The most frequent complaints relating to travel are issues with car rental companies. Depending on the car rental companies, some are known for overcharging for insurance, cleaning and fuel. It is not uncommon for a car rental company to give the customer a lemon which breaks down in the middle the road. The customer would still be charged with the cost of tolling and fixing the car even though the engine was defective in the first place. Thus it is important to conduct proper due diligence when renting a car.
In order to reach the best deal, do your due diligence online and book ahead as much as possible. Car rental companies tend to reward renters who rent for a longer period of time, so it may be cheaper to opt for a weekly rate instead of renting a car for a few days. Always check the available rates to determine the best rental period and the types of car to rent. Sometimes an upgrade will cost no more than the cheapest car available.
For many travelers, airport is the most convenient place to arrange car rental. However, it also tends to be more expensive. There could be an airport pick up fee charged by the car rental company and airport tax may also be charged by the airport or the government. If you don’t have too much luggage, you may want to seek rental from locations outside of the airport instead, which could be as much as 30% cheaper.
Do not purely base your decision in choosing a car rental company on price. One should check online forums on the reputation of the car rental company. Are there a lot of complaints? Do they overcharge? Do their cars frequently break down? It is more important to go to a car rental company with a good reputation than to purely go to the cheapest one available.
One last point, many companies, organisations and car membership plans have relationships with car rental companies with member benefits. Always check if an organisation that you belong to offers discounts with car rental companies before renting.
Whilst the rentals for cars may be priced competitively to attract customers, the accessories are often charged at exorbitant rates. Normally you can buy a brand new car seat with just 2-3 days of child car seat rental. Most customers also do not need to rent the expensive GPS navigation system nowadays given the convenience of mobile phones. The cost of adding additional drivers and renting child seats can also be very high. Bring what you need and try to buy as few upgrades as possible (BTW, there is absolutely no need for a fuel upgrade).
Insurance offered by car rental companies are usually very high. Check your own car insurance or travel insurance to see if it already covers car rental. It is also possible that your insurance is covered by paying with your credit card. If insurance is already covered, then there is no need to buy expensive car insurance from the rental desk, which could cost as much as the rental itself.
If you need to buy insurance from car rental companies, check the coverage of collision damage exemption and theft protection. If they are high, it is definitely worth taking zero excess coverage.
This is a common issue during a busy period even with a booking. In addition, cars are usually found in larger rental offices and the smaller rental desks may not have the model you booked. You can ask for an upgrade, but may still need to wait several hours for the next return and cleaning. Even if your booking model is available, it does not hurt to ask for a free or affordable upgrade to a larger car category if it is available from the inventory.
For airport rentals, always enter the correct rental start time (taking into account the time required to get through custom). If your flight is delayed for more than an hour, you must let the car rental company know, otherwise your reservation may be cancelled because the car is only reserved for two hours during peak period.
Obviously the car rental will be one-sided in favour of the car rental company. Read the contract carefully before leaving the office, especially those items marked as "accepted" or "rejected". If there are terms or charges that you do not understand, ask the desk. If the total displayed is more than printed on your booking voucher, you may have registered for optional accessories or insurance that you do not need without your knowledge. You should dispute these items immediately, otherwise, you will be required to pay for them.
If no pre-lease inspection is done, the renter might be responsible for previous damages that have not been marked on the contract. When you pick up your car, before you drive away, check inside and out of the car to see if there is anything that might be damaged. Carefully inspect the car to ensure that every slight scratch has been marked on the contract. In addition to the body, you should also check the bottom surface of the windshield, wheels, bumper and the edges of the rearview mirror.
Your best protection is to walk around slowly in the car, take some photos or videos with the agent. Open the trunk and check if there are triangle warning signs, high-visibility jackets, spare bulbs and any other items required by law in that country, otherwise you may be asked to pay for anything that is missing.
If you notice any mechanical problems after driving away, or the car is not in the best working condition, return it. If it breaks down in the middle of the road, you may still be charged with the damage and tolling fees even if it was not your fault.
One should report an accident to the police if another vehicle is involved, even if it only caused minor damage. Fill in the legally binding traffic accident declaration form provided by the car rental or insurance company. File your own declaration and dispute the other driver's statement about the incident if necessary.
Check the fuel type (should be indicated on the agreement). Putting the wrong fuel will be regarded as negligent, and will not be covered by insurance. Some companies will ask you to fill up when you come back, and some companies will give you a car filled with half a tank of oil and ask you to fill to the same level. If you do not come back with a full tank, you will have to pay a high fuel penalty. Try to refuel just before you return the car and keep the receipt of the gas station.
The most serious complaint against the car rental company are disputes relating to damage claims after the return of the car. It is thus important to reregister the car upon return with an agent and check the car together before leaving. If no agent is present, your best protection is to walk around in the car slowly and take some pictures or videos.