Category Archives: Car Rental Tips

5 tips for planning a car rental across the pond

Motoring in Europe can be a challenge for the American psyche: the narrow lanes, the aggressive steering, the irritating tendency to drive on the “wrong” side in the UK, the complexity of dealing with different languages and … cue the screeching sound of fingernails on a blackboard … the horror of being on the road in ITALY.

Yes, driving in Europe does require a different set of muscles but with careful preparation you will only have to admire the Carabinieri from a distance.

Let’s be straight with each other. A car rental is great for some routes round Europe – in particular exploring little towns and hamlets ill-served by public transport – but not a great idea for really major cities. The key, as so often, is planning; know where you are going, establish your itinerary and sort out your transport accordingly. Here are five tips in the run-up to your journey.

Anirudh Koul / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

 

Prepare proper documentation

You will need travel insurance, a driver’s license and guidebook. Start packing at least a week before your trip and check that your phone provider allows you international access. And, yes, you will need a passport, the thing that Europeans always joke that Americans don’t need because they never travel. Prove them wrong! Retrieve it from the recesses of your cupboard, open it so you get used to the texture and feel of it and check the expiry date. Remember that ordering a new passport can take between 4 and 6 weeks.

Is your destination really car-friendly?

London is a case in point. What with gridlocked roads and the congestion charge and the relative ease of public transport, a car rental would be folly. Of course, that doesn’t mean we are recommending you travel on the tube at rush hour. But, for example, the Thames River cruise from Westminster pier to Greenwich would be far more enjoyable than being caught in traffic in the City of London. Driving around other busy European capitals is not necessarily the best option either.

Likewise, you would do better on two wheels in bike-friendly Amsterdam, or taking the tram in hilly Lisbon. If you do plan to hire a car in the UK, it would be advisable to pick up in a smaller city like Bristol or Bath. Steer clear of major destinations at the start and end of your trip and also avoid picking up at an airport. In Germany, for example, if you start your hire car at an airport or station, you will play an extra 20 per cent. Learn the rules of the road of the country you are visiting. Go to the US State Department site and click on your destination for more information.

mau_ry / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Book everything from the US

Always book the air fare before anything else. Then think about accommodation and the car rental. But every step of your journey should be pre-booked. This not only gives you peace of mind, it is also considerably cheaper than paying on a case by case basis in Europe where you don’t know what hidden expenses you may incur. If you get all your credit card fees out of the way in the US, then you know exactly what you have paid beforehand.

Budget carefully

You will always have to beware of hidden extras. Bring back a near empty tank to the drop-off point and you may find yourself with a 200 dollar fee for fuel plus a refilling charge. So fill up the tank and make sure you keep the receipt. Return the car early to avoid incurring late payments. Sometimes you are made to pay an extra day if you return your vehicle late.

If you want an automatic vehicle, order it well in advance but remember that in Europe it can cost an extra 100 to 200 dollars a week. Cars bound for Eastern European countries like Romania and Bulgaria, as well as the Soviet Union, will also cost more because rental companies are wary of such trips. Hopping between countries will also add to your bill. It’s as well to bear in mind that Italy has the highest car rental rates and Germany the lowest.

modenadude / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Finally…choose a reputable company

Although many companies are available to you, it’s best to avoid very small ones. What happens if you break down in an isolated area and need help from your car rental firm? Avis, for example, has more than 350 locations in Germany alone. When you know you have a back-up in the case of an emergency you will drive more calmly.

 

 

Airport Car Rentals: Trick or Treat?

Hopping on a plane and hours later landing somewhere often doesn’t mean that you’ve reached your final destination. A lot of times, the airport is just a stepping stone, taking you further along the way. It is a common practice, however, for people to continue their journey using the airport car rental services readily available on every corner. Rental car companies operate hundreds of offices around the country including at small local as well as major international airports.
When we get off a plane, the first thought racing through our heads is how to quickly pick up our luggage and dash out as fast as possible.

tvol / Foter / CC BY

If your next step is to rent a car, perhaps you need to consider some small but essential details that would make your airport car rental experience easier. Remember, even if you are landing at major international hubs such as LAX or Denver Airport, you can’t assume that all rental car counters would be open 24 hours. Do your homework, do some planning beforehand, because that could save you money and time. That said, here are some other tips to guide you during your travels.

Are same-day reservations possible?

Atomic Taco / Foter / CC BY-SA

In case you decided on a whim to rent a car while still at the airport, you have an option to book it one hour before pickup. Terms and conditions may vary depending on the airport and the rental car company. Most likely, you would be asked to provide more details about your itinerary. The downside of such last-minute reservation may be that you won’t get the car you desire, for there may be limited availability.

What kind of car can I rent?

Most airport car rental companies offer a great variety of models and makes, but when you reach that counter, you’d better have an idea what you want. Think what would suit your needs best. Perhaps driving off Miami Airport in a BMW convertible is the coolest, if you’re planning to do some coast cruising. But if the family is with you and space is all you need, an SUV or a mini-van is your best choice. Keep in mind that you can request a non-smoking vehicle while at the airport, but the rental company usually doesn’t guarantee availability on the spot.

cai~cai~ / Foter / CC BY-NC

Collision Damage Coverage

As unpleasant as it sounds, the CDC is a necessary evil even though it is optional and it can be purchased additionally. Since you are driving somebody else’s car, extra precautions are a must. This coverage is meant to protect you against unexpected damages or theft, fire, hail or flood. If you purchase the plan, in case of an accident, you’d end up paying less for the total cost of car repairs or any additional charges that may occur. The CDC costs $11 a day, but if your billing address is in New York State, it’s $9.

Cancellations

No business loves cancellations, but customers often change their minds. If you decide to cancel your Collision Damage Insurance, you can do it literally up to the very last minute before pickup. If for whatever reason you want to cancel your reservation, the CDC will be cancelled along with it. Then, if you change your mind again and want to rent a car after all, go online and go through the entire process.

I’m not a U.S. resident

Ok, no problem. You can still take advantage of the airport car rental offered at an American airport. Most rental car companies would accept your international driver’s license as long as it’s valid. Also, all major credit cards will do, just make sure it’s your name imprinted there.

I want to drive my rental car outside the U.S.

This could be tricky. If your plans are to drive to Canada or Mexico, you need to check with the rental company you’ve selected. Some may have a problem with it. If they allow you to drive the car outside the States, additional charges may apply. Ask in advance, don’t just drive off the parking lot thinking you are all set and on to a great adventure. Honestly, the border police would be more than inclined to make it an interesting trip for you, but you wouldn’t want any border mishaps, trust me.

Can somebody else drive the rental car?

Even if you haven’t disclosed in your reservation that there would be another driver, you can do it at the airport rental counter. If you are the primary driver, add your co-pilot to the rental agreement. Keep in mind though that he or she needs to be present at the time of the pickup. Just a small formality, but a requirement nevertheless.

Long-term car rentals: pros and cons

Renting a car is mostly a two-dimensional experience. You either love it, because the occasion you are renting it for is very special, and driving the car of your dreams only adds to the happy feelings. Or you hate it, sort of, because it means yet another business trip away from your family and friends. In case of long-term rentals, however, it’s all in the name of convenience. The situations may vary, but if you don’t own a car, or you are stranded somewhere and need a car; or you own a car, but don’t want to put more mileage on it – long-term rental is good enough to solve your transportation problems.
Needless to say, there are pros and cons to this decision but, either way, the option is quite accessible. It’s always there if you need it.

Who usually takes advantage of long-term rentals?

Jeff S. PhotoArt / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Mostly people going on a business trip that lasts more than two weeks. If you are one of them, you’ve found out by now that renting a car is the best choice. Traditionally, the company pays the bill; it may not be your dream car, but at least you are not putting extra miles on your own. And why should you? Rentals are preferred also by vacationers who have decided to use that long drive as extended quality time spent together; or just to show the children how beautiful the country is. In the category of temporary “wanderers” falls a special group of people – the snowbirds. They often own two or more homes, and during the winter months relocate to places with a warmer climate.

Then, here come the college students, the most mobile of the long-term rentals customers. They are constantly on the move, doing something, going places. College students often rent cars during the summer when either going home, spending time with friends, or doing internships off campus.

Finally, out of sheer necessity, many people who move to a different state may need to rent a car at first, until they settle and get ready to buy.

What are the benefits of long-term rentals?

proforged / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Less expensive are the key words here. First, when you sign a long-term contract, the rental price drops significantly; second, your insurance costs would be reduced if purchased through the rental car agency. And it’s so much better than using public transportation. Another perk of a long-term rental is that there are no maintenance costs, except the gas fill. If something goes wrong while traveling, there is 24-hour roadside assistance available. Also, renting a specific make or model gives you a chance to try it out and eventually help you make up your mind if you’ve been thinking of buying the same model.

Disadvantages

In relation to the aforementioned fact, you may very much like the car you’ve driven for some time, so it would be hard to part with it in the end. Since you don’t own the vehicle, you have to be extra cautious because even the smallest scratch can hit your wallet with additional charges. Filling out a lot of paperwork is another downside as well as the risk of unforeseen fees that were mentioned in the small print, but you didn’t have the patience to read. When at the rental office, you need to indicate your drop-off location, or you may get fined if you change it. That may turn out to be inconvenient, since your trip could go in a different direction, and you don’t want to be a slave to some decision made weeks or months ago. You also have to remember to fill up the gas tank, otherwise you’ll end up paying double, if not more.

Useful tips to keep in mind

Donnaphoto / Foter / CC BY-ND

Just so you know, you will save a lot more if you rent a car for 60 days, instead of 30 and then renew your contract. Many long-term rentals come with different perks such as hotel rewards, frequent flyer mile programs or even a frequent renter program. Don’t forget to ask about them. Same is true for any AAA, AARP or warehouse club members’ discounts.
Also, it is understandable if you are tempted to spend a few dollars more on a SUV or some luxury car. But if you’d be the one paying for gas, perhaps it makes more sense to rent an economy or mid-size car.

When considering a long-term rental, you’d better ask the rental car company under what circumstances you can cancel your contract and if that would cost you anything. If you’re planning to travel with somebody else, find out the company’s policy in terms of adding a driver to the contract.

Avoid Carmageddon: Five reasons to rent rather than own a car

Opting for cheap rental cars has many advantages over long-term car ownership. And we’re not just saying that to get you to rent one. The facts speak for themselves. Here are some good reason to favor renting.

1. To reduce congestion

 

Saf’ / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Space on this planet, believe it or not, is NOT infinite. Yet our overwhelming desire to get into our own vehicle, along with our continuing gravitation towards cities, is creating alarming urban gridlock. By 2035, the world is predicted to have 800 million vehicles on the road, twice the current number. And, by mid-century, it is estimated that up to 75 per cent of the world’s population will be living in cities.

This creates the prospect of even more traffic in our cities. That means real practical problems in getting to work and supplying food and essential goods. Remember the recent 11-day traffic jam in China? Is this the way ahead? It will be if we all own cars and use them every day. Ironically, William Ford, current executive chairman of Ford Motor Company and great-grandson of legendary car-maker Henry Ford, believes that action is imperative to prevent a humanitarian crisis: “We see global gridlock as an issue of human rights, not just one tied to business and economics,” he says.

Rent a car for just a few days a week and it will alleviate the burden. Think of the environment. Think green.

2. Save money

Try to make do without a car for most of the week if you live in a city and watch yourself save the pennies. The American Automobile Association recently estimated the annual cost of owning a vehicle at about 9000 dollars, based on an assumption of 15,000 miles of annual driving. Use public transport most days and you won’t have to worry about paying for petrol. You will also save on wear and tear costs associated with owning a car; New York drivers can easily spend between 50 to 200 dollars a month on car maintenance alone.

 

Michel Filion / Foter / CC BY-ND

 

If you rent a car and it breaks down, then the car rental company has to help you. Plus you are putting mileage on a rented vehicle, not your own, and renting a car has a set charge, so you know all the costs from the beginning. Try just using a rented car on weekends, for trips out of town or to big stores.

 

3. Upgrade on special occasions

If you don’t own a car and only want one for that special occasion, then you can choose a cool model for that prestigious business convention or that high-class jamboree in the Hamptons. Or perhaps you would like a bigger car than you would normally buy (or could afford) to drive all the children to that camping trip or sporting occasion? A rental car can convey a special image and allows you to experiment with new models. Even with cheap rental cars, you will be driving a new or nearly new vehicle.

 

IceNineJon / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

4. Owning a car restricts you

Own a car and the tendency is for all travel to be within driving distance. Imagine the following scenario. You live in New York and you have to attend a convention in Charleston. If you own a car you may be tempted to drive all the way to Charleston. You arrive frazzled and you never had the chance to do the reading you wanted to do in preparation. If you rent a car, you can fly to South Carolina and then hire a car.

And rather than having to worry about your own car back home, why not dispense with it altogether? A rented car also takes you to places you often don’t normally go to. Hire that special car – a jeep or SUV – and you can deal with that treacherous terrain and venture to places off your usual beaten track.

 

5. Get fit

Do you really need a car all the time? You may instinctively say “yes”. But it’s not a good idea to get too dependent on your car. I remember some bulky neighbor of mine who lived in the same block as me, but several hundred meters down the street, once driving to my home for an engagement. All of 300 meters!

Do you really need the car to make that trip to the grocers to get a few items? Just try walking to work or to the deli. When you abandon your sedentary lifestyle, you will get fitter…and the roads will get lighter!

Easy like Sunday morning for today’s business travelers

You shudder when you hear that this year’s convention will be held in New Haven. How well you remember the last time you made the 4400 km round trip from Miami in December, 25 years ago.

You anticipated disaster from the beginning as you pondered all the complicated permutations. And for once you were right. You spent a whole day gnashing your teeth, wondering why your CEO chose such an out-of-the-way place. But then you found out that most of the bigwigs in your business are based in New York or Boston. So New Haven was a convenient mid-point. For THEM – not for you, of course!

You (well, actually, it was your secretary, Mavis) spent hours on the phone to flight companies, car hire firms and hotels, working out all the finer details. Mavis had to make 20 phone calls before she finalized anything. And then you had to tell her to start everything from scratch because the final cost broke the expense account ceiling.

bark / Foter / CC BY


Nightmare of 1988

This is nothing compared to the inconvenience of the trip itself. It was something out of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. In fact, you suspect that the famous movie starring John Candy was somehow based on your own experience. When you arrived at the conference you were utterly exhausted. You didn’t even have a mobile to tell them you would be five hours late for your presentation!

You didn’t know who to sue first, the company that booked your flight but refused to reimburse you – even though your plane got diverted to Washington because JFK was snowbound. OR the rental company whose car heating system broke down when temperatures plummeted to minus 10. OR the hotel who didn’t realize they had inadvertently double-booked your room. In the end you decided to sue EVERYONE.

You opted out of several trips to New Haven for the convention since then, citing the most far-fetched excuses. But this year there’s no getting round it because YOU have to make THE keynote address. Oh, and you are now deputy CEO of the entire company.

Sweet dreams in 2013

Yup, that was life back in 1988. Fast forward a quarter of a century. You don’t know how lucky you are. You don’t need Mavis at all. And you certainly don’t have to make 20 calls to individual travel companies. All you need is a website that can multi-task – fix your hotel accommodation, flight and car hire, all at once by aggregating information from multiple online sources. A site that will tell you the best and lowest car rental rates for your needs and arrange everything for you as a complete package. A site that offers multiple search engines, including the main rental car search, but also more besides, providing a complete travel planning tool.

Now, that trip from Miami to New Haven. No, don’t start twitching! It really is easier. You can get the best rates, at travel times of your choosing, on one site by collecting information from various travel and commercial companies like Expedia and Priceline. This can be done within a few seconds. If, for example, the aggregator finds that the best deal is through Expedia, you often find you can follow this up with a special deal on a hotel.

The site gives you a detailed breakdown of the vehicles on offer – economy, compact, intermediate or SUV etc – and lists all the prices offered by car rental firms. It gives you detailed information on the daily rate and the gizmos in your hired vehicle. You can plan the entire trip within minutes and do it all on your own!

thetaxhaven / Foter / CC BY

Thanks to the all-in-one package planner, you get a detailed and economical itinerary breakdown – instead of the mental breakdown you had to endure when having to go through different companies in the past. And, when you’re done with the convention, you can book a nice winter getaway because you can also check vacations and cruises on the same site. See, life really did get easier!

 

 

 

Small is cool – why gas guzzlers are heading south

People without cars used to be viewed as pariahs – even in large American cities so, doubtless, even those without cars (perhaps those who cannot afford to buy one right now) may well look to find the best car rental rates.

The pitying looks directed at commuters in cities like Los Angeles testify to the fact that non-drivers are seen as an underclass. But signs are that Americans are emulating what can be called the London example. There, drivers are being discouraged through transport infrastructure, congestion charges, environmental awareness and some (albeit effective) “gimmicks” such as mayor Boris Johnson’s rent-a-bike scheme.

infomatique / Foter / CC BY-SA

 

Owning a car in a city like London is very expensive – that, of course, is part of the plan to deter people from using one! Greater use of public transport frees up the roads and delivers faster journey times. The difficulty in finding parking spaces and the sheer hassle of driving a car round a large city is also a major obstacle. Other European cities, like Rome and Paris, are famous for their traffic, one-way streets and excitable drivers. Cities in Eastern European countries – Sofia and Bucharest being examples – may have infrastructural problems that make driving dangerous.

danorbit. / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Obviously, however, there are cases when people need to use a car even if they don’t wish to own one on a permanent basis. The parents of – for example – three schoolchildren will need to drop them off at school. Try struggling with a large shopping trip with young children when you don’t have a car.

If there is a pattern, however, it’s that the “monster” vehicles driven by Americans are becoming unfashionable. These gas guzzlers are extremely difficult to park and monumentally environmentally-unfriendly. The smaller cars, especially the “smart” cars as they are called, are more malleable and consume less gas. Another demographic shift favoring small cars is the urbanization of America; more people are living in cities than in suburban/rural areas.

Here in Van Nuys / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

 

A love affair that is tapering off…

So the signs are that some Americans are scaling back their passion for cars. Driving was at its most popular in 2007. Since then, average annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has declined by 0.5%, while average annual population growth has been 0.8%.  Younger Americans, in particular, (aged 16 to 34), seem to be turning to other means to get around. In the first decade of the new millennium they cut their per capita VMT by 24%, opting to walk more or take public transport. So are people giving up on their cars? Or at least is their love affair with big cars really coming to an end? Perhaps it’s true to say that car ownership is no longer as obligatory as it was for those in big cities.

If you don’t want to run a car on a permanent basis, then renting a car often gives the opportunity to step up to a posher model, if only for a week or so. You just need to find a firm that offers you the best car rental rates.

Yet small cars – the ones that may not impress your fellow drivers – are not necessarily as impracticable as they seem. You are unlikely to find even a small car that cannot accommodate a strapping six-footer. The key question is bulk; you may run into problems only if a heavyweight driver sits next to a bulky passenger!

canonsnapper / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Smart at heart

For years, many people assumed that small cars were of inferior quality because of their vulnerability in case of an accident. Many car-makers shunned the production of small cars because of slender profits. Yet, since 2009, Detroit’s automakers, for example, have introduced small cars that were not just inexpensive but well-designed – with tech features like Bluetooth-enabled sound systems filtered down from pricier models. And while smaller cars per se may be less durable – particularly in the case of accidents – all cars are getting safer with each passing year.

Boosts in small-car sales have generally been short-lived in the past. This was because of a fall in gas prices. But it would seem that demographic changes, environmental concerns and the sheer convenience of driving a small car around American cities all mean that the shift is here to stay. So why not rent out a smaller car and watch the drivers of those huge elongated monstrosities look on enviously as you nab that tiny parking space!

 

 

 

 

 

How To Save On Your Car Rental

Summer is halfway over but of course, we should never lose the hope of a wonderful and memorable summer adventure this year! If the only thing stopping you in your tracks form achieving that summer highlight with your friends is the lack of a car rental deal, then you found yourself reading the right guide!

Below are 4 tips to follow to score cheap car rentals:

Research

Remember that the car rental industry is a huge one which means that there are plenty of companies to choose from. It is also safe to assume that the competition in the industry is really stiff since there are plenty rental companies out there. This then results to each company having unique car deals that cater to every type of customer that they may have – whether it’s a professional businessman on a business trip or a wacky family bunch out to see Mickey’s castle.

Narrow down which areas you want to visit, list down all the possible car rental agencies within the area, and then research on which agency can give you the cheapest offer. Putting in that extra time on research will always lead you to what you’re looking for.

Only get the car that you need

Although the temptation to rent the car of your dreams, always keep your feet grounded and your head on your shoulders and only rent the car that you or your group needs. If you do wish to spoil yourself a little, try your luck by subscribing to the car rental agency’s mailing list and you might score an upgrade coupon!

Fill her up

Car rental companies are quite particular about their gas gauge. It is imperative that you fill up the gas tank of your rented car the exact amount it had when you first got her. If not, you’ll find yourself paying extra more for a per-gallon increment of gas. There are also apps made especially to track your gas consumption like GasBuddy or Cost2Drive.

Be sensitive to the time

If car rentals are sensitive about their gas, they’re more sensitive about keeping their schedules right on track. Cars that are returned late are penalized since they rely on your promptness to be able to clean up, prep, and ready the car for the next renters.

Ensure A Safer Ride With The RideSafer Travel Vest

Endorsed by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the RisdeSafer Travel Vest is now every parent’s relaxing breath of fresh air from the unspoken fear of unforeseen car accidents with children on board.

With the release of this stackable and foldable life vest, rental companies can now ensure a safer environment for families who rent their cars for a vacation road trip. The RideSafer Travel Vest main difference from other safety vests is that this was created to promote lower center gravity for children so that in the event of a crash, the child is properly belted to stability and absorption of a crash. Unlike our usual seat belt, with how the RideSafer Travel Vest is created, the crash impact is distributed to a bigger part of the child’s body therefore eliminating the damage, such as over-tightening, that can be caused by a traditional seatbelt to the organs of the body.

RideSafer Travel Vest

RideSafer Travel Vest

The innovative design elements that promote the safety precautions as explained above are:

  • The repositioned lap belt which can now be found below the abdomen. This precaution protects the organs from squishing or pressure.
  • The shoulder belt positioner is now made to ensure that it is away from the child’s neck once pressure hits.
  • The vest has well-distributed foam and energy-absorbing lamination for improved shock absorption.

The safest and best alternative for a more trustworthy safety vest for your child is the RideSafer Travel Vest. It’s comfortable, portable, and the safest and most effective there is.

 

Hertz Introduces Dream Car Rental Program

Finally a dream comes true for anyone who wants it. Hertz chairman and CEO, Mark P. Frissora, announces that consumers are now given the chance to experience “luxury travel at its finest” through their newly launched service: Hertz Dream Cars. Anyone can now have the experience of having in their possession a pimp ride and also that enthralling decision-making process of picking a ride from a fleet of America’s best and most famous luxury cars through Hertz car rental.

nissan-gtr

The whole nine yards is provided once you opt for a Hertz car rental. As soon as you step off the plane, you’ll find a Hertz Client Concierge waiting to orient you on your vehicle, and ready to usher you in your dream car that’s brand-spanking new! Naturally, you have the option of being picked up from the airport, your home, or any off-airport location, whichever may be more convenient for you.

The line-up for these luxury cars are as follows:

  • Aston Martin V8 Vantage Coupe
  • Ferrari F430 Spider
  • Lamborghini Gallardo
  • Mercedes Benz C63 AMG
  • Mercedes Benz E63 AMG
  • Mercedes Benz SLS AMG
  • Nissan GT-R
  • Porsche 911
  • Porsche Boxster
  • Porsche Cayenne
  • Porsche Panamera

There are 35 markets where Hertz is marketing their Dream Cars, this 35 includes Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Florida.