Courtesy of www.Kayak.com
Try an Aggregator
If you prefer not to use an opaque site, don’t bounce around from one company website to another; go to an aggregator site like Kayak or SideStep instead. Once you’re ready to book, these sites link you directly to the rental agency’s own website. Earlier this year, Kayak added a new option that allows travelers to search for hybrid vehicles.
Justin Kase zfourz / Alamy
Avoid Renting at the Airport (If You Can)
Airport locations are often required by law to add local and state surcharges. Neil Abrams, an industry consultant, estimates that airport fees can hike the cost of renting a car by 25 to 45 percent. To make sure you don’t pay more than you have to, Perkins advises reserving from a city center or suburban location. “Most airports try to capture fees from any rental office, even those running shuttles from airport terminals to nearby offices that are not directly on the premises,” he says.
Life File Photo Library Ltd / Alamy
Rent Locally When Abroad
Consider booking through a foreign rental company, like DanDooley (which specializes in Ireland) or TigerCarRental (37 countries, including many in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East). They may even offer a better deal or a broader selection.
Courtesy of www.expedia.co.uk
Search Foreign Sites for Lower Rates
When planning to rent abroad, also check out the international websites of U.S. companies, like Hertz’s Italian operation (hertz.it), or those of online travel agencies, such as Expedia’s British counterpart (expedia.co.uk), to see if their rates are lower than those offered at U.S.-based sites. Bear in mind, though, that some foreign websites may require customers to have a credit card billing address in the country where the sites operate. They may also charge nonresidents more for insurance.
Do Top Off the Tank
Be aware of more strictly enforced fuel policies. “Some companies are being very sticky about them,” Perkins says. “They will hit you with a top-off fee unless you show them a receipt from a service station near the rental office.” Pass on the option of returning the car with less than a full tank unless you want to pay a steep premium over gas-station prices.
Nick Hanna / Alamy
Watch Out for Conversion Fees
If you’re renting in another country, find out if you can choose between prepaying in U.S. dollars or paying in the local currency, and then compare the two rates. Remember that if you opt for the local currency rate and pay with a U.S. credit card, you may be charged a conversion fee.
Tetra Images / Alamy
Beware of Restrictions
Check insurance coverage and age requirements before reserving a car abroad. Some credit cards do not offer insurance for rentals in select countries—Jamaica and Italy, for example—while international rental-car companies sometimes impose restrictions on older drivers. Also, some options common in the United States, such as unlimited mileage, are not always available.
Ian Fraser / Alamy
Avoid Hidden Fees
Car-rental companies often impose various fees after an accident—for administrative services, towing, and storage. According to Loretta Worters, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute in New York City, you should check with your insurance company to see if your personal auto policy covers these fees; if it doesn’t, find out if you can add a rider to your policy for protection. If you can’t, Worters says, “look at all your options for buying coverage, whether it be a collision-damage waiver (which generally covers these fees) from your rental company, or additional insurance through your credit card.”
vario images GmbH & Co.KG / Alamy
Know Your Coverage
Your personal auto-insurance policy might cover liability and collision, and most homeowner’s policies cover the loss of personal effects from rented vehicles (make sure yours has an off-premises theft rider). Keep in mind, however, that whatever liability limits you have on your auto insurance will also apply to rentals, and that some personal policies don’t include collision coverage. Some credit cards, including most issued by American Express (the parent company of Travel + Leisure), provide secondary coverage that kicks in only after a renter’s primary insurance, such as a personal auto policy, has been exhausted. Frequent renters may want to consider a credit card that provides primary collision coverage, such as Diners Club and select Visa cards. The premium car-rental protection plan from American Express, priced at $19.95 per rental, gives cardholders one-time primary damage-and-theft coverage (up to $75,000), as well as coverage for accidental death and dismemberment, medical expenses, and loss of personal property. (If you pay $24.95 per rental, coverage increases to $100,000.)
Courtesy of www.aaany.com
Get an International ID
Although you don’t always need an international driving permit to rent a car abroad, it does provide a familiar and recognizable form of identification if you are stopped by the police. The permits are available for $15 from the American Automobile Association (AAA).