Many travel experts recommend relying on public transportation while on vacation, but it isn’t always possible. Perhaps you’re interested in taking a day trip to a location that isn’t on the rail network, or you need to transport a lot of luggage or equipment that would be a hassle to carry onto a subway or taxi. Maybe you simply want to explore the world on your own schedule. Sometimes, whether out of necessity or preference, the only answer is to rent a car. While the car-rental process can seem harrowing, you’ll save money and have more time to explore your destination when you follow a few basic tips.
As with all things travel-related, renting a car will be easier and cheaper if you do it far in advance of your trip. Most destinations in the developed world will have endless options for rental agencies, so shopping around can often result in substantial savings. In many cases, it will be cheaper to rent from independent agencies instead of the larger chains, and you can often find virtual coupons and other online promotions to make the cost go down even further. As a rule of thumb, avoid renting at your destination’s airport if possible. The prices can be about 30 percent lower at branches outside the airport. When booking your rental, it’s also worth considering prepaying for the car, either through the company itself or through a popular travel site like Priceline, which can provide significantly lower prices in exchange for imposing cancellation fees.
After finding a favorable rate, your next job is to avoid additional fees, which can raise the total cost of renting a car by a considerable amount. Talk to your auto insurer and credit card company about their policies concerning rental insurance. In many cases, people who use a credit card and have their own car insurance do not need to buy extra coverage through the rental agency, or they will only need to get supplemental insurance, like collision-and-damage waivers. You will also want to decline to prepay for gas and any other extras, like car seats or GPS, which will be far more expensive than any alternatives. Finally, be sure to take the pre-rental inspection seriously. Take pictures of any small dings or scratches you see to prevent being charged with causing them when you return the car.