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Travelling by car or campervan gives you the ultimate freedom to go where you want, when you want, and allows you to tailor your trip to your needs. You have to keep in mind that while some car rental and campervan hire firms may have lower headline prices there may be extras to pay. In this article, I outline my tips for renting a car and mistakes to avoid.
1. Use a car hire broker
With so many rental options, I always start by exploring the deals at kayak.com, holidayautos.com or rentalcars.com — all of which compare the rates of main providers. This is a great way to find out a decent range of what you should pay for a rental car. However, always make sure to actually check the rental car and campervan hire companies websites as well. Even after you book, keep shopping. If you didn’t book a nonrefundable rental, you can cancel your reservation if you find a better price.
2. Avoid the Car Rental Airport Pickup
Location surcharges are typically applied when picking up your rental car at major transportation hubs such as airports, rail stations, and cruise ports. It’s almost always more expensive renting a car from the airport versus picking it up in town. Price out rental locations in the city and compare to what you can get at the airport. Make sure you factor in the cost of a taxi or Uber to and from your rental location if you rent at a location away from the airport.
3. Choosing a Car
Selecting a small car or campervan can truly make a huge impact on your rental cost. From the obvious fact that they are cheaper to run to the long-term fact that they also use much less fuel, picking a small vehicle is just a smart choice. So sit down and evaluate what you truly need and how big do you really need your car to be. I normally rent the smallest, least-expensive model with a stick shift — not just to save money, but because larger cars are not as maneuverable narrow roads. If more than two adults are travelling, it can be worth it to move up to a larger class of car.
4. Stick to one driver
Most rental car companies will charge you a daily fee to add an extra driver. That fee is typically $12 per day. Any daily fee added to a rental, as small as it is, can really weigh a lot on a budget, so keep that in mind when deciding who’s driving.
5. Excess Waiver Insurance Offered By the Rental Company is Ridiculously Overpriced
When you hire a car, cover called Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) insurance is usually included in the price of the rental. As a renter, you will still be required to pay an amount that is called ‘deductible’ or ‘excess’ if there was any damage. Thus, you will almost always be asked to take out extra excess waiver policies.
Buying excess waiver from the rental company typically costs $15–30 a day and may almost double the price of the rental. While I definitely recommend to avoid high excess charges, I resist the hard sell and don’t take out the rental company’s super collision damage waiver. Thus, I recommend taking out a separate car hire excess waiver policy for the extra cover.
While car rental companies typically exclude any damage to the windows, lights, tyres, and undercarriage of the car, independent car hire excess insurance available from third-party agencies such as CarInsuRent.com, usually cover this kind of damage, so an independent policy with this included is better value.
If you’re only using the hire car for a short time, a daily excess insurance policy will be cheapest, but if you hire a car for longer, or more than once a year, an annual policy could be best.
GPS navigation unit will cost you $15 per day or more. I always use the navigation system I carry around in my pocket (i.e. my smartphone) and use applications such as Waze or Google Maps and save my money for other things.
7. Inspect the car when you pick it at the lot
Before you drive away make sure any damage on the car is recorded on the paperwork the company has given you and take your own digital photos of the car. Point out any damage that is not recorded and make sure you get a representative’s signature agreeing to the record.
8. Always return the car full
You will pick up a car full of fuel and should give it back full of fuel. If you don’t return the car full, the rental car companies will charge you x2 more than the gas station for a gallon of gas, and you’ll be paying HUGE amounts to have them fill it.
I Never agree to pre-pay for gas. You’ll be charged upfront for a full tank of gas and unless you return it completely empty, you’re losing money. Simply choose the “return on full” option, and then make sure it’s full. When refueling your car make sure to avoid gas stations located near airports. Those are notorious for having the highest price tag.
9. Drive Carefully and Don’t speed
There’s nothing worse than opening an envelope three months after your vacation has ended and being hit with a couple hundred-dollar speeding ticket. Simply drive carefully and adhere the rules, it’s for your own safety as well.
Although renting a car can be a financial stressor for some of us, it doesn’t have to be. Use these tips for renting a car to help save on your next car rental.
My last and most important tip – drive safely, enjoy your trip and the road.
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