Don’t Make These Common Car Rental Mistakes

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Happy new car owner
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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.

When renting a car, you might think that getting into an accident is the only thing that could cost you money.

But while accidents are sometimes unavoidable, there are other mistakes that can cost you money when driving a rental car.

They include failing to take pictures of your car before and after your rental term, failing to plan for an extra driver and failing to understand the economics of rental cars.

When a picture’s worth a thousand dollars

Young Man Taking a Picture of His Car
XiXinXing /

“Always take pictures of all sides of the cars and inside the car to document any damage before pickup and after drop-off,” says Michael Stalf, managing director of Myonecar, a German car rental company.

Why take vacation photos of your car? Because your rental car company probably won’t. If it finds damage to your vehicle, it will hold you liable.

By the way, if you find a ding, dent or scratch on your car when you pick it up, make sure it’s documented in your paperwork. Or better yet, ask for a different vehicle.

Additional driver, additional fees

Happy couple driving in their car
Dusan Petkovic /

Renters also tend to forget that car rental companies charge hefty fees for additional drivers.

For example, Hertz ​​charges $13.50 per day, a maximum of $189 per rental, for each additional driver. Julie Demaret, a director at the car rental firm Rhinocarhire, says you need to think about the extra driver before you rent.

“If you want to share the driving, try to find an offer with a free additional driver,” she says. “It’s always cheaper to book beforehand than on arrival.”

Find cheaper rental coverage online

Couple shopping online
David Herraez Calzada /

And look out for upsells. For example, insurance can add $20 or more per day to the cost of your rental.

But you can get car rental coverage for about half that from a traditional travel insurance company. Allianz Travel Insurance has a product called Rental Car Damage Protector for $11 a day.

Ways to find a vehicle when cars aren’t available

Couple with a credit card
Prostock-studio /

Make sure you understand the tricks of the trade, too. Car rental companies get busy during the summer.

Nicole Gustas, a frequent traveler from Boston, couldn’t find a rental car in Los Angeles recently, so she used a strategy that became popular last summer: She rented a U-Haul truck for two days.

Then she found an SUV through Enterprise at a remote, off-airport location.

“We wanted an economy car,” says Gustas, a marketing director for an insurance company. “But beggars can’t be choosers.”

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