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Car Rental Advice - 10 Tips To Keep You In The Driving Seat!

Avoid the car hire stress - 10 tips to stop you blowing a gasket

Car Rental Advice - 10 Things to Get Right When Renting a Car

1. Paperwork and Insurance – Check Before You Travel

Before you leave on your vacation and presuming you have booked your car rental in advance, check that you have all the correct paperwork including your car rental voucher and car insurance documentation. Check the dates on all your documentation to ensure it is correctly aligned with your holiday schedule. Check that the insurance documentation covers you- when you hire a car the rental price will usually include an insurance policy which cover accidents.

This is called collision damage waiver (CDW) and theft or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW). However, if you find yourself in the unfortunate position that your rental car is damaged or stolen, you may still have a large excess to pay.

2. Location of the Car Rental Agent

If you have arranged the car rental at the airport where are your flight is arriving then you should have the minimum amount of hassle, however it is always wise to check if your car rental agent is located at your terminal otherwise you may find yourself having to make additional travel arrangements to pick up the car

Should your rental car office be outside of the airport (city centre for example) it is wise to understand where exactly it is located to avoid a long walk through a less than perfect neighbourhood!

3. At the Car Rental Desk – Make Sure You Get What You Asked For

When you have handed all the necessary paperwork to the car rental agent - driving license car rental voucher, car insurance (if not purchased with the car-rental), be prepared for add-ons being offered.

In some cases this may be acceptable; a more comprehensive insurance policy or perhaps a better vehicle, but always be aware that you may be offered the option to purchase a full tank of fuel in advance of your handing back the car.
Some folks may be happy with this, as it stops them having to look for a fuel station prior to handing back the vehicle, but in reality filling it yourself is actually the cheaper option.

Check the car key (presuming it is not fully electronic). Is it in good condition or likely to snap under pressure?

If electronic, is the battery level sufficient to last your rental period?

It is unlikely that they will provide a spare key at the point of rental so check now before it is too late. 

If you have ordered a Satnav ask how to operate it. It may already be installed on the vehicle but if not check that you receive a cable to connect it to the car electrics. If it looks unfit for purpose - demand another!

If you have ordered the children's car seats check that it is in good condition and is clean -  if not demand another!

4. Check the Internal Condition- Is It Acceptable?
When you have been given directions as to where is your rental car is located open the door and have a quick sniff. If it smells of cigarette smoke or puke then do not accept the car and take the key back.

If the condition of the upholstery is unsightly and it looks as if it has not been cleaned properly then shout!

Check that the car can start easily and that the horn, the radio, the electric windows the mirrors and the air-conditioning, if provided, all work

Remember it is unlikely that the car rental desk clerk will be beside you so you have to shout and inform them straight away. If you don't then you may be accused of causing the problem when you return the vehicle.

5. Check the External Condition – How Does It Look?
Take a walk around the car. Kick the tyres and check that all the lights and indicators function properly. Check that the number plate is attached properly and obviously check for any scratches or dents. If there are dents, use your mobile phone to take a picture of the damage and get someone to point at the damage (this pinpoints the exact location and gives an indication of the size of the damage at the time of accepting the car). At this point make a mental note of which side the fuel tank is located, to avoid any embarrassing car manoeuvring at the first fuel stop.

6. Check the Boot – Everything There That Should Be There?

Open the boot and check that you have a functional spare tyre.

Check that you have access to the car owner’s operating manual, often required if you have forgotten to ask the car rental desk agent what fuel type that the car requires.

At this point it is also about checking that the previous occupants have removed all their personal items. There are many stories on the Internet, (not sure of all our true!), where items left include money, prostatic limbs and even firearms!

7. Children's Car Seats – Are They Safe?

If installing your own children's car seat, or one supplied by the car rental company, ensure that the seatbelt been used to strap the seat in is in good condition, not frayed and easily opened and locked. Check the seatbelt anchor bolts under the seat to ensure that they are secured and have not been tampered with. If so then immediately notify the car rental desk clerk and demand another vehicle.

8. Driving Condition – Does It Feel Right?

When you eventually drive the vehicle from the car rental parking lot do a quick check, to ensure that the car steers properly and stops when required. Once again if this is not the case return the vehicle to the parking lot and demand another vehicle from the car rental desk.

9. Using the car

When you first drive the car it will take you time to get used to the driving conditions in your travel area. If you are from the UK, and used to driving on the left hand side of the road, it takes a good half hour to become accustomed to the new driving perspective. Additionally if you are not used to driving an automatic vehicle this can be unnerving at the start.

If driving in the USA for the first time, the road traffic signs and highway driving rules and habits can take some time to get used to - speed limits may also vary from state to state.

Ensure that you have the car rental emergency contact details in a handy place, just in case a problem occurs.

10. Returning the Vehicle - Leave It As You Found It!

When returning the vehicle give yourself plenty of time to avoid any last minute rush to the car rental office. If you're unfamiliar with the city where you are returning the vehicle, just remember all the usual delaying causes such as rush-hour, one-way systems, roadworks, holiday parades and so on.

Remember if not returned when agreed in your contract, you are likely to be charged an additional day’s rental.

The car rental return locations are not always well signposted and may be located side by side with the other car rental agent’s drop-off points – so ensure that you find the correct one.

You will now hand over the keys to the car rental agency worker or maintenance person. They will inspect the car for damage, inspect the mileage and inspect the fuel tank level.

Before leaving the car for the last time, it is wise to carry out one last sweep to check for personal items. Use your mobile phone torch to look in every nook and cranny. Believe it or not I found my wife's purse, including her credit cards and the remainder of her holiday money when dropping off the rental car in San Francisco. Take your Satnav or children's car seat to the front desk and handover to the desk clerk.

If you follow this advice should ensure that you have an enjoyable stress-free car rental experience.

At Best Car Hire we are happy to help you with your chosen car rental.

About the Author - Malcolm McNeill

Owner/manager at and – enjoys staying active, creating music, writing good content and providing business and technology project management consultancy to the leading UK financial services companies