Before I rent that vehicle is there anything I should know about rental car companies?

Sooner or later we all have to rent a vehicle whether we are on vacation, traveling for business, moving to a new residence or when our car is in the shop, etc. The task of finding the vehicle you need on the dates you want, at the price you want can be time consuming at the best of times. Whether booking the same day, a few days in advance, weeks or months in advance, your booking choices are as varied as the number of rental car companies to choose from.  But, before you sign on the dotted line…

Things you may want to know...

It is the goal of every rental car company to rent out vehicles for the highest rate possible and to get you to reserve the vehicle right away before you have a chance to call the competition to compare prices. When you pick up your rental vehicle the company will ask you if you wish to purchase additional insurance, upgrade your vehicle to the next level, etc.  The rental car companies will offer you all these options starting with the cheapest one first.  Depending on how many of these options you agree to sometimes you can end up paying more for a smaller economy vehicle than if you would have originally reserved a higher end mid size or larger vehicle. 

Some people automatically say, “give me the cheapest rate you have on a small vehicle”, but the smallest vehicle may not necessarily be the cheapest rate depending on the rental demand at the time. Maybe a better phase would be: “what is the best rental rate you can give me?” 

You should also check the mileage policy rental car companies offer. This can vary from unlimited mileage to a set amount of miles/kilometers per day and others will charge you for every single mile/kilometer you put on the vehicle.  Once again, depending on the rental car companies mileage policy, a more expensive vehicle with unlimited mileage may be cheaper to rent, than a company who has a cheaper rental rate and charges for you for mileage.  

Other things to be aware of:

Not all rental car companies are created equal.  It is not unusual for extra charges to appear on your bill, check your bill over carefully.  If the rental car company is closed when you return the car, make sure you get a copy of the bill faxed to you or call the credit card company to verify the charges.  You can get charged for a gas fill up even though you filled the vehicle up with gas before you returned it, etc.  

Before you drive the rental vehicle off the lot.  Take your time and make sure all the damage on the vehicle is properly noted.  If you fail to notice some damage, you could get charged with repairing it even though you did not cause it.  

If the rental car company has a weird gasoline fill up level like 3/8 of a tank instead of full tank when returning the vehicle, this odd gasoline level can be open to interpretation.  Some rental car companies use this to their advantage to charge you extra for topping off fuel, even though you returned the vehicle with the proper amount of gasoline in it.  

Also, if a rental vehicle has been in a previous accident and has noticeable damage it is best to ask for another rental vehicle instead. Why you ask?  On vacation we rented a vehicle that had a smashed up front end that was not repaired by the rental car company.  We had arrived in the evening, so we drove the rental car directly from the airport to the hotel.  The next day we noticed that the tire kept leaking air where the front end was smashed and there was obviously additional problems that the rental car company did not fix from the previous accident.  So, we immediately drove the rental car back to the company, told them what was happening with the car and they gave us another car instead.  When we were finished our vacation and returned the rental car, the rental car company persisted that we caused the tire to leak air on the first rental car and tried to charge us $200.00 for a new tire on our bill.  We refused to pay it, stated the first rental car was already damaged from a previous accident, the tire problem was not our fault, etc.  What a hassle!  

Which brings me to another point.  Allow yourself plenty of time to return your rental vehicle before your flight.  That way you have the proper amount of time to look over your bill and dispute any additional charges if need be. 

You can also look up various rental car companies and the problems people have had with them on this site.  Just type in the rental car company name on the right hand side to view all the complaints. 


To avoid any surprise charges it pays to go over that rental car bill with a fine tooth comb. We have been charged for an extra days rental, for fuel top offs and double state tax to name a few.  We rented a lot of vehicles for years and never ran into any extra billing problems, but we quickly learned in the rental car industry you can never say never when it comes to extra charges, its more like sooner or later it will happen to you. 



5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. coconews
    Jun 12, 2008 @ 09:53:23

    Have you had any rental car problems?

    For last minute car rentals deals I use this site sometimes:

    click on “hot deals”, then “last minute reservations” – site requires cookies to be on.

    Has anyone used priceline or similar? Did you get a good deal or how do you get the best rental car deals?

  2. coconews
    Jun 12, 2008 @ 09:59:16

    P.S. I’m still very busy, I will not be able to post another new thread until Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

  3. Trackback: Whirled Of Cars » Utah Health Dept. Regulations
  4. M-
    Jun 12, 2008 @ 18:46:09

    I rented my last rental car through Alamo and had an absolutely horrendous experience. They had overbooked themselves, resulting in a 2-hour wait to pick up your rental car. On a rainy day, in the winter, in an open rental garage at the Toronto airport. They offered no apologies, could not offer any time estimates, and required us to stand outside their (already full) booth, in the cold, waiting for the magical moment when our rental car might show up.

  5. Trackback: Believe In Autos » Photos: Volkswagen HyMotion fuel cellvehicle

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