Do I have any tips about renting cars? Advance purchase is almost ALWAYS going to get you the best deal. Sometimes you can get a good deal with Hotwire.com or Priceline.com. I have had great and awful experiences with many companies. Remember, they are franchises for the most part. I generally rent cars after coming off a plane, so it is important for me to make sure the rental car company is on airport, if possible. From past observation at airports in the USA, I note Avis always seems to have the most available staff and/or the most frequent transportation to and from the car lots. Unless you are renting from Avis or Hertz, carefully check the state of the vehicle; ensure the company notes any imperfections on your paperwork or you may be charged for repairs after you return the car.
Before you drive out of the lot, make sure you know how to turn on the lights and windshield wipers and defrosters. If it is winter, check for an ice scraper. I don’t get the gasoline option as I like to keep a full tank, in case I get lost. I always double check to see that the license plate number on the contract matches the number on the plate. A coworker found herself pulled over by Nevada police for driving a car with stolen license plates. Fortunately, the rental car company had jotted a note on her contract with the matching plate number when the manager noticed her paperwork showed a different plate number. Otherwise, she may have landed in jail awaiting bail!
If I am renting a car in a foreign country, I get full insurance with the car. When you are not used to the location, you just might park in a place where you are inviting vandalism. And foreign countries may have insurance laws that can be confusing if you have partial insurance and need to invoke insurance coverage. Outside of North America, it is important to specify if you want a car with an automatic transmission; that costs more. If you don’t specify, you will be renting a car with a stick shift. Making the reservation before leaving home enables you to check all these details in English.
If you need to drive around a foreign city on the first day, try to schedule your travel so you can familiarize yourself with the roads before driving in rush hour traffic. Find out about the non-verbal road signs used in that country. Or you might drive around the airport forever looking for the rental car return because you don’t recognize the rental car return signs! It can greatly increase your comfort level if you get the road maps ahead of time to get a sense of how the country’s streets are set up. I always bring an international driver’s license too; they are easy and inexpensive to get if you are a AAA member.
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