Before traveling, car rental research saves time, money

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, September 5, 2009

When I travel and require a rental car those eager agents at the rental counter offer up what seems to be a never ending list of optional insurance products.

I’m sure plenty travelers myself included ask themselves “What if any of these optional rental car insurance products do I really need?”

The rental car company a la carte pricing of $2.00 a day here and $12.00 a day there can really add to your bottom line. Add extra mandatory fees like a customer facility charge, concession fee, leased vehicle surcharge, gross receipts tax, leased vehicle gross receipt tax and you are cheaper off buying the car.

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My immediate response to the question of what coverage do you need is “Call your insurance carrier (agent) and ask them to tell you what you are covered for on a rental vehicle?” In five minutes or less your insurance agent can probably tell you everything you need to know about this issue.

Many of you will discover that your personal automobile policy covers you for a rental vehicle.

Be sure to get specific overages and amounts from your agent then make your decision on what insurance to purchase or waive at the rental car desk.

Be sure to ask if you are covered for “out of usage” fees. This fee is what the rental car company charges if their vehicle is damaged and not available to be rented. Also check to see if you are covered for incidental items like towing a wrecked car, storage or any administrative fees.

My personal car insurance covers everything so I decline all the rental insurance options on domestic rentals.

Traveling abroad is a whole different issue. Provide your agent and/or credit card company with specific destinations and they should advise accordingly.

As for me my insurer does not provide foreign coverage so I will purchase the rental car company’s insurance.

Today it is almost impossible to rent a vehicle without a credit card.

Check with your credit card company and see what if any coverage they provide when you pay with their card. Many card issuers include rental car insurance as part of agreement but be sure to have them forward their coverage terms and conditions in writing.

Speaking of credit cards you need to have “X” amount of available credit on the card.

Check with the car company to get the actual dollar amount of the hold they’ll place on your plastic.

Factor this amount into your vacation expenses and don’t be caught credit short. For example if you have credit card with a limit of $1250 and the car company “holds” $1000 you only have $250 of available credit remaining.

I’ve seen too many vacations start of poorly at the rental counter.

When you pick up your car please take the time to thoroughly walk around and inspect both the exterior and interior of the vehicle with the rental agent.

Have them identify and list any dents, scratches, imperfections, etc on the rental agreement. If there’re unwilling to do this then have the person that double checks your paperwork before you leave the lot do this. It could save you in the long run.

Another strategy is to also photo the car when you pick it up. Be sure that your camera’s date and time stamp are set to coincide with the time of your rental. This pre-rental evidence is great evidence if the car company wants to say that you are responsible for the damages.

A little pre-departure research before you depart on that great vacation should save you time, money and provide peace of mind.

Happy travels!