Never rent a car without first doing so, experts say

Flights are definitely ideal for long-haul travel, but renting a car gives you freedom and flexibility when travelling. With a rental car, you don’t have to rely on taxis, public transit, or ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft — and who doesn’t love the convenience of door-to-door transportation? Renting a car is fairly easy if you have a valid driver’s license and meet the age requirements, but some drivers make a critical mistake during the process. Read on to find out what the experts say you need to do before you pull your rental car out of the lot.

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a row of cars

Renting a car was made a little more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic, when a shortage of semiconductor chips delayed car manufacturing The Washington Post. Rental companies had fewer cars but increased demand for travel. The situation got so bad it was dubbed the “rental car apocalypse.”

As with supply and demand, prices skyrocketed and were still elevated during the 2022 summer travel season, according to Bloomberg. However, if you are lucky enough to find a rental car at an affordable price, you will need to allow yourself a few extra minutes before driving to your final destination.

Man looking for scratches on the car
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

Renting a car is already expensive and you don’t want to be saddled with additional fees. Therefore, you must inspect your vehicle for any defects before leaving the rental company’s car park.

“We recommend thoroughly inspecting the vehicle before driving, as any unnoticed or inconspicuous damage or even a small scratch can be left undocumented by the previous customer.” Matas Buzelis, head of communications and car expert at carVertical, explains. “If the company has not documented the damage [from the previous renter]they might come back to you with a notice of new damage or scratches, which you will inevitably be billed for.”

Mike ClancyHead of the non-profit organization Car Donation Center, adds that without documentation, it is also difficult to defend yourself against a fine.

“On demand [by the rental company], how can you prove that the scratches or dents weren’t your fault? The result is a [long-winded] dispute that often ends with you paying for said damage,” he says Best life. “It’s always good practice to record any visible damage before heading into the sunset.”

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Woman adjusting air conditioning rental car
ShokulPdi / Shutterstock

Attaching a magnifying glass to the body of your rental car is a great way to protect yourself, but you should also be confident that everything else in the vehicle is in order.

Margaret Stine, automotive expert from 4WheelOnline, recommends checking the tires and rims, checking under the car for leaks and documenting any stains or damage to the interior. Clancy emphasizes the importance of a “performance check” just to make sure the radio, air conditioning, lights, seats, mirrors and fuel gauge are working, as well as any navigation systems or technology the vehicle is equipped with.

Finally, check the vehicle’s fluids. “Before you drive off, check that all fluids in the car are at the correct level.” Joe GirandaSales and Marketing Director of CFR Classic, an international car transport and moving company best life. “This includes engine oil, coolant/antifreeze, brake fluid and washer fluid.”

Sign rental agreement
Worradirek / Shutterstuck

No matter how many precautions you take, accidents and damage happen. Therefore, you should have adequate coverage. If you have car insurance, your provider may also cover you if you’re driving a rental car, but take a minute to check your policy.

“You should also make sure you have rental car insurance, whether through your personal auto insurance policy, purchasing coverage through the rental company themselves, or through your credit card.” Kathleen AhmedCo-founder of USCarJunker, explained.

Finally, to make sure no box is left unchecked, read the rental agreement carefully and make a pit stop at the gas station before returning the car. “Always return the vehicle with a full tank. Otherwise, you may end up being charged for a tank of fuel, as most rental car companies often charge significantly more than the usual gas station rate,” explains Ahmmed. Never rent a car without first doing so, experts say

Sarah Y. Kim

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