Car Rental Fees You Can Avoid

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Renting a car can be costly, but you can trim your bill by avoiding these extra fees.

When renting a rental car, there are some fees you can’t avoid. City and county taxes are often automatically added in to your cost. And if you’re under a certain age, you may need to pay extra. But there are a number of costs you can cut off your bill. Here are some of the top added fees you can avoid with your next rental car.

Convenience fees.

You’ll be pitched a number of items offered for your convenience—all for a fee, of course. These include:

  • Airport fee. Often, picking up your rental car at the airport will cost you as rental companies must pay a concession to the airport. Find a car rental company that operates just outside the airport. Many of these companies offer free shuttle rides to their location. (If your rental company does not, compare the cost of transportation to their site with the fee of a company located at the airport.)
  • Fuel charge. When you’re rushing to get to the airport, having the gas tank topped off by the rental company may indeed seem like a convenience. But it comes with a hefty refueling charge. Instead, stop at a gas station near your drop-off location.
  • Frequent Flier Fees. Many rental companies charge a daily processing fee to consumers who request frequent flier credit for their rental. You can view these charges by visiting the “Partners” section of the car rental’s website.
  • Additional items. You’ll likely be offered everything from a GPS unit to satellite radio to a car seat. Most cities and states require car seats for children under a certain age. If this applies to you, it may be cheaper to bring your car seat from home. Weigh your airline’s cost for checked luggage against the daily rental cost of a car seat to see which is less expensive. And then decide which other options you can live without.

Insurance fees.

You’ll find that nearly everyone wants to sell you insurance for your rental car. But you may not need it.

  • Collision Damage Waiver. This optional insurance protects you from costs due to theft, vandalism or an accident, as well as loss of use costs while the car remains out of service. Before you buy this insurance, check any memberships you belong to—such as AAA or AARP—to see if they include insurance coverage for rental cars. Then check your own auto insurance policy as well as your credit card’s policy. You may already have all the collision coverage you need. But take note—these insurance provisions typically don’t include liability insurance, which covers costs for property damage or personal injury caused by you. And, if you do not purchase the CDW and are in an accident, the rental car company may charge you with towing and loss of use fees. (Some insurance companies cover loss of use, so be sure to check your policy.)
  • Online Travel Agent Insurance. Online booking services, such as Expedia, will try to sell you their own rental car insurance. But, again, you likely don’t need it. Check your auto insurance and credit card policies to see if you are covered for collision.

Other fees.

Your car rental company may have other hidden fees as well. Before reserving your car, be sure to ask about:

  • Extra driver fees. Will you be splitting drive time with a friend or colleague? You may be charged for that. Unless necessary, plan on being the sole driver of the car. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay the fee; if an unauthorized driver gets into an accident, you might not be covered under your insurance policy.
  • Early or late return fees. Returning a car at any time other than what is listed on your contract agreement can rack up the fees. If you’re early, you may be charged for breaking your contract. Any discounts you received for booking for multiple days may also be voided. Return the car late and you’ll also be hit with fees. Even if you plan to be just a few hours late, call ahead and ask if it’s cheaper to pay the late fees or to extend your rental another day.

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Source: USA Today, Kiplinger.com, SmarterTravel.com
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