than one driver and refueling fees.
Although we can't guarantee a pleasurable experience every time you rent a car,you can reduce the number of times you encounter problems at the rental counter by learning about your rights and following several tips.
Important: Most countries will accept your valid state drivers license with another form of photo ID. Some countries may also require an International Driver's Permit (available through AAA offices). What you need may depend on the length of your stay a two-week trip is different from a year abroad.
Your personal automobile insurance policy may have restrictions or limitations on driving . Check your coverage, including the terms of your credit card policy, before you rent .
Your Rights When You Reserve a Rental Car
If you have reserved a car and the company does not have the car you reserved available for you, the company must do everything it can to find you a different car from its fleet. If the only available car is more expensive, you don't have to pay the higher rate. If no car is available, you can rent from another company or take a taxi and then seek reimbursement from the original car rental company.
Making a reservation is a two-way street. Nearly all rental car companies charge penalties for four-wheel drives, minivans, convertibles and other specialty rentals if you fail to cancel a reservation in advance or are a no-show. Some companies are testing similar policies on their standard rental cars.
Requirements to Rent a Car
Virtually all rental car companies will refuse to rent to certain people. Here are the three most common groups that have trouble renting a car:
Young drivers. Most major companies refuse to rent a car to someone who is under 21 and in some cases 25.
People without credit or debit cards. Most rental car companies require a major credit card or debit card as a way to secure a deposit from you at the time of rental. If you don't have a credit or debit card, you can get a prepaid voucher through your travel agent by paying for the rental car first at the travel agency and bringing the voucher to the rental counter. But, even if you use a voucher, many rental car companies still require a credit or debit card as a deposit when you rent the car.
People with bad driving records. Many companies now screen drivers when they rent in popular vacation destinations by checking their driving records as reported by their state department of motor vehicles. If you have serious offenses on your record, such as DUI violations, most companies will reject you. Some companies also reject you for lesser things such as moving violations in the past few years, seat belt law violations or accidents regardless of fault. If your driving record is poor, find out ahead of time if the rental car company screens and, if it does, what criteria it uses.
Instead of screening you, some rental car companies may require you to sign a statement that says you have an acceptable driving record. If you have an accident and signed a statement that turns out to be incorrect, the rental car company could use it against you by claiming that you acted in violation of the rental agreement.
Rental Rates and Fees
Rental car companies charge rental fees as well as many other special fees and charges. Here's the low-down:
Rental car companies usually charge rental rates per day of the week. The rate may include unlimited mileage. Or, you may be charged per mile for each mile over a certain limit. Many companies offer lower rates for weekend or week-long rentals. Also, members of organizations, such as the American Automobile Association, often can get discounted rates.
Other Fees and Charges
The prices shown below are for example ONLY.
Most car rental companies tack on a number of additional fees and charges. They must notify you of these fees before you sign the rental agreement. Here are the ones you're most likely to encounter:
- Fees for renting at airport. Airports and local governments often add surcharges and taxes to rental car rates.
- Additional driver fees. Most rental car companies charge extra for anyone who drives the car other than the person who signs the rental agreement.
- Young driver fees. Many rental car companies add a daily surcharge for any driver aged 21 to 24.
- Child safety seat fees. All states require children under a certain age to be placed in child car seats. If you don't bring your own seat, you will be required to rent one, usually at a cost of $3-$5 per day or $25 per week.
- Vehicle drop-off fees. Many rental car companies charge higher rates for dropping off a car at a location other than where you rented. Charges for picking up the car in one city and dropping it off in another can be as high as $1,000.
- Refueling charges. Most companies require you to return the rental car with a full tank of gas. If you don't, you?ll be forced to pay the company's inflated gas prices, as much as $3 per gallon.
- Rental Car Insurance and Loss Damage Waiver
- Rental car companies will ask if you want to pay extra for car insurance. You don't have to buy this insurance, and usually you shouldn't. To determine if you need to buy extra rental insurance, check all of the following. to see if they provide insurance coverage for a rental car:
- your own car insurance and homeowner's insurance
- your employer's insurance, if you are traveling on business
- your credit cards: many provide insurance for the rental car if you charge the fee on your card
- your automobile club memberships.
If you want to purchase insurance from the rental company, it will most likely be called Loss Damage Waiver, or LDW (also known as collision damage waiver, or CDW). Many consumer protection organizations complain that LDW is very expensive (especially since it often provides coverage that you already have) and has many loopholes. That means that the company can charge you for certain damage even if you've bought LDW (for example, bodily injuries or damage to your personal property are usually not covered).