Whether you’re renting a vehicle for work or taking a much-needed family vacation, rental cars are synonymous with additional fees and unexpected charges that can break a previously well-planned budget.
Why is renting a car from a supplier so pricey? Well, In the United States average car rental prices are rising, in part because of increased demand for internal travel and holiday-making during the pandemic.
For instance, IBIS, a leading hotel chain, reports the car rental industry has grown by 27.2% in the US market in 2021. But this only tells half of the story. Skyrocketing prices are impacting professionals and families out on the open road every single day.
How to Keep on Top of Expenses When Renting a Car — Tips and Tricks
- Keeping control of fuel expenditure (and check the fuel policy)
- Understanding car rental charges (and how to avoid them)
- Booking early to get the most value for money
Staying on top of expenses when renting a car can prove tough, but certainly not impossible. Here’s what every budget savvy mom needs to know to get the most value for the money when renting a car for work or leisure.
Keep control of fuel expenditures (and check the fuel policy)
Fuel is expensive in the#fuel best of times, but depending on your rental company policy, the cost could turn out to be much more than expected. As a mom who is always number-crunching, I make sure to check the fuel policy — this can prove to be a big-budget saver, especially if the company in question expects full to full.
Full to full is a common policy requiring you to fill the tank with gas before returning it. If it has less fuel than when you departed, your chosen rental company will likely charge you to top it back up, which tends to be at a much higher rate than your average pump.
That said, refilling the tank before returning your vehicle only spares you from penalty charges and does not take into account the cost of fuel as your drive. With this in mind, there are plenty of other ways to keep control of fuel expenditures when renting a car.
If you’re travelling for work, for instance, you can request a fuel card that charges your company directly, thereby avoiding the need to pay out of pocket. And if you’re travelling for leisure (or with the family), handy tools like GasBuddy or Waze help identify the most affordable nearby gas stations
Understand car rental charges (and how to avoid them)
Gas isn’t the only added charge you can expect when renting a car, particularly if you’re swayed by a sea of optional extras. To save on convenience fees and any other additional costs, you should familiarize yourself with the different charges, and know how to avoid them.
For example, rental companies will likely offer you an insurance package that comes in addition to any coverage the car might automatically have. This can be expensive, so always check with staff to see whether you are being charged extra before agreeing to anything. Also, check with your own insurance company to see if they cover you (and the car) when you drive a rental.
When you return the car, rental companies inspect it for damage — dents, scratches, interior faults — that haven’t, to their knowledge, appeared before. And while you likely can’t dispute damage that was your fault, you can dispute damage you weren’t aware of causing. To avoid taking the blame, take pictures (with a timestamp) of existing damage before taking the car. This way you have evidence in case you need to disprove a false claim.
On top of these bigger charges, there are lots of optional extras that tend to add up, such as:
- Extra days
- Admin and processing fees
- Additional drivers
When travelling with your children, we also recommend bringing your own booster seats and entertainment. This is because rental companies are happy to include these family necessities as upgrades, but at great expense to your budget.
Book early to get the most value for money
As with train tickets, plane seats, and most other forms of transportion, there is one sure way to get the best value when renting a car: plan ahead, and book well in advance. This is particularly true for national holidays and peak travel times like summer holidays.
While there is no guarantee that booking early will guarantee you a bargain dream car, it does mean you’re more likely to check off all your requirements without much trouble. If you wait, however, there’s a good chance you’ll be left with a car that’s less than perfect for you at a premium price, given it’ll be one of the last vehicles out the door.
Although rental cars are synonymous with expensive hidden charges, that does not mean you need to pay for everything the rental company is selling. From controlling fuel expenditures and avoiding additional upgrades, to booking early — this is how to get the most value for the money, and keep on top of expenses when renting a car.