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Car Rental Fees

Anatomy of a Rip-off
Basic rates have remained stable in the last few years, with leisure demand making up for the falloff in business travel. Our staffer's total so far for a three-day rental: $89.94

Local governments love to tax visitors. Why?Because they don't vote in municipal elections. Since 1994, car-rental taxes have gone up 161 percent in Honolulu and 382 percent in Boston. $166.06

A negotiated corporate discount reduces the basic rate by 10 percent. $80.95

Such taxes frequently fund local projects, such as sports arenas; the 3 percent Expo tax is underwriting Milwaukee County's new convention center. $170.65

Most rental firms now recoup the fees they pay the airport by passing them along to the customer. (Milwaukee's recently went down to 8.6 percent from 11.11 percent.) So much for that corporate discount. $89.94

Bring back the car with less than a full tank and the rental firm charges you excessive rates to top it off—in this case, nearly $40 for half a tank. Tip: As you drive out of the airport, look for a place to fill up when you return. $210.63

The "loss damage waiver" protects the customer from liability for damage to the car. Before you rent, find out whether your own auto insurance or credit card already covers you. A 2002 study found that nearly one in four renters bought damage waivers because they didn't know if they already had coverage. $152.91

More optional insurance, coveringpersonal accident medical costs (PAI), personal effects in the car (PEP), and additional liability from an accident (ALI). Again, your medical, homeowner's, or auto insurance might render these unnecessary. GRAND TOTAL: $267.33

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