Rental Car Research

How to Choose the Right Rental Car for Your Trip

If you’re planning a trip, whether it’s a cross-country road trip, a weekend getaway or an overseas vacation, chances are you’ll need a way to get around. Here’s what you should keep in mind when doing rental car research and choosing the perfect ride.

1. Choose the best vehicle.

Put some thought into the type of car you’ll need. If you’re traveling with a lot of people, you may not be able to get away with the cheapest car the rental office has. If you’re traveling solo, it may sound nice to have the bells and whistles of a fancy SUV, but you’ll end up paying for much more than you actually need.

Keep in mind that if you’re booking a rental car in another country, double-check that it has an automatic transmission (unless you want a manual one). Many international cars come standard with a manual transmission. You don’t want to arrive at your destination and find out that you can’t drive the rental car!

2. Understand the rental terms.

If you’re booking the rental car online, make sure to carefully read through the terms and conditions. If you’re booking the rental on the phone or in person, don’t hesitate to ask the agent all of the questions you have. You need to fully understand the terms of the rental car and the reservation. For example, find out answers to the following questions:

  • What’s the penalty if I don’t end up showing up?
  • If I get stuck in traffic on the way to pickup the car, how long will you hold the vehicle for?
  • What’s the price per day of the car? Is there a more economical way to pay for long-term rentals, like per week or per month?
  • Do I have to pay a fee for additional drivers? Do I need to add their names to the contract?
  • How old do you have to be to drive the rental car?

The type of travel you’re doing will determine the questions you need to ask the agent.

3. Be savvy about rental rates.

You may find a fantastic advertised rate for a rental car, but what you see at first isn’t always what you’ll end up paying. Once state taxes, local taxes, airport charges, fees for additional drivers, insurance, gas and drop-off fees are added in, that price can become quite inflated. Plus, keep in mind that the rate you see advertised may only be for a certain season, like the off-season in a specific state. Or, the lower rate may be for a car that’s too small for your trip. Overall, don’t get swayed by a low price before you read the fine print. You could end up booking on a whim and then paying extra for a car you don’t really want.

4. Make sure there aren’t restrictions.

If most of your trip is going to be within a certain area, but then you’re going to head out of the state or country (like from the U.S. to Canada) for a day or two, make sure you can take your rental across the border.

Getting a rental car can become a hassle if you don’t plan in advance. It’s important to know which companies offer the best rates, the type of insurance you’ll need and when you’re expected to pay for the rental. By understanding the car rental agreement and knowing what to expect in terms of price, you’ll avoid problems with your car rental and have the freedom to enjoy your vacation.

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