When it comes to travelling, there is no such thing as being ‘over prepared’. Chances of running into frustrating problems are less likely if you have done all the necessary research.
Many people who travel for both work and pleasure often opt to rent a car while they are away instead of taking cabs or public transportation. While renting cars can be very useful depending on the situation, it can also very easily be a worrisome burden, causing you a ton of stress, and costing you a lot more money than you bargained for!
Here are some tips to make sure that your car rental does not cost you an arm and a leg and that you don’t come back from your trip feeling more stressed than when you left.
Step 1: International Driving License and Permits
The first thing to look into is whether you are legally permitted to drive in another city or country.This should be done for yourself as well as any other potential drivers travelling with you.
Be careful with the minimum age restrictions, not all countries have the same age limit for driving.
Step 2: Booking the Car
This is probably the most crucial step in the car renting process and the most time consuming one.
Don’t settle for the first thing you find, shop around and do some proper research;
Call up various companies and look at what others had to say about their experiences;
Compare prices for the same car on the same dates with the same options on different sites;
Look to see if there any available promotions for weekends, or holidays and check if you are eligible for any reward programs or discounts;
Check to see if you can get a good car rental price when combined with your flight or hotel;
Confirm pick-up and drop-off times and any additional costs associated with extra hours or mileage.
If everything is to your satisfaction go ahead with the confirmation and pay for your car, preferably days or even weeks in advance. A general rule of thumb is anything that’s booked in advance is usually cheaper. Try to avoid renting a car on the spot, since it will most definitely cost you more and your preferred car may not be available. The New York times has a great post on some more tips for saving on a rental car.
Step 3: Insurance
Check to see if your own car insurance or credit card company covers international car rentals. If so, carefully go over what they do or do not cover.
If not, check with the car rental place to see what kind of insurance they can offer you. Whenever possible, get a blanket insurance which will cover you for everything, better to be safe than be out hundreds of dollars.
Step 4: Set a Budget
Once you have settled on a type of car and the daily rate, do some research to find out how much gas will cost you, how much driving do you think you’ll do?
Map out your areas of interest so you have a rough idea of how many miles you’ll put on the car.
Don’t forget about the exchange rate or the taxes of the city you are in. Keeping all those factors in mind, do a basic calculation with all your expenses so that you have a general idea of how much everything will end up costing.
Confirm that amount with the car rental agency via email if necessary so that you have a written record of what was said.
Step 5: The Last Minute Things:
Read up on the driving rules and regulations if driving in a foreign country. North American driving rules are fairly similar and common but that may not be the case for a country in Asia or Europe. So familiarize yourself with their driving laws.
Don’t forget to grab a GPS (if you have one) or rent one if you don’t. Sometimes it might be cheaper to rent a GPS from the car rental agency instead of paying a lot of money to download maps for a specific place.
For the less technologically inclined, get yourself a map or print out directions and addresses from Google Maps. This is especially useful if you are completely unfamiliar with the city you are travelling in. Nothing is quite as frustrating as being lost in a city where you don’t speak the language.
Double and triple check everything, speak to whomever you need to and ensure that there are no hidden surprise fees that were overlooked. Many companies provide great promotional rates with fine print conditions that we forget to read.
And finally, print everything and send copies to yourself via email.
Step 6: When Picking Up Your Car
If the customer representative asks you about upgrades, check out what options are available to you, sometimes you can score a really great last minute deal at the counter.
Do NOT forgot to do an inspection of the car before picking it up, you don’t want to blamed for defects that were already there.
Check the fuel gauge to ensure you are getting a full tank of gas. If it’s not, ask the company to fill it up, because chances are you’ll be expected to bring it back with a full tank or be penalized for it.
Tripadvisor is a great place to gather some of the information you need is. Once you have what you need you can hop on the plane with your mind at ease, knowing that there will be no surprises down the road.
If you have any more car rental tips, please share them below!