10 Things You Must Do Every Time You Rent a Car

SAVING & SPENDING - TRAVEL
Discover the 10 golden rules for a smooth car rental experience.
Updated May 8, 2024
Fact checked
Friends driving in a car

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

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.

If you’re over 50, take advantage of massive travel discounts and trip-planning resources

Over 50 and love traveling? Join AARP today — because if you’re not a member, you could be missing out on huge travel perks. When you start your membership today, you can get discounts on hotels and resorts, airfare, cruises, car rentals, and more.

How to become a member today:

  • Go here, select your free gift, and click “Join Today”
  • Create your account (important!) by answering a few simple questions
  • Start enjoying your discounts and perks!

An AARP membership not only unlocks discounts that could save you hundreds on your next trip, but you’ll also have access to deals on vacation packages, guided tours, and exclusive content to help plan your next getaway.

Important: Start your membership by creating an account here and filling in all of the information (do not skip this step!). Doing so will allow you to take up to 25% off your AARP membership, making it just $12 per year with auto-renewal.

Become an AARP member now

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.

Earn a $250 travel bonus with this incredible card

There's a credit card that's making waves with its amazing bonus and benefits. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card has no annual fee and you can earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

You can earn additional points just by using this card for your everyday purchases — unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases. The 25,000 bonus points can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel or dining purchases.

If you want to travel and dine out more, the Travel Rewards card can help you get where you want to go.

The best part? There's no annual fee.

Click here to apply now.

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.

Earn cash back on everyday purchases with this rare account

Want to earn cash back on your everyday purchases without using a credit card? With the Discover®️ Cashback Debit Checking account (member FDIC), you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month!1

With no credit check to apply and no monthly fees to worry about, you can earn nearly passive income on purchases you’re making anyway — up to an extra $360 a year!

This rare checking account has other great perks too, like access to your paycheck up to 2 days early with Early Pay, no minimum deposit or monthly balance requirements, over 60K fee-free ATMs, and the ability to add cash to your account at Walmart stores nationwide.

Don’t leave money on the table — it only takes minutes to apply and it won’t impact your credit score.

Apply for a Discover Cashback Checking account today

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.

  • You could save up to $500 with some companies
  • Compare dozens of providers in under 5 minutes
  • Fast, free and easy way to shop for insurance
  • Quickly find the perfect rate for you

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.

Want to learn how to make an extra $200?

Get proven ways to earn extra cash from your phone, computer, & more with Extra.

You will receive emails from FinanceBuzz.com. Unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy

  • Vetted side hustles
  • Exclusive offers to save money daily
  • Expert tips to help manage and escape debt