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Be Aware of Rental Car Rip-offs and Know How to Deal with Them

Car rental companies are known for their notorious tactics to get you to sign up with a low advertised rate then add-on fees and extra once are ready to pick up the car and drive.  They know you have to have the car if you are already at the business.

I'm sure whatever the business practice that obviously seem like a rip-off are probably not against the law for the most part.  So it really becomes the responsibility of the consumer to know what do avoid.

The worst rip-offs are the extras that you often need for your trip and can't obtain through alternative sources. Other bad ones include unconscionably high prices for options that you can avoid and various fees that are added onto base rates rather than included as they should be.

Let's take a look at the most common tactics employed by rental car companies

Overpriced Insurance Coverage

One of the first question you will hear as you sign the contract at the counter of rental car business is "Do you want the insurance coverage?".  It's usually padded with extra information; It covers every part of the car if anything happens to it so you don't have to pay out of your pocket.  That sounds pretty nice, but far from the truth.

This is the highest margin profit for the rental car company for a reason.  It's basically doubling or even tripling a coverage that you already have through comprehensive and collision on your car and possibly a coverage automatically offered from your credit card company.

If you have neither of these options, you can still purchase nonowner car insurance from the third party insurer at much lower rate.  We have covered a story on that in details.

In fact, the policy offered by rental company is really a waiver of the company's right to collect damages from you if you damage the rental for which they pay a small fraction of what they collect from the renter.

Dealing with Gas

Most rental companies give you three options for fuel: (1) Buy a full tank when you rent the car, (2) have the rental company refuel it when you return it, or (3) return it with a full tank. The first option is complete rip-offs.

When you buy the full tank, the price may be close to the going rates locally, but that's not the gouge. The gouge is that you get no credit for whatever fuel remains in the tank when you return the car. What's the likelihood that you will manage to drive the car to empty tank just when you need to return it, probably close 0%.  Whatever is left in the tank becomes a donation to the rental company.

For the second option above, having the rental company refuel it, the price charged by the company can vary significantly from one company to another.  I have seem some companies charge a reasonable amount; at rate slightly higher than the local gas station.

Extra-Driver Charges

Having your spouse or traveling companion take the wheel during a long drive seems like simple good sense, and it's often a virtual necessity. As long as all drivers are qualified, swapping the driving duties doesn't add even a fraction of a penny to the rental company's cost or risk. But that doesn't stop those companies from hitting you with an extra-driver charge of up to $13 per day, per driver, sometimes with a minimum charge of more than $90 per driver.

California prohibits extra-driver charges, and New York caps them at $3 per day. In other states, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and National waive the fee for a spouse/partner on rentals by members of their frequent-renter programs; some also waive the fee for business associates. Just join the rental company's program before you pick up the car; there's no fee to enroll.

Geographic-Limit Mileage Charges

Some rental companies -- chiefly smaller, low-priced outfits -- set geographic limits on how far from the rental station customers may drive the car. For example, renters have reported cases wherein a San Diego rental company limited driving to Southern California, and there have been reports of limits to a state or a group of smaller states. Typically, if you violate the limits, the rental companies add a stiff extra charge and may also convert the entire rental to a mileage rate. And companies can detect violations: Many cars these days have GPS units that rental companies use to track cars, whether or not you use them for navigation.

Fortunately, the big national companies seem to have abandoned this practice. For the most part, they even allow you to drive into Canada, provided that you notify the company. Just make sure you check for limits before you accept the deal.

Excessive One-Way Charges

There was a time when you could rent a car in Los Angeles, drive around California for two weeks, and return it in San Francisco for the same rate as a round-trip Los Angeles return. This is no longer the case. Hertz, for example, will rent you a Toyota Corolla in Los Angeles for $553 for two weeks if you return it to Los Angeles, but you'll pay $1,714 to return it to San Francisco (quotes are for a rental from October 21 through November 4). And one-way car rentals that begin in one European nation and end in another are virtually impossible with some country combinations.

One obvious work-around is to avoid one-way rentals. Arrange your driving itinerary in a circle so you can return the car where you rented it. But when that doesn't work for the trip you want, you have some other alternatives:

Additionally, compare prices of major rental companies. Some may have lower one-way rates than others.

Call the rental agency's local office in your pickup city and check if they have a car on the lot that they want to return to the rental office in your destination. If they do, sometimes they'll waive the one-way fee.

Car rental base rates are intentionally low-balled to lure customers to the counter. Get the final car rental price before booking a reservation, find out your insurance needs ahead of time, and don't pay extra dollars for gas or unnecessary car rental upgrades.

Be Aware of Rental Car Rip-offs and Know How to Deal with Them Reviewed by Blogs on 2:36 PM Rating: 5

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