Renting a car on your next business trip? Make sure you know the answers to these questions.
- When do I need to return the car?
Car rental companies charge you in 24 hour increments based on the time you picked up the vehicle. Most companies allow a 45 minute grace period beyond your return time, but exceed that and you can find yourself paying for another day’s worth of rental fees.
- How much will the rental actually cost?
Most rental companies and web sites quote their rate before, taxes, airport fees, and surcharges. Avoid surprises and ask what the total charge of your rental will be.
- What is my liability if I’m involved in fender-bender (or worse)?
A simple accident can be a big hassle and in some foreign countries could land you in jail, require a large deposit on your credit card or delay departure until the matter is settled.
- Do I need extra insurance?
Most business oriented credit cards such as American Express and Visa Business Card offer added insurance. So does your personal automobile insurance policy. Each year it’s a good idea to call your credit card company and personal insurance and determine what coverage you have for both domestic and international car rentals.
- Where can I drive?
Rental car companies impose restriction of where their cars can be used. If you’re renting in Southern California, you’ll most likely be prohibited from driving into Mexico. When driving in Europe you can transverse multiple international boarders in hours, unknowingly, you might be breaking the rules of your rental agreement.
- What are the terms of my rental agreement?
It’s a good idea to call your car rental company or review their web site to determine the terms and policy of the rental agreement. Be sure to ask about who can drive the car, where the car needs to be park, what happens if you need to extended your rental, and if the rental company is responsible in case of a mechanical failure.
- Where do I keep my rental contract?
In most cases the answer to this is in the car. The rental agreement is usually used as the car’s registration, providing ownership and liability information for peace officers.
- What do I do if I have a problem with the car or need to keep it longer than planned?
When you pick up the car, be sure to find out the phone numbers to call in case of an accident, breakdown or rental extension. You can also call the companies toll free customer service number.
- What are my fuel options?
Rental cars usually come with a full tank of gas with drivers responsible for returning their vehicle in the same condition. When you have a lot of driving ahead one option that can save time and money is the “Fuel Purchase Option” or “Fuel Service Option” this option allows you to pre purchase fuel at a price slightly under the average market price when you pick up the car. This plan is helpful when you have a tight schedule and know that you will use at least one tank of gas.
Joel Widzer Psy.D., is an expert on consumer loyalty and frequent flier programs. He is the author of The Penny Pincher’s Passport to Luxury Travel and a contributor to MSNBC. His consulting firm www.jetready.com advises travelers and businesses on a range of issues from maximizing their travel programs to managing travel fatigue. He can be reached at 714-544-2855.