How to Rent a Car (Without Having an Aneurysm)

In this tutorial, we’ll teach you how to rent a car without having an aneurysm. It might seem like the least stressful way when it comes to renting cars but there is still some work that needs to be done in order for your stress levels not rocketing sky high.

The “weekly car rentals under $100” is a way to save money on your next rental. The best part about this option is that it doesn’t require you to have a credit card.

Vintage illustration hertz rent a car kiosk train station.

At first, renting an automobile may seem to be an easy operation. Fill input your details on a rental vehicle website and click “Reserve.” However, things may get difficult once you arrive at the rental car counter and begin filling out the paperwork to pick up your vehicle. You’re not sure what to say yes to and what to say no to when the counter agent offers you a variety of alternatives and extras. Often, you’ll leave disappointed that you signed up for too much or concerned that you won’t be adequately protected if anything goes wrong. And there may be fees and penalties put on to your final bill that you weren’t expecting. To help you understand what you’re getting yourself into and minimize unnecessary worry, we’ve put up a list of helpful hints for making the automobile rental experience as painless as possible.

Beginning with the Fundamentals

Vintage illustration red car on airport tarmac.

Stick with well-known, reliable firms. When looking for a rental automobile, you’ll almost always come across the same seven or ten firms. There are smaller costumes available, but these are the ones you go with. Almost all of them provide reliable services. For additional information on the various levels of customer service each firm provides, see Zagat’s 2012 study, and in general, choose one of these well-known brands:

  • Advantage
  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • Enterprise
  • Hertz 
  • National

Each company/state is unique. The first thing to understand is that each state and company has its own set of rules and regulations. Many of the suggestions stated below aren’t universally applicable. To acquire the information, you’ll need to phone around and do some research, so keep that in mind straight away.

It is important to be of a certain age. First and foremost, rental automobiles have age restrictions. If you’re 16 and recently obtained your driver’s license, you’ll have to do a cross-country road trip in your own beat-up car. It varies by state and automobile rental business, but in general, you must be 21 years old to hire a car. However, if you’re between the ages of 21 and 24, expect to pay a lot more. Automobile manufacturers rely on data, and people in that age bracket are more likely to be involved in accidents. When you reach the age of 25, you are entitled for the same regular rates as everyone else. This also applies at the opposite end of the spectrum; rental firms will either raise fees or refuse to rent to those beyond the age of 70 or 75.

Reservations for the Rental

Take a look around. Rates change on a daily basis. You’ll want to go shopping for combos. That is, you should go online and look through travel aggregator sites like as Orbit, Travelocity, Expedia, and others. However, you should also visit the websites of automobile rental companies directly. They may feature bargains and coupons that aren’t listed on the major travel websites. Bonus: We learned that one of the secret recommendations was to phone the rental business and haggle. You may haggle on the price of your rental automobile by bringing up alternative deals you’ve discovered online. Use the internet to compare prices, but keep in mind that the greatest offer may be found over the phone.


Quotes should not be taken at face value. Another motivation to pick up the phone is this. When you obtain an online quotation, you could merely be receiving an estimate for the basic daily fee multiplied by the number of days you’ll be staying. It may not include all of the fees and taxes associated with renting a vehicle, which are many. You’re probably just seeing a small portion of the overall cost, so pick up the phone and ask for further information.

Take advantage of exclusive offers. If you’re a member of AAA, AARP, or one of the rental companies’ loyalty programs, you’ll save money. You may also inquire about any additional affiliations that a rental firm could have. You may be able to get a better deal on a hotel or plane ticket.

Vintage car automobile rental ad advertisement Avis.

Make reservations for a smaller vehicle. First and foremost, you save money on gas. You may be concerned about power and performance, but in the Rocky Mountains, my 4-cylinder automobile performs well. Compact is typically fine unless you have a special need for anything larger. These days, “economy” (smaller) automobiles are a lot larger than they were ten years ago. This is also a smart idea since, because they’re the most popular, rental agencies will often run out of them. If that’s the case, you’ll very certainly be given a free upgrade to a mid-size vehicle. The only drawback is that if you truly wanted a smaller vehicle with good fuel economy, you’re out of luck right now. The only choice would be to attempt to bargain for a lower price based on the lost gasoline savings. You can upgrade if you purchase your cheap automobile and find you need something larger later. First, see what you got, and then determine whether or not it will work for you.

Consider where you’ll be picked up and dropped off. This isn’t always the case, but having separate pick-up and drop-off sites (like with a one-way road trip) will almost always be more costly. When everything is said and done, it might be a higher daily charge or simply an additional fee. Make a note of it in your budget. It’s also virtually usually the case that rates at airports are higher than rates in the cities around the airport. If you’re prepared to forego some convenience in order to save money, consider riding the bus to one of those outside sites and doing some numbers to determine which option provides the most value.

Know when your desk is open. If you’re travelling and need a vehicle, keep in mind that many airport car rental offices aren’t open 24 hours a day. Major airports will almost certainly shut at midnight. It might be much early at smaller airports. The majority of them open at 6 a.m. Be aware of the hours and make plans appropriately. Have contingencies in place in case you are delayed. Some businesses may work around delays and even pick up after hours, so contact ahead if you know this is the case. The same is true when returning the automobile. Because many big corporations provide after-hours drop-off, this scenario is often simpler. You put the keys, the final odometer reading, and your signature in an envelope and drop it off at the parking lot.


Getting in the Car

Vintage hertz car rental ad advertisement.

Make sure you read all of the tiny print! Examine the rental agreement line by line to ensure you understand what you’re agreeing to. If you have any queries concerning the agreement, don’t hesitate to inquire. When you get into an accident and have to pay your own medical expenses, ignorance will not be an acceptable excuse.

The “extras” should be avoided. GPS, satellite radio, child car seats, and other amenities will be available for an additional fee each day. Most of these expenses may be avoided if you prepare beforehand. Fuel costs and insurance are also on the list, but we’ll go over these in more detail later.

What is the Situation with Insurance? 

This is likely the most important question that arises when renting an automobile. Desk agents who are attempting to up-sell you will often terrify customers into purchasing insurance. This might be anything from 25 to 40% of the total rental cost. You should have collision-and-damage waiver (CDW) insurance at the absolute least. This isn’t a lie from the agency. This covers car damage as well as, in many cases, liability. What the agent won’t tell you is that your own vehicle insurance, or even your credit card, will cover it. That’s right, you read it accurately. If you pay for your rental using an American Express, MasterCard, or Visa credit card, you will be covered by the company’s CDW insurance.

To be sure you’re covered, contact your insurance agent or credit card provider and inquire about rental insurance. Make sure to inquire about “loss of use” coverage as well. For the loss of revenue while the rental automobile is being repaired, many rental firms may charge up to $100 per day. You don’t want to be covered for the actual repair only to get stung by the loss of usage cost.

It should be emphasized that standard CDW insurance does not cover bodily injury or property damage. This is why it’s critical to understand the details of your personal vehicle insurance and what it covers. If you don’t have your own vehicle insurance and refuse the rental insurance, you’ll be responsible for the whole cost of the car/repair if you get into an accident.

Extra drivers mean more money. If you’re the only person specified on a rental agreement, you must be the driver of the car at all times until it’s returned. If you had an accident when your wife was driving without being on the agreement, you will be held liable. Adding other drivers costs a bit more, but it’s worth it if you’re not sure you’ll be driving the whole time.

Is it better to pay by debit or credit card? Booking and paying for your rental using a credit card is generally the best option. Even if you end up paying using debit, many firms will demand a credit card to reserve the reservation. Another disadvantage of debit is that the corporation places a $500 hold on your cash. The money will be repaid, however it might take up to two weeks. That’s a substantial sum of money to be denied access to. There is still a hold with credit, but it is just for the cost of your reservation, and it isn’t really transacted until you return the vehicle. Because your credit card provider may also pay your insurance, all experts agree that if you can, use credit to hire a vehicle.


Examine the area for any damage. Before you even get in the automobile, make a note of any damage. Anything from scuffs to tiny blemishes. Nothing is too insignificant to be noted. You may even use your phone to capture photos for irrefutable proof. You don’t want to wind up paying for something that was already there (even if it was covered by insurance).

Vintage Avis rental car ad advertisement.

First and foremost, learn the Avis Winker Code. Bonus tip #2: If you don’t have a time machine, don’t utilize the Avis Winker Code.

Out on the Highway

Limits should be avoided at all costs. Tell the rental provider whether you want to take your vehicle into Canada or Mexico. To cross the border, specific authorization and insurance are required. This is a must since your own U.S. insurance will not be valid. Also keep in mind that some rental agreements may have state restrictions. If your agreement prohibits you from crossing state boundaries, you may face additional costs. By reading the tiny print, you may avoid this headache.

You will have to pay tolls. If at all possible, avoid toll roads. Many of them nowadays are just video tolls. If you don’t have a pass and drive through one, you’ll either receive a bill in the mail or have to pay online. When renting a vehicle, however, the bill is sent to the rental firm, which, of course, adds a hefty handling charge. So, if you can, stay away, or be prepared to pay up to $10 each toll in advance.

Daily mileage limitations vs. unlimited mileage You’ll have unlimited daily miles with most economy and mid-size automobiles, but you’ll be responsible for the petrol. However, daily limits apply to certain SUVs and high-performance vehicles. You will be charged per mile if you exceed your daily mileage allowance.

Taking care of breakdowns and mishaps. Rental automobiles are repaired on a regular basis, however unexpected events do occur. You can find yourself stranded on the side of the road, unsure of what to do. The majority of large rental firms have their own emergency help and maintenance services. Because this differs each firm, make sure to inquire when you’re out shopping. One thing is certain: every rental business will have a policy in place for breakdowns, running out of petrol, accidents, and other unforeseen circumstances. You’ll have all the confidence you need in the event of an emergency if you read the agreement thoroughly and ask questions. If there are any injuries, call 911 immediately. It’s also a good idea to have AAA and their roadside assistance services in case anything goes wrong and the rental company is unable to help.

Leaving the Vehicle

Always give oneself a boost. You must either return your rental vehicle with a full tank or the rental car company will fill it up for you when you return it. If you pick the latter, you’ll be charged considerably over market pricing for the difference (up to $9/gallon in certain cases). You may now pay for your last fill-up in advance. It’s ostensibly more convenient, yet it’s nearly always more expensive than the market rate. As a result, you should always fill up your own tank. Each business has its own policy on how full the tank must be, but if at all possible, fill it up within a few miles of your drop-off. Keep in mind that the gas station near to the rental lot will almost certainly have higher costs, sometimes up to $1 per gallon. To locate the cheapest gas in your neighborhood, use an app like GasBuddy.


Always arrive on time. Your rental agreement will provide a drop-off date and time when you get your rental. You may be charged for an additional day if you are just 5 minutes late. Check with the firm to see whether they give a 30-minute grace period, but don’t take risks. It’s possible that there may be a cost if you return your vehicle early. Always double-check with the rental agency.

Gather your items with care. It’s all too easy to forget about anything you stowed in a door pocket or tucked beneath or between seats. Before stepping out of the car, do a thorough inspection of both the front and rear seats to verify you haven’t forgotten anything.

When renting a vehicle, a little more time and effort may save you hundreds of dollars and a lot of stress. Don’t be taken off guard, and you’ll avoid a headache-inducing automobile rental experience.

What are your rental vehicle success tips and tricks? 

Thank you to Emmanuel Egolum for taking the time to answer questions for this article!



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