6 Tips for Renting a Car at Home or Abroad

Even if you are an experienced traveler, renting a car can be stressful. Unexpected fees and surprises at the rental counter can be enough to make you never want to rent a car again. However, knowing what to expect can better prepare you for your reservation and help you avoid any unnecessary charges. Read on for a list of tips you should consider next time you rent a car, either at home or abroad.

Carina Otero with a Jeep Rental from AVIS in Oahu, Hawaii

Carina Otero with a Jeep Rental from AVIS in Oahu, Hawaii

Compare Prices with Local Car Rental Companies

Though there are a handful of American car rental agencies that are known worldwide, consider comparing prices and reviews for reputable agencies that are local to the country you are visiting. For example, Centauro has a positive reputation and competitive pricing but only operates in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece.

You can also read the Google reviews of individual car rental locations and choose based on which is more likely to give you a positive experience. Keep in mind that online reviewers tend to be much more likely to share bad experiences, so if a location has a high Google rating then it’s even more impressive!


Get Familiar with Your Coverage

Credit cards sometimes offer car rental coverage as a benefit, but be aware of exactly which type or types it covers. (These usually include Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), Supplemental Liability Protection (SLP), Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) and Personal Effects Coverage (PEC)). Additionally, be aware that if you buy additional partial coverage through the car rental agency, your credit card coverage could become void. Do your research by reading your credit card’s benefits package in detail, or call card services to have any of your questions answered and doubts clarified. If you are aware and confident about the insurance coverage that your credit card provides, don’t let a rental desk agent pressure or scare you into buying more coverage.

Carina Otero with a car rental from  SIXT  in Oaxaca, Mexico

Carina Otero with a car rental from SIXT in Oaxaca, Mexico

Book Directly through the Rental Agency

When booking a rental car, I recommend avoiding third party sites like Expedia or Orbitz that up-sell you their own insurance coverage. In my experience, the third party’s policy is never considered sufficient when you show up to the rental counter, and the desk agent always requires you to purchase from their own insurance offerings anyway. In the past when I have rented cars in Europe or Mexico, the agent at the rental counter would require me to put an enormous additional deposit (anywhere from $2500-$5000 USD!) if I insist on using an insurance policy that was purchased though Expedia. Whenever I make my car rental reservation directly through an agency’s website and choose one of their insurance coverage options, the deposit amounts that I am typically charged are much more reasonable ($250-$400 USD).

            You could also benefit by sticking to one agency or brand that offers a loyalty program like SIXT, who rewards their repeat customers with extra benefits like expedited service, free upgrades, and exclusive discounts.


Check for Better Prices on a Mobile Browser

Before clicking confirm on your car rental reservation from your desktop, do a quick search on your mobile device to check if the same site is offering a better price there. In the example pictured below, I conducted two searches at the same time on Europcar’s desktop site and Europcar’s mobile site, and the prices for the exact same car for the exact same times and dates came out to $205.86 (desktop) and $160.29 (mobile).


Don’t be Turned Off by Airport Fees

Car rental agencies often charge an additional fee for airport pick-ups and drop-offs, but before letting this surcharge annoy you and convince you to make your reservation at a non-airport location, consider how much transportation will cost to get you there. For example, taxis and Uber often charge their own airport pick-up fees, so paying for transportation from the airport to a non-airport car rental location may be more expensive than the car rental agency’s airport surcharge. There are also additional benefits to renting from an airport location, such as a wider selection and longer hours of operation.

Carina Otero with a Peugeot lease buy-back from  AutoFrance  in Beja, Portugal

Carina Otero with a Peugeot lease buy-back from AutoFrance in Beja, Portugal

Consider Alternatives to Traditional Car Rental Companies

Depending on the length of your trip, you could benefit from choosing an alternative to a car rental company. For short-term or even hourly rentals, consider using Zipcar, Getaround, or Share Now (formerly car2go). For long term rentals while traveling in Europe, you could save considerably if you choose a lease buy-back through a program like Auto France Peugeot Open Europe. Not only do you save more on the overall price, but you are given more in terms of full insurance coverage, roadside assistance, and a vehicle warranty.

Turo is another option for car rentals across the globe. Known as the Airbnb of the car rental industry, Turo is a car-sharing platform that connects local car owners with travelers in need of a rental.

Have any of these tips been useful for you when renting a car? Let me know in the comments!

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