People are not looking to buy cars at the moment due to travel restrictions. However, when it comes to taking trips, renting a car instead of using your own can be a better option.
In fact, most people have stopped buying new cars all together. According to DingGo car sales statistics, new car sales in 2020 have hit an all time low. As more and more people work from home but still look to take road trip holidays, it makes sense to rent a car instead of buying a new one or using your old one.
If you’re looking to become a savvy car renter, this article has 7 tips for renting a car on your next trip.
1. Read the Small Print Before Making a Reservation
When researching for your car rental, it can be very tempting to immediately book the cheapest option available. But know that there will always be a trade-off – if there’s one thing you should check the fine print for, it’s with car rentals.
Those cheap, up-front prices could be supported by a cap on how many kilometres you can drive, unfair damage review processes, or unknown charges on your credit card. Reading through the details of the rental agreement ensures you know what you’re getting into before handing over your money.
Also, be aware that one-way trips with a car rental are more expensive. Luckily, we’ve also got an article covering how to find yourself a good deal on one-way trips.
2. Understand What the Insurance Covers
Most car rentals do come with included insurance. It varies between companies (and countries), but you should expect there to be at least some kind of coverage with your rental. It’s up to you to know what’s covered and what isn’t.
Generally, the included insurance will have a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) with an excess. The excess part varies between companies. If the insurance has a $1,000 excess, and you crash and cause $3,000 worth of damage, you will pay the excess while the insurance will cover anything beyond that.
3. Buying Extra Insurance
If the included insurance doesn’t inspire any confidence, then you might want to upgrade the insurance. Car rental companies will usually try to up-sell you their insurance policies, which range from a better version of the CDW (with no excess) to wheel and glass protection.
Whether you need them or not is another question – generally, an upgraded CDW is a good idea for peace of mind. Some drivers will be confident enough to go with the included insurance, but others might not.
It pays to research your destination as well, and what the roads will be like. For example, if there are a lot of gravel roads where you’re going then you might want to also fork out for windscreen protection.
4. Sometimes you Might Already be Covered
Speaking of insurance, there’s a chance that you might already have car rental insurance. Sometimes it can come included on your credit card, and other times it might be a part of some travel insurance that you’ve purchased.
Knowing beforehand will help you make the decision about whether you need insurance or not. Often, for the credit card/travel insurance coverage to work, you might need to deny all insurance options from the car rental agency – including the insurance that already comes with the car.
5. Be Prepared for a Hold on your Credit Card
Speaking of credit cards, generally, you’ll need one to make a booking. As insurance for the car rental company, most companies will take a hold on your credit card you used to book. Being prepared for this added ‘cost’ is essential.
Depending on the company and country, sometimes debit cards can be presented to rent a car. But this might also incur a higher hold, and a longer period the company can hold the money before returning it to your account. This can be annoying, especially when you’re on holiday trying to spend money.
6. Inspecting Your Car for Damage
Once you’ve researched a good deal and signed all the paperwork, it’s very important to inspect the car for damages before leaving the lot. Ideally, you will have walked around the entire car with the car rental agent helping you, but sometimes they will leave it up to you.
Noting down any damages (inside and out) is important because there are far too many stories of people being charged for damages they didn’t cause. Note down if there are any scratches, dents, or chipped paint, and take photos. That way if a rental agency is trying to sting you for damage that isn’t your fault, you can produce proof.
7. Familiarise Yourself with Your Car Before Leaving
Getting to know the basics of your rental car is a good idea before taking off on your vacation. Check out which side your petrol tank is on and study the controls inside, checking things like lights, indicators, windshield wipers, and air-conditioning controls.
Also, double-check that the car has a spare tire and all the tools you’ll need to change it. The last thing you want to happen on a trip is to get stuck because the agency forgot to put a spare in the back.