10 Things You Must Do Every Time You Rent a Car

Discover the 10 golden rules for a smooth car rental experience.
Updated May 8, 2024
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Friends driving in a car

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Are you stepping up your travel game and gearing up for summer vacation? If so, chances are you might need to book a rental car at some point.

Before you slide behind the wheel of your next rental, there are a few things you should consider. Make sure to check these things off your list before planning another trip.

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Talk to your credit card company

BestForYou/Adobe woman smiling while talking on phone

Even if your car insurance doesn’t cover rentals, many top credit cards do offer coverage.

Check with your credit card provider to see if rental car insurance is included as a perk for card members. Ensure you clearly understand what is and is not covered and how much coverage you have.

Check your insurance coverage

NAMPIX/Adobe man signing car insurance policy

You might be able to add insurance coverage to your rental car through the car rental agency, but this protection can be expensive.

So, before you book the car, ask your auto insurance company if it covers rental cars. If it does, you can probably save money on insurance by opting out of additional coverage.

Try to avoid rental agencies at the airport

moodboard/Adobe checking bags in airport

Using a rental agency at an airport can be convenient. However, you might pay more when renting a car at the airport.

Price out different options before you go and see if it might be cheaper to take a cab or Uber to a rental agency a little bit farther away, where cars are often cheaper to rent.

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Make sure you're familiar with the models

Minerva Studio/Adobe smiling man taking taking look to car in showroom

Before renting a car, you should know the specific makes and models the agency offers and which are good options for you.

The last thing you want is to get stuck with a small car for your big family.

Inspect your car

Maksym Povozniuk/Adobe couple deciding which car to buy while standing in car showroom

Before you take possession of the vehicle, make sure you and a rental car company representative walk around the car and check for any dings, scratches, or other minor issues.

Pay close attention and make sure the representative notes anything that looks even slightly suspicious. Take photos of anything that looks amiss.

Do some comparison shopping

tong2530/Adobe male is typing messages on a laptop

When looking for a rental, do some comparison shopping to get the right car at the best rate.

Costs can vary significantly from company to company, so it is foolish not to see what is available.

Don't add too many drivers

Syda Productions/Adobe male driver driving car

Are you going on a group trip or traveling with extra family members? Designate drivers before you book the rental car.

Adding extra drivers to the rental agreement can result in additional fees that add up, however. So, limiting drivers to just one or two people might save you money.

Get a contact number in case you have issues

StockPhotoPro/Adobe woman on a call requesting for car assistance after being stranded on the road

Things can happen when you rent a car, including accidents, running out of gas, or even locking the keys in the car.

So, remember to ask the rental car company for contact information in case you need to contact a representative about issues that arise while driving the vehicle.

Familiarize yourself with the car

Minerva Studio/Adobe man inside a car in a showroom

One of the great things about renting a car is you can try out a vehicle that is different from the one you own. Perhaps you want to try a convertible or electric vehicle, for example.

But if you plan to drive a new car, familiarize yourself with it before you put it in drive. You don’t want to end up fiddling with the climate control or sound system while driving.

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Review the gas policy

Maria Sbytova/Adobe man filling gasoline fuel in car

A rental car company might have specific rules about how much gas should be in the car when you return it. In many cases, this is a full tank.

If you ignore these rules, you might have to pay an extra fee more than the cost of filling up the tank yourself.

Bottom line

Minerva Studio/Adobe family talking to the salesman

Before you rent your next car, do the things on this list. That way, you'll increase the odds of having a good rental experience.

Also, consider paying for your rental and other vacation expenses with a credit card that lets you earn cash back or other perks.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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