When it comes to renting vehicles, some people are seduced by attractive base rates but are shocked to find that the final charge has ballooned to twice (or even more) of what they expected to pay. There are many hidden charges that can find their way into your bill, so it is best to know about them, and if and how you can avoid them.
You already know what they say about death and taxes. Sales taxes vary per state and per country and they are typically unavoidable. Some places also charge fees to fund local projects, such as stadiums, whether or not you will use them.
Picking up and dropping off your rental car at the airport is convenient, but because of airport surcharges, doing so will be more expensive than getting and returning the car at the company’s other locations. Many companies provide a free shuttle from the airport to their other depots, but sometimes, even if you have to take public transportation, the price difference is still worth it.
If the rental vehicle gets damaged while in your custody, you are liable to pay for the damage, even if it was not really your fault, such as a tiny nick caused by a flying pebble. To avoid liability, you need an insurance policy called an excess waiver.
Many companies will sell you this insurance, but their version is more expensive and sometimes provides less coverage than third-party ones that you can buy beforehand. So, avoid taking out the firm’s car hire excess waiver cover and book car hire excess waiver in advance.
Different companies have different fuel policies. For “full-to-full” policy, you are supposed to return the vehicle with a full tank. Otherwise, you will be charged a fee for the needed fuel and the fuel rate may be higher than in gas stations. There is also the possibility of you being hit with an admin fee for the hassle.
Some policies allow you to pre-pay for a full tank of gas so that you can return the car with little to no gas left. There is no refund for unused fuel, though, so you will be paying extra if you choose this option.
It is better to go with a “full-to-full” policy then just drop by a gas station before surrendering the vehicle.
Some companies charge extra if you pick up the car at one location then drop it off at another location. The amount depends on the area and the distance between the two depots. To avoid paying extra, pick up and return your rental car at the same location.
Late Return Fees
Car rentals operate on 24-hour periods. If you return the car past the expected time, you may be charged a late return fee and possibly even charged for an extra full day. To avoid this, add some time allowance to your trip so you won’t be late when dropping off the vehicle.
Early Return Fees
While some companies will give you a prorated refund if you bring back the rental car early, some will hit you with a penalty or even change your rate to a higher one if the shortened rental period disqualifies you from a discounted rate. Clarify the policy first before returning the vehicle early.
Many rental firms charge extra if the driver is young (below 25 years old) or senior (more than 65 or 70, depending on the company) so if you’re below 25 or over 65, shop around if you want to avoid paying extra.
Some companies also charge a fee if more than one person will be driving the rental vehicle. If you’re going on a long trip where having only one driver is not a good idea, see if you can find a rental firm that does not have this policy. If you cannot find any, it is better to just pay the extra fee, as having a non-authorized driver driving the vehicle at the moment of an accident can invalidate your insurance.
When renting a car, it is your responsibility to pay the toll. Many toll booths are manned and you just pay as you go. When passing through electronic tolls, however, the toll will be charged to the rental company, which will hit you with an admin fee for this service.
To avoid surprise charges, check out local guide books or ask the rental company when you pick up your car about how the local tolls work. Avoid unmanned tolls, if possible.
Renting a car may involve paying different kinds of additional charges. Some of these hidden charges are unavoidable but many can be avoided by reading the fine print thoroughly, asking questions, and making decisions with the company’s terms and conditions in mind.