Savvy Travel Decisions

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You will generally always pay a higher rental fee for the convenience of airport automobile rentals.  Before reserving, compare the cost of suburban off-airport site automobile rentals.  One way or the other, you end up having to take a bus to pick up your vehicle at most airport rental sites.  Why not take a cab to a more remote site and overall, save money?  Be sure to check beforehand the hours of operation of remote rental locations.


When renting an automobile, always check for exterior damage by walking around the vehicle and carefully noting the condition of the vehicle.  If pre-existing damage is present, insist on the automobile rental attendant acknowledging the damage in writing, with a copy given to you before leaving the premises.  You’ll be glad you did.  Insist on a similar written statement when returning the vehicle.


Check ahead with your Gold or Platinum credit card provider regarding their collision damage waiver protection if you charge the rental automobile on their credit card - the optional coverage offered by the rental car companies is exorbitant (averaging $9.00 - $20.00 daily!), often doubling your overall bill.  Assume nothing is covered and request clarification: does the credit card protection extend to the locale where you are renting the vehicle?  Some credit cards do not extend CDW outside the U.S.  Does the card provide coverage for all makes and models?  Are there a maximum number of days of protection?  Are you protected for other drivers of the vehicle?


Check beforehand: some rental car agencies impose drop-off fees if you turn the vehicle at a different city or location than your origination.  Even dropping off a vehicle at a ship terminal in the same city may trigger an add-on fee.  Check: Is there added fee for other approved drivers?




Don’t fall to the temptation of accepting the prepaid gas option.


Always fill the gas tank when returning a rental vehicle.  Do not choose an airport vicinity gas station for your refill - it will cost you dearly.  Insist that the rental company acknowledge in writing that you returned the automobile with a full tank!  Caution!  Unless you want to literally end up buying the car, DO NOT put regular or premium gas/petrol in a diesel engine vehicle!!!


Finally, request and review a copy of your automobile rental bill when returning the vehicle.  Do not be tempted by Express Return.  Scrutinize and debate add-on charges now rather than later!


It used to be that if you were financially strapped and/or frugal, and chose to rent a vehicle from Rent a Wreck, instead of checking the vehicle for pre-existing damage, you drew a circle around the “damage-free areas.”  No longer, Rent a Wreck has gone uptown, and now offers cleaner and newer “slightly used” vehicles.


While your automobile insurance policy may cover you for liability protection for a rental personal-pleasure automobile trips within the United States and Canada, do not assume that this extends to other nations - it does not.  Consult with your insurance agent for clarification.


SAVVY TRAVEL TIP:  If your flight is cancelled and you’re stuck staying overnight at your origination airport and won’t reach your destination on the planned date, do not forget to call and CANCEL your automobile reservation and rebook.  Many travelers are so upset, they forget their automobile rental cancellation responsibilities.  Otherwise, as a no-show, you may be stuck for an unpleasant billing with no actual automobile usage.  Be sure to demand a cancellation number. 


The demand for automobile rentals has diminished with the sour economy.  In an effort to recoup lost revenues, the automobile rental industry has borrowed a page from the airlines, and has instituted new add-on charges to the basic rental agreement.  The rental companies have also reduced their fleet sizes, thus creating artificial rationing and resultant increased rental fees.  Fewer automobiles means higher prices.


Roadside service, heretofore a given amenity, is now an optional feature.  The charge varies from $2.99 - $4.99 a day.  Would you pay AAA $1,825.00 a year for roadside assistance coverage?  If you tell the automobile rental agency that the add-on charge is outrageous and to lump it, hope that you do not have a flat tire, run out of gas, lose a key, jump start a battery, etc.  They will make good providing assistance only in the event that you problem was not of your doing such as a mechanical breakdown or not-at-fault accident.


Examine carefully the automobile rental company’s definition of available rental automobiles: “Compact, Standard, Luxury”.  “Compact” is usually a claustrophobic sardine box - an ankle-leg cruncher designed for one, possibly two dwarfs.  Trunk space for a briefcase or laptop (not both) and duffle bag.  The average (nationwide) for a seven day rental of a compact vehicle is $335.00 or $850.00 daily!  Resort areas are much higher.  “Standard” is only slightly larger, certainly problematic for a family traveling with multiple suitcases.


If you have considerable luggage or are taller than 5 feet, 2 inches, reach for your wallet and opt for a luxury automobile with a large trunk.


Auto rental comparisons?



Enterprise, Hertz, and Zipcar recently began offering hourly rates in some cities for short term rentals.  This makes sense if you only need a vehicle for a brief time.  Zip car requires a $50.00 annual membership fee and a one-time $25.00 application charge.  As an example, in Chicago, automobile rental companies charge $8.50 - $9.00 on an hourly basis.  The hourly rate, however, includes all gas, insurance and tolls.



During winter months, it is always wise to check with the applicable highway patrol for local road conditions, road construction delays, road closures, and snow tire or chain requirements.


Talk about electronic speed monitoring sophistication?  Forget about intersection photo light phobia when you enter on red.  Italy has mile-per-hour speed monitoring devices imbedded in their freeway pavements.  Unbeknownst to you, your speed has been recorded and you are arrested a few miles later for exceeding the limit!


If you tend to have a heavy pedal on the metal, you may find the following speed enforcement websites helpful:


The National Speedtrap Exchange:

Cop Spy:

Speed Trap Sharing System (use of cell phones): (map of speed traps)


Top Automobile Rental Agencies in Europe:


Auto Europe:

Sixt (Germany):

Dooley Car Rental (Ireland):