In this article, we’ll walk you through five essential tips that every traveller should know when selecting the best car rental company.
Renting a car offers the freedom to explore destinations at your own pace. But with so many car rental companies out there, how do you find the perfect one that suits your needs and budget?
From understanding your travel requirements and comparing rental options to evaluating customer support and rental terms, we’ll help you make an informed decision, ensuring a smooth and memorable journey.
5 Tips for Selecting the Best Car Rental Company
1. Know Your Needs and Budget
Renting a car ensures a hassle-free, unforgettable journey by assessing travel requirements and determining a budget that won’t break the bank.
Assess Your Travel Requirements:
Ask questions: How many people are coming along for the ride? Are you planning to hit off-road trails or stick to city cruising?
Travel distance: Consider fuel efficiency for long drives, but opt for roomier options for extra legroom and trunk space.
Travelling with others: For group travel, choose a multi-passenger SUV or minivan for comfort, while for solo travellers, a compact car offers convenience and affordability.
Weather: Monitor weather conditions; consider an all-wheel-drive vehicle for rough terrain.
Pro Tip: Book your rental car in advance for better rates and guaranteed ideal wheels before others.
Determine Your Budget Constraints:
Setting a budget: This will keep you from getting sidetracked by flashy upgrades or hidden fees, ensuring a smooth ride all the way.
Daily rental vs weekly rates: Daily rentals for short trips cost up to 30%; weekly rates may be more cost-effective.
Mileage limits: Estimate travel distance for rental packages to avoid additional charges and overcharging.
Fuel costs: Choose a car with good gas mileage to save on rental, with an average of 24 miles per gallon.
Pro Tip: Explore rental companies for hidden fees, such as airport surcharges and insurance add-ons, to avoid surprises.
2. Research and Compare Rental Companies
Discovering the right car rental company can be challenging. Check for a company’s reputation, positive customer reviews, and online testimonials. Compare rates, and inclusions, and avoid extra fees, as they can turn a good deal into a bad one.
Look for Reputable Rental Companies:
Search: Conduct internet sleuthing, seek reviews from other travellers, and look for trends, as consistently positive feedback is a positive sign.
Best Reputation: According to the J.D. Power 2021 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study, some leading names in the rental industry are Enterprise, Alamo, and National Car Rental. These companies scored high marks in categories like reservation process, vehicle availability, and overall satisfaction.
Better Business Bureau (BBB): An A+ rating ensures reliability and insight into customer complaints about businesses.
Pro Tip: Seek word-of-mouth recommendations for reputable rental companies from friends, family, or coworkers.
Read Customer Reviews and Testimonials:
Reviews: Reputable platforms like Google, Yelp, and Trustpilot offer valuable insights through customer reviews, providing honest opinions on a company’s performance.
Recurring themes: Identify recurring themes in reviews to assess rental experiences, including excellent service, clean cars, and hassle-free drop-offs.
Testimonials: The rental company website features proud moments, showcasing the company’s best foot forward, despite potential positivity bias.
Negative responses: Do they address the issues and offer solutions? That’s a sign of a company that cares.
Pro Tip: Monitor social media for real-time customer feedback and company responsiveness, enhancing audience engagement.
Compare Pricing and Additional Fees:
Extra fees: Be cautious of hidden fees, such as airport surcharges, late return fees, and driver charges, to avoid surprises during a budget-friendly rental.
Booking in advance: Book your rental in advance for up to 20% savings, according to a CheapCarRental.net study, allowing early bird discounts
Special offers and promotions: Rental companies often have seasonal deals or discounts for loyal customers. You might just receive that tasty upgrade or free rental day by joining loyalty programs.
Pro Tip: Consider insurance options, including rental companies and personal auto or credit card coverage, to avoid duplicate coverage.
3. Check for Rental Terms and Conditions
Rental terms and conditions may not be a thrilling read, but they are crucial for a smooth journey, guiding you through insurance options and hidden charges.
Review the Rental Agreement Thoroughly:
Restrictions or exclusions: Some rental companies have age requirements or restrictions on taking the car out of state or across borders, so this is something you will want to check out to prevent potential fines.
Insurance options: Rental companies offer additional coverage, but it can add up quickly. Check personal insurance and credit card policies to skip extra coverage.
Clarification: Ask questions, consult rental agents, and clarify clauses before signing to ensure clarity and avoid confusion.
Pro Tip: Take photos or videos of the car’s condition before you drive off. This could protect you from any false damage claims later on.
Understand Insurance Coverage Options:
Personal auto Insurance policy: Determine if your policy includes comprehensive and collision coverage for rental cars, potentially reducing the need for expensive additional insurance.
Credit cards: Credit cards may offer rental car insurance as a perk; check with the provider for coverage, and ensure a specific card is used for rental payments.
Rental company’s insurance policy: Consider rental company insurance options if personal auto and credit card coverage is inadequate. Ask for coverage breakdowns, including CDW (?) and liability, to avoid costly repairs or medical expenses.
Pro Tip: It’s always better to have more coverage than less, especially when it comes to rental cars. Accidents can happen- protect yourself from unexpected expenses.
Check for Hidden Charges and Penalties:
It’s time to check for those sneaky hidden charges and penalties. Nobody likes surprises when it comes to a car rental company incurring unexpected costs.
Itemized charges: Before signing a rental contract, ask for a breakdown of all charges, including taxes, airport surcharges, and other hidden costs, to avoid misunderstandings.
Refuelling fee: These fees can be hidden, with some companies offering full-to-full fuel policies or a premium for less than full returns. To avoid these costs, ensure fueling before dropping off the car.
Late return fees: Avoid late return fees by checking rental agreements, checking grace periods, and time restrictions to avoid penalties.
Pro Tip: Always inspect the car thoroughly before driving off and take note of any existing damage. That way, you won’t be held responsible for pre-existing dents or scratches (this is something that my husband and I always do).
4. Consider the Car Fleet and Availability
Here, we will be focusing on finding the perfect car for your journey.
Ensure the Car Rental Company Offers the Right Car:
Who is travelling: Consider passenger count and luggage for a comfortable and spacious SUV or minivan for group travel.
Solo travellers or couples: Compact economy cars are budget-friendly, fuel-efficient, and easy to manoeuvre on busy city streets for solo travellers or couples.
Luxury cars: Consider splurging on a luxury car for extra oomph and style, despite higher prices; the experience might be worth it.
Pro Tip: Verify the rental company’s car fleet through their website or customer support. It’s always better to double-check and ensure they have the car type you’re eyeing before you make your reservation.
Check for Availability for Your Travel Dates:
Book in Advance: Book your rental car well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. According to a study by CheapCarRental.net, booking three weeks in advance can save up to 20% on rental prices.
Flexibility: Flexibility in travel dates can increase options and potentially lead to better deals.
Pickup: Car rental company location affects availability; remote areas or smaller towns require booking well in advance for a wide selection.
Pro Tip: If you’re a member of a loyalty program or have rental company affiliations, check if they offer priority access to vehicle availability. These perks can come in handy, especially during busy travel periods.
5. Evaluate Customer Support and Assistance
Assessing customer support is like having a co-pilot navigate bumps on the road. Learn how to evaluate rental companies’ 24/7 support and roadside assistance, ensuring a worry-free trip with a safety net.
Look for 24/7 Customer Support:
Round-the-clock support: 24/7 customer support is crucial for renting a car, ensuring assistance anytime, anywhere, and on weekends and holidays. Ensure the car rental company offers 24/7 support to ensure safety and satisfaction during your journey. It could be a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, arranging for a tow truck, or even providing directions.
Pro Tip: Save the rental company’s customer support number on your phone before you hit the road. You never know when you’ll need it, and having it handy can be a lifesaver in unexpected situations.
Inquire About Roadside Assistance Services:
Roadside assistance: Before booking, inquire about the car rental company’s roadside assistance services to ensure safety during emergencies. This includes handling flat tires, dead batteries, lockouts, and mechanical breakdowns. Experts can dispatch a team to help you get back on track. In some cases, roadside assistance may include fuel delivery.
Pro Tip: Request roadside assistance coverage details, as rental companies may have restrictions on call numbers or geographic areas.
To ensure a smooth journey with a car rental company, consider your needs and budget, assess rental companies’ reputations, compare pricing, review the agreement, understand insurance coverage, consider car fleet availability, and ensure 24/7 customer support.
We house sit a lot and sometimes it is necessary to rent a car. Understanding how insurance works is extremely important to us.
Inquire about roadside assistance services for a safety net during travel.
Interested in learning about travel insurance? Check here.