Angie's List: Renting a Car

By Lauren Maloney

Published 03/06 2014 11:46PM

Updated 03/10 2014 09:12AM

Many families may be dreaming of spring break getaways.

You've spent a lot of time planning your perfect vacation - from booking the hotel to researching restaurants.    

But there's one thing you may have overlooked.

Megan McCain and her family are flying to their spring break destination.

Once they arrive, they'll need to pick up their rental car

It was fairly easy. We went on the website and looked for a car that would fit five people with two car seats so we needed a car with a third row,” McCain said.

Renting a car is a convenient option for many families - but it's often an afterthought.

Doing some legwork before you arrive at our vacation destination can really pay off.

"If your plans are pretty definite prepaying is a really good option. You can save up to 20 percent if you pre-pay. Now, there could be a fee if you cancel so that's got to be a pretty firm plan,” Jeff Neiman, from Hertz said.

When renting a car, shop around. A lot of times people are picking up cars at the airport when they fly into their destination, but you may find it may be worth a cab ride to an off-site location because they might have lower fees,” Founder Angie Hicks said.

One common mistake consumers make when renting a car - not reading their rental agreement before they sign.

Many times people rent cars over their vacation, but they last thing they want to do is read the details of the agreement on their way to having some fun, but it's important. You need to understand what you're responsible for with that car, what happens if it breaks down, what happens if you get into an accident? Know exactly what your obligations are,” Hicks said.

"Treat it like it's your own. What would you do if you got into an accident in your car? You'd report it to the authorities. You would come back and let the rental car company know and fill out an accident report and go from there,” Neiman said.

Don't buy unnecessary insurance if you don't need it.

Rental car insurance can cost about $40 a day, and you may already be covered by your existing auto insurance policy or credit card. So determine your existing coverage before you buy more.

Questions to ask when renting a car.

When renting a car, it’s important to know the full details of the rental agreement including the basic rental terms and conditions, insurance options, and what to do in an emergency. Get the answers to these six questions before you sign your next car rental agreement.

1. What’s included in the quoted daily rate? When obtaining quotes from car rental services, verify that all applicable taxes and fees are included in the quoted price; otherwise you might end up with a higher-than-expected cost. For example, if you rent a vehicle from an airport location, you’ll likely pay more due to airport surcharges – make sure the quote rate includes your pickup and drop-off location.

2. What is the mileage plan? Many rental companies offer unlimited miles for the car rental period, allowing you to drive the car as much as you want without facing extra fees. But others may assess extra fees for surpassing a daily mileage maximum. If you rent a vehicle, especially for a period more than a few days, make sure you have unlimited miles or sufficient miles to cover your travels.

3. What if the car develops a mechanical problem? Cars in rental fleets tend to be very well maintained, but make sure you know what your options are should the vehicle break down. Ask the rental company what type of mechanical issues are covered, if any, in the quoted daily rate? Most companies will gladly give you a new car if the one that was initially provided has a problem, but what if the car breaks down on the road? Will the company provide a free tow truck to get you back and into a new car?

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