6 questions to ask when renting a car
Know how much gas your rental vehicle needs to have upon its return. If it’s not filled to an expected level, you may be assessed an additional fuel charge. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Bill N.)
When renting a car, it’s important to know the full details of the rental agreement including the basic rental terms and conditions, insurance options, and what to do in an emergency. Get the answers to these six questions before you sign your next car rental agreement.
1. What’s included in the quoted daily rate?
When obtaining quotes from car rental services, verify that all applicable taxes and fees are included in the quoted price; otherwise you might end up with a higher-than-expected cost. For example, if you rent a vehicle from an airport location, you’ll likely pay more due to airport surcharges – make sure the quote rate includes your pickup and drop-off location.
2. What is the mileage plan?
Many rental companies offer unlimited miles for the car rental period, allowing you to drive the car as much as you want without facing extra fees. But others may assess extra fees for surpassing a daily mileage maximum. If you rent a vehicle, especially for a period more than a few days, make sure you have unlimited miles or sufficient miles to cover your travels.
3. What are your extra insurance options?
You likely won’t have to ask about extra insurance options, as most rental companies offer them at the counter. The collision damage waiver or CDW, also known as the loss damage waiver, waives you of responsibility for loss or damage to the rental vehicle. Personal auto insurance policies and some credit cards offer an amount of insurance protection for rental cars, so check your policy prior to purchasing any additional insurance from the rental company.
4. Do I need to return with a full tank of gas?
Unless otherwise specified, it’s always a good idea to return the rental vehicle with a full tank of gas. Some companies offer pre-purchased gasoline options that lock in a set per-gallon rate. But beware of returning a vehicle with an unfilled tank, as most rental companies charge a per-gallon fee that can be many times more expensive then filling the tank on your own.
5. Will I be charged if I return the car late?
Most rentals are based on a daily rate, so you’ll likely face a penalty if you return a vehicle after the agreed-upon date. If you know you’ll be late, call ahead and ask about a rental extension, which may cost less than the late fee. Many companies also offer a grace period, so it’s always a good idea to know what your options are.
6. What if the car develops a mechanical problem?
Cars in rental fleets tend to be very well maintained, but make sure you know what your options are should the vehicle break down. Ask the rental company what type of mechanical issues are covered, if any, in the quoted daily rate. Most companies will gladly give you a new car if the one that was initially provided has a problem, but what if the car breaks down on the road? Will the company provide a free tow truck to get you back and into a new car?