Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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ASK THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: What Do I Need to Know When Renting a Car?rental car

With summer driving season right around the corner and vacations coming up for many of us, consumers may have some questions about renting a car.  Renting a car can add flexibility to any trip.  It can put new destinations within your reach and give you more control over what you can do and see during your travels.  Keep the following tips in mind to help ensure a smooth rental.  

Shop Around

Make sure you comparison shop to get the best deal.  You can check prices for most rental companies online, and many travel websites will let you compare prices for several companies at the same time.  But don't stop there.  Call several companies to see if there are any special or promotional offers.  Remember to ask about possible discounts for any associations you belong to. Many companies offer discounts for seniors, auto club members, frequent-fliers, and members of professional organizations.  Before booking, you may also want to talk to the location where you'd actually be picking up the car. Specific locations may have special prices or discounts which websites or toll-free reservation lines don't offer.  Always get a confirmation number, and note the name and title of those you dealt with.

Understand the fine print

Be sure you understand all costs and conditions associated with your reservation. Are there any age restrictions or fees for additional drivers?  Are there cancellation fees or penalties for picking the car up late or returning the vehicle early?  Is mileage included in the price and, if so, how many miles each day or week?  Are there restrictions on interstate travel?  Also, remember that there may be drop-off charges for one way rentals.  Carefully read all restrictions in any ads or on the rental company's website.  If you're booking over the phone, make sure to ask the sales agent about any and all restrictions.

What About Optional Insurance Coverage?

The important thing to remember about optional insurance is that it is optional.  You should not risk driving without insurance; however you may already have coverage through your personal auto insurance policy or if you charge the rental to a major credit card.  If in doubt, ask your insurance agent or your credit card issuer ahead of time so you'll be able to make an informed decision at the rental counter.  Keep in mind that coverage through a credit card may not extend to high-end luxury cars, trucks, or four-wheel drive vehicles, including sports utility vehicles.

Safety First

Don't forget to take a few minutes to become familiar with the car before you start driving. Adjust your seat and mirrors and check the placement of the turn signals, lights, windshield wipers, and other controls.  Also, remember that most states require car seats for young children, so you'll want to plan ahead to reserve a car seat (which may involve an additional fee).  Most car rental companies also have cars or vans that are accessible for customers with disabilities. Be sure to make arrangements in advance to ensure the availability of an accessible vehicle.

Other Things to Know

Read the rental agreement before you sign it to ensure that you know exactly what you are paying for.  Carefully check the vehicle for any damage and report it before leaving the lot, and make sure the odometer matches the mileage on the rental agreement.

When returning the vehicle, remember that the rental company may charge a premium for fuel if the car has less gas than you started with; therefore, you may want to fill the tank before returning the vehicle.