Linda needs to have the transmission fixed on her Buick. She cannot be without transportation because she has to have a car to get to work. The transmissions place isn’t open on the weekends, so that’s not an option. She feels a twinge of nervousness. They tell her they need to keep her car for the entire day to fix it. She asks them if they have a loaner car, but they don’t. Her only option is to set up a car rental for that day. Her anxiety rises a few notches.
She calls and makes a reservation to come in and rent a car first thing in the morning because she still has to do all this and still get to work on time. Most likely, she has been to a car rental place before in the morning, and it’s usually a busy room full of people who are also trying to get to work on time. Then she recalls that the atmosphere was very unpleasant. Everyone’s in a rush and trying to get ahead of the other person so they can get served first. Civility goes right out the window.
The day arrives, she goes to the tranny shop and then waits for the car rental place to pick her up and take her back to their office. “How long will they be? I hope they get here soon because I’m going to be late for work!” (More anxiety)
The shuttle vehicle arrives, and they speed back to the car rental office. When they get there, she is not surprised to find the atmosphere just like she had expected. There’s a pot of coffee on a table with paper cups for people to help themselves and drink. People are hustling and running every which way. “Does anyone in this room need more caffeine at this moment,” she thinks to herself. The customer service agent behind the counter is trying to sound like he’s courteous and relaxed, but you can hear the hustle and impatience in his voice as he begins to ask her for her information.
I too feel like Linda did, that the car rental agent is going to end up charging far more than we anticipated by telling us we need more than we thought we would. Or will gouge us for the things we do need! I am familiar with the many tricks that car rental companies play to make more money.
Linda watches silently as another employee breaks into the room much like a doctor’s office, announcing the last names of customers to ‘hop to’ and get their car. Her anxiety continues ratcheting up, inch by inch. She watches as the guy in front of her gets called next. It’s almost her turn.
This entire scenario is a setup for mistakes. She remembers the saying ‘haste makes waste’, and realizes she is about to go through the process of transferring the legal responsibility of the car rental agency’s car from them to her.
The Rest Of Us
Are you like Linda and me and automatically feel like you are ‘in for a ride’ when you go to rent a car? Luckily for us, USA Today’s Travel reporter, Ed Perkins, has also found this to be so. He has recommended these valuable tips to help us to avoid being overcharged when renting a vehicle. Perkins also gives us the ‘heads-up’ on the car rental charges we simply can’t avoid.
UNNECESSARY INSURANCE COVERAGE Perkins says that many rental car companies usually try to persuade us into buying more ‘insurance coverage’ than we need. First of all, it isn’t even ‘insurance’ at all! It’s a loss damage or collision waiver. And even though it’s not legally considered insurance, that doesn’t stop the car rental agencies from calling it so. We, consumers, also get hoodwinked into calling it ‘insurance’ for that matter. And when you consider that the cost of this so-called ‘insurance‘ is right around $30.00 each day, that’s nearly doubling the cost of our car rental!
The truth is we do need loss/collision coverage on our rental cars, but there are options available to us other than purchasing it from the rental car agency. We may already have coverage with our automobile insurance policy, we can obtain it from many of the credit cards that offer secondary coverage at no charge, or we can purchase primary coverage for under $8.00 per day through ProtectyourBubble.com or InsureMyRentalCar.com.
LESS THAN DESIRABLE LIABILITY COVERAGE
The Liability Insurance the rental car agency includes is nowhere near enough coverage. Most of us don’t know that liability coverage is far more important than collision damage protection. Liability insurance coverage is needed to protect you if you were to hurt someone else. Make sure you get the most coverage possible.
Car Rental companies have offered discounts for such members of AARP and AAA when in all actuality they have inflated the ‘regular rates’ as to appear to be offering you a discount. Try to look past any terms such as ‘discounted rate’ when you are comparing prices for renting a vehicle.
TRICKY PRICING TERMS
Terms like ‘Base Rate’ and ‘Taxes’ we can comprehend. But what is ‘customer facility charge’, ‘parking fine recovery’, ‘licensing recovery’, energy surcharge’ and ‘excise tax reimbursement’ supposed to do with our renting a car? Just make sure you know what they are charging you and why.
IT COSTS MORE TO DRIVE A LITTLE THAN A LOT
Renting for a whole week is the most cost effective rate. But, turn the car in early, or rent for three days, and the rate is considerably more. Make sure to compare the daily verses weekly rates, and find out if there are any additional fees for returning your vehicle early.
ADD-ON CHARGES FOR ITEMS THAT COST THEM NO MORE
Example: Like charging for having more than one driver, this doesn’t cost the rental agency a dime, but they still add a fee for us to do so. Sometimes you can find that renting with a loyalty membership such as those from AARP or AAA loyalty will help you to avoid this added-on cost.
INFLATED FUEL CHARGES
Usually the gas tank is full on the car when you rent it, and they ask that you return it full. And if it’s returned not having been filled, they can often charge you double or triple the going price per gallon. Be mindful of the gas gauges too, and exactly where they were upon signing for the car. What can appear to be full can take another gallon or two when they top it off themselves. Be sure to keep your receipts from the gas station when you fill-up. Some car rental companies require them.
OVERBOOKING IS COMMON PLACE
Be aware that most car rental companies overbook as a standard practice. Sometimes this can work in your favor, as when they ‘upgrade’ you into a nicer car for the cost of an economy car. However, be forewarned that they may try to add additional costs to you. Perkins advises us to stand your ground and demand to pay the price they had quoted before you arrived. That they made a mistake and overbooked is not your problem nor penalty to pay.
COST OF DAMAGES INFLATED
During the pre-inspection, where you sign for the condition of the car before it leaves the lot, be sure to take all the time you want to look over the car, inside and out. Point out every little nick, stain and dent you see and watch to make sure they note in on the inspection diagram. Simply by being picky, you make yourself someone on whom they would not consider pulling a fast one. To keep us from utilizing the free coverage our credit card companies may make available to us, car rental companies can attempt to charge for:
Loss of Use – the regular daily rate for every day it cannot be rented, even if they have a lot full of available cars to rent.
Administration Fees – a charge for doing the paperwork.
Retrieval Fee – the possible cost of towing or storing the damaged vehicle.
Value Loss – the lost resale value of a repaired vehicle.
The insurance and credit card companies have been doing pretty good about trying to keep ahead of these escalated fees. However, be sure that the car rental agencies are always looking for ways to charge extra. It’s our job to be vigilant.
Car rental companies need to make a buck and survive just like everyone else. Over time, they’ve just slipped into a series of daily practices that require the consumer to beware.