1. Browse Online
The World Wide Web is a great resource to get the “lay of the land” on who's offering what car and for what price. I tend to stick with rentals from the larger companies because of the flexibility in selection and streamlined process. Not to say you can't find a good deal with a smaller company, it's just my preference. Here are few deals from some of the big companies:
2. See a Rate Online? Call Them
Pick up the phone and ask the representative if they can beat the online price you're looking at. In addition, ask them about special promotional codes or discount programs they are offering.
3. Book Direct
Not to offend the aggregator websites or the packagers, I just like as few middle-men as possible. This especially comes into play should anything go wrong with your reservation.
Get your confirmation emailed to you. Print it out and bring it with you. Also, let them know if any drivers also need to be registered as well. They will have to be there when you pick up the vehicle.
5. At The Counter
Have your confirmation email page handy. Choose the “I'll fill my own tank” option. Some places will allow you to bring it back empty (usually for an additional fee), but I fill it up before I bring it back.
Get only the insurance you need. Be sure to check with your auto insurance agent before your trip to find out what coverage you may already have. Also ask about your auto rates if you get into an accident. In addition, check whether or not auto insurance is offered with any of your credit cards. If so, it's probably only good if you use that card.
7. Yes, Look At It
Take a good look at the car (with a rep handy if possible) and look for scrapes, dents or other body issues that may come up when you return it. It's worth looking into before so it doesn't pose a potential problem later. Before you get in, secure your luggage and make sure both the trunk and the hood are closed properly. You don't want a little “unlatched hood surprise” when you're zipping down the interstate.
8. Lots of Switches and Buttons!
Before you leave the lot, get an idea of how to operate some key switches and controls. These are the functions you take for granted in your own vehicle but are most likely a little bit different in your temporary means of transport. Check for the lights, windshield wipers, rear-view mirrors, defrost, horn and cruise control just to name a few.
9. Road Side or Anyside
If any issues come up, call the rental car agency immediately. Don't wait. I also bring my GPS with me (or rent one from them).
10. Return On Time
Car rental agencies LOVE to penalize you because of your poor planning or execution of your plan. Gas it up and return on time or perhaps face another day's rental.
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. This blog is a reflection of my mission. I travel (on average) 30 weeks per year hosting and producing a television series for PBS. In addition, I host a weekly radio show and produce original travel videos for online distribution. I am very fortunate for these opportunities and it is my hope you will join me on my travels!