Image: seattletimes.comBy Frank Ling

Getting a cheap rate on a rental car is what everybody is aiming for, but if you’re not careful, “hidden” charges may add up and the great deal you thought you had can go up in smoke.

One way to avoid any surprises is to be aware if your rental is based upon limited mileage or unlimited mileage rates. Unlimited is the way to go if you foresee lots of side trips or using the rental as a means to go to your vacation destination.

Limited miles may offer lower overall rates, but each mile you go over the limit can be very costly when the totals are added up. But there are other little things that you can do to make sure you get a good overall deal.

Watch the Fill Up Level

Virtually all car rental agencies fill car gas tanks about three-quarters full, but never full. Every wonder why?

The reason is simple; all rental cars must be returned with the same amount of gas as the customer left with in the vehicle. When people go to the gas station to replace the used gas, many just fill it up without being aware of the original volume of gas in the tank.

The end result is that you’re spending extra money that isn’t necessary and the car rental company gets several gallons of free gas.

Also, if you don’t replace the gas that was originally in the car, you won’t be charged standard gas prices for the replacement fuel, you’ll be gouged for much higher prices than at the pump.

Pass on Rental Insurance

If you already have comprehensive auto insurance, signing for rental insurance is redundant and expensive. The fees add up per day and could send your original rental fee through the roof. Check with your insurance carrier before renting a car to make sure that you are covered.

Many credit card companies, such as American Express, Visa, and Master Card, also cover you for insurance if you charge your car rental on their cards. Call your credit card agency to find out more details.

Do a Complete Inspection

Your rental car agent will inspect the car before signing it off to you to see what previous damage, dings, or scrapes are on the car. Be sure to shadow your agent to see that he or she properly fills out the form and notes all car body problems.

If your rental agent forgets or doesn’t notice certain damage already present, this will not be recorded and when you return the car, you’ll be liable for the damage and cost of repairs.

Don’t Be Late

Make sure that you have ample time to return the car and that you know the exact hours of operation of the car rental company.

If you miss the check in deadline, there may be substantial penalty charges added to your bill.


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