Car rental tips

Renting a car is something most of us take for granted and enjoy as part of a vacation which enables spontaneity and variety while exploring.  However, be sure to know the ins and outs!


1.  Credit card insurance: Many of us have credit cards which include a Collision Damage Waiver insurance coverage. This only covers damage to or loss thereof of the rented vehicle. It does not include third party liability – if you hurt or damage someone else or their vehicle. There is usually a maximum amount liability as well so if you rent a fancy sports car or specialty vehicle, your credit card insurance may be null and void. Be sure to read the policy. Most can be found online.

2.  There are countries where it is mandatory to take the rental company’s insurance coverage. Ireland, New Zealand and Costa Rica are examples. Many credit card companies also will not cover the CDW in certain overseas countries, so again, be sure to check prior to departure. Call to verify as well for the most up to date information.

3.  If you do choose to utilize your credit card insurance coverage, be aware that many car rental companies will pre-authorize your credit card an applicable “damage deposit”. This can be upwards of $2500-$5000 depending on where you are renting. This will impact your credit limit while travelling so ideally you have more than one credit card to rely on!

4.  Any and all tolls, speeding tickets or traffic violations will be charged against the credit card on file even after the rental period is over. I had the unpleasant surprise of a $200 speeding ticket from photo radar in Calgary a couple months ago. The speeding ticket of $175 was charged to Alamo who in turn then charged my credit card along with a $25 “administration fee”!

5.  When you rent a car you are given a guaranteed “category”,  not necessarily a specific model. The car company is well within its rights to substitute the category for a similar and/or upgraded model.

6.  Car rental periods are based on 24-hour periods. If you pick up a car at 10 AM then you are required to return said vehicle no later than 10 AM on the drop off date. I always recommend that my clients add on an extra day’s rental if they think they will be dropping the vehicle off late in the day. The extra day rental is consistently less expensive than the extra “hour” charges which the rental companies charge. For instance if your flight is leaving at 10 AM on Saturday, you can keep your vehicle until late in the day on Friday, drop it at the airport early and then just take the shuttle in the morning from the airport hotel! No stress and more efficient and economical!

7.  Always check the vehicle for scratches, etc. and take pictures with your phone of any existing marks prior to driving away from the depot. Be aware that selling car rental insurance is where the clerks make the most commission. They can and will use scare tactics to “encourage” that you take their coverage. As long as you are well-versed in what your personal insurance covers you can usually handle this hard-sell approach with a firm and definite “NO THANK YOU”. It's always a good idea to travel with a copy of your rental car insurance policy as some countries, like Mexico, will only allow you to waive insurance coverage if you have written proof that you have coverage.

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About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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