5 Tips to Save Money on a Rental Car


The Connecticut Better Business Bureau is out with advice for people wanting to take road trips this summer behind the wheel of a rental car. The most important one? Think small.
In 2011, BBB received 3,773 complaints against the auto renting and leasing industry. Many of those were the result of billing and contract issues. There many details that oftentimes leave consumers confused as they wait to get on the road. “Even though you’re excited to hit the road, take the time to inspect the car and ask questions,” cautions Connecticut Better Business Bureau President Paulette Scarpetti. “Car rentals can make any trip easier, but make sure you know your options, such as additional add-ons, before signing on the dotted line.”
The Better Business Bureau didn’t include this tip but take photos of your car when you drop it off. This prevents damage you did not cause from being added to your bill after you return it.
BBB recommends the following tips to avoid overspending when looking to rent a car:
1. Shop around and lookout for hidden charges – There are several different budget travel websites that can give you a good idea of available package pricing. Make sure to follow-up with the rental car websites directly to see if you can snag an even cheaper rate. Clarify which taxes, surcharges and other fees you’ll be expected to pay. Many states have additional fees for drivers under age 25 or for multiple drivers.
2. Opt for a smaller car – If you’re traveling solo, or don’t need a lot of leg room or trunk space, opt for a smaller car. Salespeople may attempt to steer you in the direction of an upgrade for “only a few extra dollars” because the smaller economy cars are in high demand. If you are keen on saving money, just say no, and stick to the smaller car, or smile politely and ask for a free upgrade.
3. Ask lots of questions – Make sure that you understand where the “unlimited mileage” rates apply. Some rental car companies have mileage restrictions in certain states. Also, make sure you can drive the car to where you want to go. Some rental cars restrict driving cars to Manhattan, for example.
4. Gas up and be on time – Many car rental companies will ask if you want to prepay for gas. It is not always necessary and rarely the best deal. Don’t forget to top-off the tank before returning the car, and make sure to bring it back on time. Rental car companies often charge for an extra day for being late, so make a point of knowing details about their policy for early and late returns, and call if you get stuck in traffic.
5. Bring your own kiddie seat and GPS – If you’re going to be traveling with children or fear that you’ll get lost, make sure to bring your own car seat and GPS. There is no need to pay for the daily fee for these items if you have them at home. Airlines are required to treat children seats as free luggage (make sure you know that before paying a fee). Also, many phones now have apps that work just as well as the GPS systems that can cost $7 per day or more.
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