Car hire firms, like airlines, are always cheaper the earlier you book so never leave this to the last minute. Booking in February for example compared with June can bring down the average two-week rental by $100. There are a number of ways car rental firms try to catch out the unwary so pay close attention to the deal you are looking at to make sure you are comparing like with like.
If you shop around you can usually find an airport deal for the same price as an off-site deal. Unless the savings are significant, try to find an on-airport deal if you can.
Try to find a deal that allows you to cancel free of charge up to 24-48 hours ahead of picking up your car. That way you get the flexibility of booking a cheap deal early in the year but you're free to look for any last-minute bargains. 3.
Some companies have introduced a “full-to-empty” policy whereby you pay for a full tank of petrol (usually at an inflated price) when you pick up the car and then return it empty. It sounds good on paper but if you are not going to be doing a lot of miles you could find yourself paying for fuel that you are never going to use. It's much better to opt for a "full-to-full" policy instead.
Having additional driver raises the cost significantly so try to stick to just one if you can. Some firms add a second driver for free while others charge $5-$6 a day which can really add up. Check with your rental firm what an extra person does to the final bill and also bear in mind that drivers aged 21-25 tend to pay a $6-a-day premium.
Don’t opt for one as the car you hire may have it built in anyway and even if it doesn't you can download a free app such as Google Maps or HERE on to your smartphone. Once you download the relevant maps for your destination you can use the GPS function to guide you around. It's free and won't rack up any roaming data charges.
Take car seats with you. Firms charge hugely inflated prices for these so it's better to take your own. You can also be sure of the size and the fit if you bring your own car seat.
Always look at the number of seats and doors of the car you are interested in. The vehicle you see online is almost certainly not the same one you will get at the desk; hence the phrase “or similar” when booking. One trick when booking a small car is to ensure it is a four-door model. If these run out you can then expect to be upgraded to a larger four-door car at no extra cost. But don’t book one that's too small for your needs. If you have to upgrade later at the desk it could cost hundreds.
Never buy the insurance offered by your rental provider and definitely don't sign up for the excess cover, usually called CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) or LDW (Loss Damage Waiver). You can always buy these separately and for a lot less than what the rental firms will charge you. Just remember to bring along a credit card with a sufficient balance to cover any 'pre-authorization' sum that the firm will place on your card. This basically allows them to block off an amount equal to your excess in the event of any loss or damage to the car. However, your insurance (which you will have organized separately) should reimburse you.
When you collect the car from the parking lot mark every minor blemish or scratch on the paperwork. Pay particular attention to the wheels as these can often be scuffed or damaged, especially alloy ones. Do the same for the interior. Then check that the spare wheel is in its compartment and fully inflated with no damage. Check the fuel gauge to make sure the car is filled if it is supposed to be and record the mileage. It's also a good idea to check the oil and coolant if you can. Once you have marked all the damage on the form, get the rental desk to sign it. This is very important because if you don't there is nothing to stop the firm claiming that you caused the damage. Take video or picture evidence of the car as extra proof. If the vehicle is too dirty to examine closely, write this on the form and again get it signed by the staff.
When you return the car make sure you take photos of each panel of the car, the wheels and the mileage. Hand the keys back to a member of staff and ask them to inspect the car with you present. If possible, get them to sign the form to confirm that there is no new damage. If it’s late at night be extra vigilant if approached by someone in the car park claiming to be from the rental firm. Ask to see some I.D. and if you can conduct any business in the firm's office, ideally with CCTV.Always keep hold of any paperwork even if you weren't involved in an accident or had to make a claim. Keep an eye on your credit card statements to make sure no unauthorized payments were taken. If you were involved in an accident and had excess protection, reclaim it from the firm in question.