Top 10 Car Rental Tips for the Smart Traveler

Car Rental Tips rental cars for drivers under 21

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, it’s a mistake to simply hop off the plane at a big airport like LAX and rent a car on the spot. Planning ahead will save you a lot of time and money.  The car rental desk inside the airport is always the most expensive option. Rental cars for drivers under 21 at affordable rates are nearly impossible to find right in LAX airport, for instance. You can get better deals if you rent from a car rental place close to, but not in the airport. This is a common situation in airports in most major cities.

Not to worry. Whether you’re flying into LAX, or you’re traveling to any major city in the United States, it’s easy to save money if you know how. In order to make the best car rental deals you can, read this list of the top 10 rental car tips to help make your vacation adventures and business trips run more smoothly.

1. Avoid the Hidden Monopoly in Rental Car Companies

When browsing for rental cars, there seems to be a wide variety of options available, but it just isn’t true. In reality, there are only a few companies that advertise under many different business names. Consumers can find the best deal by doing an online search for great rentals instead of looking for a specific company name. The best deals are usually found with small, independent car rental companies. Some online apps can even take your search to a new level by comparing all the offers available for your vacation dates and suggesting the best deal.

2. Promotional Codes Can Save You Money

Discounts can save you a great deal of money, so look for promotional codes and vouchers whenever possible. Sometimes hotels or other third-party businesses offer discounts or promotions on rental cars to customers using a package deal when booking rooms or when customers stay a certain length of time. It never hurts to ask about deals on rental cars when making your hotel reservations.  When searching for rental cars for drivers under 21, be especially vigilant about discount offers, however. Many discounts on rental cars only apply if you’re over the age of 25. Be sure to read the fine print before you depend on the advertised pricing.

3. Small or Older Cars Cost Less To Rent

Beware of counter upselling when you rent your car. Most companies want you to select vehicles with all the premium perks because they make more money from the rentals. Older and smaller vehicles may not be the shiniest or have all the latest tech toys, but they can cost significantly less than brand new models. For most travelers, it’s not worth paying a lot more for a slightly newer car. That’s why you’ll almost always find better deals at independent car rental companies.

4. Airport Rental Car Fees Can Apply

Convenience costs money. For rental cars for drivers under 21, that is just what happens when you pick the car up at the airport. There are often fees, taxes, and restocking charges hidden in the contract. Why not take a shuttle to your hotel and rent a car there?

5. If You Own a Car, You Might Already Have Insurance

Rental car services sell insurance at the counter, but in many cases your personal car insurance will cover the rental car in an accident if you have full coverage. Big rental car companies often advertise deep discounts on rental rates, and then try to make up the money with add-ons and fees like extra insurance. If a car rental company is a franchise, their rates might be set nationally, but the fees can be set locally. That leads to a conflict of interest when they’re offering things like insurance.

Check with your insurance agent before your vacation to see what coverage you already have. Your credit card might also have car rental insurance included as a perk. Be sure to understand all the fine print on your insurance policy and your credit card documents before you make up your mind. If you’re not sure if you’re covered, it’s smart to buy extra insurance at the car rental desk if you need it.

This video outlines the pros and cons of purchasing additional rental car insurance:

6. Different Companies Offer Different Benefits

Renting from large, well-known companies may feel like the best option available. The big companies may even offer a coupon package to draw you in, but their deals are not always the best you can find. To save money, compare the packages the smaller companies offer. Smaller businesses are often more competitive, and the deals they present can save you cash. It’s worth it even if the models are a few months old and the vehicles don’t have the latest and greatest tech toys.

7. Check Your Contract for Late or Early Fees

Everyone understands there will be penalties for late returns on car rentals, but did you know that most companies now apply a penalty for cars that are dropped off early? This is because most lots are small and there are a limited number of spaces available for returned vehicles. If there is a possibility you may have an early return, talk to the clerk and get all fees waived if possible.

8. Refueling Charges Can Be Really Expensive

Fill the car’s tank before you return it. If you forget to fill the vehicle, you may be penalized with a refilling fee and an overpriced amount for each missing gallon of gasoline. No matter where your return location is in LA, make sure you plan ahead to fill the tank up to save yourself some money.

9. Rental Car Cleaning Penalties May Apply

Whether you get your car at LAX airport or from a company near your hotel, the business will probably ask for a cleaning deposit and put the hold amount on your credit card. The cleanliness clause in your contract applies to both the inside and outside of the vehicle. Smart travelers take the car to a car wash for a rinse and vacuum before returning the vehicle if it has become extra dirty.

10. Consider Renting a Sat/Nav

Most car rental companies rent satellite navigation units along witht heir rental cars. This can be a smart investment for the busy traveler, but only under the right circumstances. Many people can get by with only the map apps that that they already have on their smartphone. If all you need are directions to and from the museum to the hottest club to the hotel, you’re all set.

However, if you’re going to be using your phone for more than navigation, switching back and forth from calls to navigation to other apps can be a pain. It can also be dangerous if it causes distracted driving. If you want to have full use of your phone, and at the same time avoid distracted driving, get the sat/nav.

Bonus: See our list of the Top Ten Must-Have Travel Apps

If you are visiting Los Angeles, California, you can find great prices on car rentals when you reserve a vehicle with Value Rental Car. There are so many things to do in L.A. and nearby Pasadena that your only problem is finding the time to fit all the attractions in. Los Angeles is a treasure trove of historical landmarks, national parks, museums, beaches, theme parks, and other attractions. From TV show tapings to zombie hunts, you can find almost anything. And the best way to get around the greater Los Angeles area is in a rental car.

Whether you are searching for rental cars for drivers under 21 or family-sized vehicles with room for the kids, check out our deals first – and save yourself some money.