Gasoline prices are still low and spring break is approaching so this just may be the perfect time for a road trip. Some people prefer to rent a car for their getaways and save putting excess miles on their own vehicle. The Better Business Bureau recommends a few tips for renting a car without breaking the bank.
In 2015, the BBB received 6,186 complaints against the auto renting and leasing industry. Many of the complaints were a result of billing and contracting issues. When it comes to navigating the rental car process, there are many little details that oftentimes leave consumers confused.
Even though you're excited to hit the road, take the time to inspect the car and ask questions. Car rentals can make any trip easier, but make sure you know your options such as additional add-ons before signing on the dotted line.
The BBB recommends the following tips to avoid overspending when looking to rent a car:
Shop around and lookout for hidden charges. There are several different budget travel websites that can give a good scope of what's out there price wise. Make sure to follow up with the rental car websites directly to see if you can snag an even cheaper rate. Always remember, though, if the deal sounds too good to be true it probably is. Don't fall for the low-ball offer and make sure to always clarify which taxes, surcharges and other fees you'll be expected to pay. Many states have additional fees for drivers younger than 25 or for multiple drivers.
Opt for a smaller car. If you're traveling solo or don't need a lot of leg room or trunk space, go for the smaller car. Oftentimes, the salesperson will steer you in the direction of an upgrade for "only a few extra dollars" because the smaller economy cars are in high demand. Just say no and stick to the smaller car, or smile politely and ask for a free upgrade.
Ask lots of questions. Make sure you understand where the unlimited mileage rates apply. Some rental car companies have restrictions and only apply the mileage to certain states.
Gas up and be on time. Many times, car rental companies will ask if you want to prepay for gas. It's not always necessary and it's rarely the best deal. Don't forget to refill the tank before returning the car, and make sure to return on time. Some rental car companies will charge an extra day for being late. Make sure you know the policy for early and late returns, and call if you get stuck in traffic.
Bring your own car seat and GPS. If you're going to be traveling with children or fear that you'll get lost, make sure to bring your own car seat and GPS. No need to pay for the daily fee for these items if you already have them at home.
What about insurance? Rental companies usually offer drivers additional coverage options -- for a fee. If you buy their coverage, they say you can minimize your liability while driving their rental car. However, you may already be covered through your own auto or homeowner's policies. Read your insurance policies for specifics, and call your insurers if you're uncertain about the coverage. If you're traveling on business, you may be covered under your employer's insurance. Some credit card companies and motor clubs provide members with free rental protection when you use their cards to pay for rentals. It doesn't hurt to check.
For more consumer tips you can trust, visit bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River area. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at 478-742-7999, www.bbb.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.