At any given time, tourists, business travelers, and many others will drive rental cars across the globe. Surely, a car rental service is a convenient way of getting around. However, costs associated with renting an automobile can often be a complicated web of confusion.

There are insurance add-ons that you’ll likely don’t need but end up paying extra. There are airport surcharges or additional accessories that add up to the fees charged to you. Also, renting a car is similar to buying one: you have to deal with the hard sell agents are going to offer. Although car rental seems to be the practical solution to provide comfort and convenience, you don’t have to pay more to enjoy such benefits.

Steering wheel of a BMW sedan.
The steering wheel of a BMW sedan. Credit: Toby_Parsons/Pixabay

Hence, we’re listing the common mistakes car rental customers make so you don’t have to go the same route.

Table of Contents

Signing up for unnecessary insurance coverage

If you have your own car insurance policy, it might also cover personal liability on car rentals. Also, some credit cards offer some sort of coverage to attract you into using them. Therefore, you could end up paying for extra insurance coverage you already have. Check your car insurance policy wording, and if you plan to use your credit card, review the benefits as well. This could save you extra dollars you could spend on gas or parking.

Paying for extra convenience

Some car rental companies are notorious for padding up costs just like low-fare airlines charge for seat selection, extra luggage, and food. You’ll get pitched for prepaid gas which likely charges you for fuel you won’t exhaust during your lease. You could be charged for “no show” fee if you cancel your car lease less than the required notice period.

Other fees may include extra stuff like a child seat, GPS navigation, toll transponder, and satellite radio, all of which are charged daily. It’s a mistake if you end up paying without really needing them, so make sure you review the charges before you sign off.

Renting in the airport

One of the lesser known hidden fees involved in car rental is that when it’s done in the airport. This fee appears in different names: airport surcharge, premium location surcharge, parking fees, and so on. You get the idea.

Choosing a car rental service away from the airport saves you this extra fee. Let’s understand that operating the business from an airport stall is more expensive than in another less prominent place. This also explains why airport restaurant branches often serve more expensive menus than their counterparts elsewhere.

Not checking for hidden fees

Many car rental companies have hidden fees that can add up quickly. Be sure to read the fine print and ask about any additional charges.

Choosing the wrong car

Choosing the wrong car to lease from a car rental can lead to a number of disadvantages, such as higher costs, poor fuel efficiency, issues with passenger capacity, and a lack of features or amenities that you need or want. It can also result in a less comfortable or enjoyable driving experience, which can be particularly frustrating if you are using the car for a long period of time. Make sure to choose a car that fits your needs and budget.

Not inspecting the car before driving off

There are a lot of disadvantages to not inspecting your car before you drive off, including being held responsible for pre-existing damage, being charged for damages you didn’t cause, and facing legal trouble if you didn’t know there were safety issues with the car. Especially if there are mechanical issues or other problems with the car that could have been detected before driving off, it can make driving less enjoyable.

Not understanding the rental agreement

There are a lot of disadvantages to not understanding the rental agreement, like unexpected charges, penalties, and fees, and a lack of clarity about insurance coverage, fuel policies, and other details. Renter and rental company disputes over the terms of the agreement can also lead to legal issues.

Not filling up the gas tank

When you don’t fill up the gas tank, you can end up getting charged extra fees or penalties by the rental company, as well as inconvenience and safety risks if the car runs out of gas while you’re driving. In addition, not having a full tank of gas can ruin the rental experience for the next renter.

Not checking for discounts or promotions

Many rental car companies offer discounts and promotions for certain groups, such as military personnel or students. Make sure to check for any available discounts before booking your rental car.

Not confirming your reservation

The rental company might not have a car waiting for you when you arrive if you have a tight schedule or need to be somewhere at a certain time if you don’t confirm your reservation. Your reservation can also be changed without your knowledge, which can result in unexpected fees.

Renting from an unverified rental car company

You might get scammed or ripped off if you rent from an unverified rental car company, and you might get bad service or vehicles, and you might put your safety at risk if the company isn’t licensed or insured. A good rental experience starts with doing your research and choosing a reputable company.

Not returning the rental car on time

Returning the rental car late can result in additional fees or charges. Make sure to return the car on time or arrange for an extension if needed.

Not knowing the pick-up and drop-off procedures

You can get delayed or miss your flight or other transportation if you don’t know the pick-up and drop-off procedures, you might get charged extra, and you might get stressed or anxious if you don’t know where to go. Ensure a smooth rental experience by familiarizing yourself with the company’s policies and procedures.

Not asking about roadside assistance

If you don’t ask about roadside assistance, you might be stranded on the side of the road in the event of a breakdown or accident, which can be dangerous if you’re traveling alone or in an unfamiliar location. Also, you might have to pay for towing or other services out of pocket.

Not checking for rental car recalls

Not checking rental car recalls can lead to a number of problems, such as driving a car with potentially dangerous defects, which could put your safety at risk and cause accidents. Before renting a car, make sure to check for recalls to make sure you’re driving something safe.

Not checking the rental car’s condition before leaving

Check the rental car’s condition before leaving the rental car facility. This includes the brakes, headlights, and taillights.

Failure to understand the rental car’s transmission

If you are not familiar with the transmission of the rental car, ask for a demonstration before driving off. This will help avoid potential accidents or confusion.

Not using GPS or maps

You could get lost or take longer routes if you don’t use GPS or maps when renting a car, which could cause extra expenses, stress, and delays. Unfamiliar roads and conditions can also cause safety concerns.

Not checking the rental car’s tire pressure

When you don’t check your rental car’s tire pressure, you’ll waste fuel, have poor handling and performance, be more likely to cause accidents or blowouts, and potentially damage the car. For safe and efficient driving, you need to check your tire pressure regularly.

Not booking the rental car with the correct pickup and drop-off times

Make sure to book the rental car with the correct pickup and drop-off times. This will help avoid confusion and additional fees.

Not asking about child safety seats

If you plan to travel with children, make sure to ask for a child safety seat. Some rental car companies may charge an additional fee for this service.

Not inspecting the rental car at the end of the rental period

Inspect the rental car at the end of the rental period to ensure there is no new damage or issues. This will help avoid any disputes or additional charges.

Not understanding the fuel policy

Make sure to understand the fuel policy of the rental car company. This can include returning the car with a full tank or paying a fee for the rental company to refill the tank.

Failure to understand the insurance policy

Renting a car without understanding its insurance policy can lead to unexpected fees, inadequate coverage in case of an accident or theft, and potentially having to pay for damages out of pocket. To make sure you’re fully covered during the rental period, it’s important to read and understand the insurance policy.

Not inspecting the rental car for pre-existing damage

Inspect the rental car for any pre-existing damage before leaving the rental car facility. This includes dents, scratches, and other visible damage.

Not knowing the local driving laws

When renting a car, not knowing the local driving laws can lead to a number of problems, such as getting pulled over or ticketed for violating traffic laws, which can get you fines and other penalties. Not knowing the local driving customs and road conditions can also be dangerous.

Not using the rental car company’s loyalty program

If you frequently rent from a certain rental car company, consider joining their loyalty program. This can result in discounts, rewards, and other benefits.

Not booking the rental car in advance

Booking a rental car in advance can lead to a number of disadvantages, like limited availability, higher prices, and potentially having to settle for a vehicle that doesn’t fit your needs. In addition, it can be stressful and annoying, especially if you’re going to a new place and need a car.

Not understanding the age requirements

You may be turned away at the rental counter if you don’t meet the age requirement, or you may have to pay additional fees if you’re a young driver if you don’t understand the age requirements. If you’re not an experienced driver or don’t meet the legal requirements for driving in a particular area, it can also cause safety issues.

Failure to check for tolls

Renting a car without checking for tolls has a number of disadvantages, like unexpected fees and penalties for toll violations, and potentially damaging your credit score if the rental company sends the charges to a collection agency. If you’re traveling in an area with a lot of toll roads or bridges, it can result in unnecessary stress and inconvenience.

Not checking for hidden fees

Make sure to read the rental agreement carefully and check for any hidden fees or charges. This can include fees for additional drivers, GPS, and other services.

Not inspecting the rental car for insects or pests

Check the rental car for any insects or pests before leaving the rental car facility. This can include bed bugs, fleas, and other pests that can affect your health and safety.

Returning the car beyond the intended time

Returning the car late can result in additional charges. Make sure to return the car on time or arrange for an extension if needed.

Not checking for toll fees

Some rental cars have electronic toll passes, which can result in additional charges. Make sure to ask about toll fees and how to pay them.

Not buying car insurance

Renting a car without car insurance can lead to a number of problems, such as being held responsible for any damages or accidents, which can result in expensive repairs and legal issues. If you’re in an unfamiliar area or driving a car you’re not used to, it can also cause stress and anxiety.

Not knowing the local road regulations

When you don’t know the local road rules, you could get pulled over or ticketed, resulting in fines and other penalties. In addition, if you’re not familiar with the road conditions and local driving customs, it can be dangerous.

Overestimating the distance you will drive

Overestimating the distance you’ll drive when renting a car can lead to a number of problems, such as paying more for rental fees, insurance, and fuel than you need, and possibly incurring additional fees for exceeding mileage limits. To avoid unnecessary fees and expenses, estimate the distance you’ll drive accurately.

Failure to consider additional drivers

If you don’t think about additional drivers when you rent a car, you might not be covered by insurance if you have an unauthorized driver behind the wheel, you might get charged more for adding drivers later, and you might not be safe if you’re driving with an unqualified driver. Adding all potential drivers to the rental agreement ensures proper insurance coverage and safety.

Not checking the rental car for cleanliness

Before accepting the rental car, make sure it is clean and free of debris. If the car is dirty, ask the rental company to clean it before you drive off.

Not familiarizing yourself with the rental car features

You can get a number of disadvantages if you don’t know the rental car features, like not being able to make use of important safety features, getting into accidents or damaging the car, and being charged for damage you could have avoided if you used the features right. Ensure a hassle-free and safe rental experience by understanding the rental car’s features before driving it.


Not checking the rental car’s trunk size

If you don’t check the trunk size of your rental car, you might not be able to fit all of your luggage or equipment, which can be especially frustrating if you’re traveling with a group or for an extended period of time. Having to rent a bigger car or pay extra baggage fees on flights can also result in additional costs.

Not returning the rental car to the correct location

Make sure to double-check the rental agreement for the drop-off location. Returning the car to the wrong location can result in additional charges.

Failure to compare rental car services

Car rental companies offer a variety of offers and selecting one that matters to your needs saves you not only from paying extra but also from the hassles and inconveniences service providers impose once you resist their offers. Use comparison websites such as CarRentalSavers.com and AutoSlash.com to both compare various services and also shop for coupons. AutoSlash also features tracking of rental rates and rebooks for you once the rate drops.

Failure to review special clauses

We understand reading the fine print commonly observed in insurance policies and rental agreements can be an excruciating experience. But such a reaction from customers allows companies to hide certain clauses that often catch unsuspecting clients. For example, while many rental companies offer unlimited miles during the rental period, others set a specific cap in daily mileage. Those who exceed this limit are subject to flat-fee penalties or determined by how much they exceed the preset limit.

Failure to check the return of the car

Timing of daily car rental lease is often on a 24-hour period but it’s best to check with your provider the cut-off time. Failure to comply with this could mean late return fees or an extra day’s worth of rent. Other providers are more considerate and give you a half-hour grace period. Therefore, it’s best that you verify — checking both the terms of the contract and a verbal confirmation from staff — before heading off.


Failure to make a thorough inspection

You need to inspect your rental car in a thorough manner before you drive away. Little dents and scratches outside or spills and stains inside that you did not cause might be charged to you. “If you see any wear, damage, or defect during the inspection, make sure you immediately make the company aware – or you might end up paying for it,” says Angie Hicks, founder of AngiesList.com. Test the vehicle and if you find something that’s not right, voice it out.

Unable to take advantage of long-term offers

Some car rental services reward customers for long-term commitment so check if the rate is uniform or if savings are offered for longer leases. It could turn out that the price for your 3-day lease is almost the same as a weekly term. While this is not a mistake if you just need to use your car for a specified period. But a longer keep could make your trip more worthwhile with more flexibility without spending extra on your car rental.

Conclusion

By renting a car instead of taking public transport, you are already conceding to spending more on travel costs. Committing these common mistakes on car leases further inflates your expenses. Avoid doing so by reviewing the list above. Have a safe rental car driving and a pleasant holiday!