How To Find Great Value Car Rental Services in Europe

value car rental europe

Smart consumers know that value for your dollar is more important than low prices. It doesn’t matter how low the price is if the product isn’t what you expected. This is especially true for car rental. A few online comparison websites dominate car rental, hotel booking, and other travel services. Unfortunately, these big booking apps don’t have anything to do with actually renting cars to customers. They simply act as middlemen. This creates an incentive for car rental companies to bid against each other to seem lower than the others. But the lowest price rarely means that you’ll get great value car rental for your money. This is especially true if you’re trying to rent a car for a European trip.

Renting a Car in Europe Is Different

If you’re used to arranging transportation and lodging in the United States, you might be surprised the first time you try to book the same services in Europe. While the same travel apps might work on your phone, the information you get might not result in the same level of service you receive in the US. And while many of the countries in Europe are part of the E.U., that doesn’t mean that the rules of the road, or local laws about driving or renting a car will be the same from country to country.

Driver’s Licenses for Car Rental

In most European countries, an American or Canadian driver’s license is all you need to rent a car and drive it. However, you should consider your driver’s license as a sort of add-on to your main form of identification, your passport. While that’s all you need in most places, it’s still smart to get an International Driving Permit as well.

Getting an International Driving Permit (IDP) is a lot easier than its official name suggests. All an IDP represents is an accurate translation of your driver’s license into the format that’s familiar overseas. If you’re a member of AAA, you can go to one of their many offices with two passport-sized photos and they’ll make you an IDP for as low as $20. Even though it’s easy to get an IDP, it’s a serious form of identification while traveling. The document is ultimately regulated by the US State Department. In many ways, it’s a much better form of identification than a state-issued driver’s license when you’re abroad.

Where an IDP Is Required

It can be difficult to nail down exactly where you need an IDP  to drive in Europe. There is all sorts of conflicting advice on the Internet. This advice is often made even more confusing by language barriers during translation. It’s true that you may never be asked for a copy of your IDP while renting a car or driving in Europe. That doesn’t mean you might not need it in a pinch. Some countries technically require that you carry one, even though no one seems to ask for one for day-to-day transactions. These include many Eastern European countries like Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, but also a few large western European countries like Spain. If you’re involved in a car accident, for instance, and you don’t have one, you might have a very hard time with the local police.

Different Countries, Different Rules

Americans travel freely from state to state, and for the most part, you can expect the same kinds of laws and customs wherever you go. While the European Union is similar, the individual countries in it are still very different, and it can be disorienting to travel from one to the next.

For instance, finding a great value car rental in one country doesn’t mean it’s a great value everywhere. If you pick up a rental car in one country, you might find that it’s nearly impossible to drop it off in another country. It doesn’t matter that the car rental company is the same in both places. Local laws apply.

Daily Rental Is More Than Just an Expression

In general, car rental contracts are charged in 24-hour periods. In Europe, the times for pickup and dropoff are closely measured. If you’re only a few minutes late, you might find yourself paying for a whole day anyway.

To guard against extra charges, never schedule your pickup any earlier than you really need it. That way, you’ll enjoy a later drop off time to go with your later pick up time. Some European car rental companies allow you to drop off your car after hours. They have a drop box for car keys for your convenience. However, be careful how this service is set up. In some places, you won’t get credit for dropping off your rental car until the business opens up in the morning and processes your return.

It’s Cheaper Away From Major Travel Hubs

If you’re trying to get value car rental for your money, avoid renting at airports and other major travel hubs. It’s cheaper to rent from car rental company locations in smaller cities and towns. Public transit is much better in Europe than in most parts of America. That makes it possible to take a bus or train from the airport to your destination, then rent a car there.

Be aware, however, that European businesses are much less likely to be open late or available seven days a week. In some countries, businesses are closed for long periods at midday. It can be hard to find open businesses on weekends as well. Many countries celebrate holidays you’ve never heard of, so it pays to phone ahead and ask.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

In America, it’s considered an upgrade to get a bigger, fancier car for the same rate as an economy model. That’s not always true when renting a car in Europe. European roads, especially in old cities, can be very narrow. Parking is almost always harder than in the states. It can be nearly impossible to find inexpensive parking in a city center for a full-sized sedan.

Can You Drive a Stick Shift Rental Car?

Americans might also be surprised to find out how many European rental cars come with a stick shift. Fuel is more expensive in Europe, and stick shift cars get better mileage, which makes them more common overseas. If you’re not able to drive a stick shift, make sure you specify an automatic when you’re making your reservation. Automatics aren’t “automatic” over there.

One more thing about driving a stick shift. Even if you’re able to drive stick, you might find it nearly impossible in countries like Great Britain where the driver sits on the right-hand side of the car, and operates the shift with the left hand.

Fees Can Take a Big Bite

In some ways, European car rental has more options than in the United States. It’s possible to customize your rental arrangements more closely than with American car rental contracts. There are more types of cars, and more ways to pay. However, this versatility can come at a price. European car rental companies rely on fees to keep their contracts profitable than in the United States. Not all of those fees will be obvious.

To avoid big surprises, it’s smart to plan ahead. Getting true value car rental in Europe is easiest if you specify the details of your trip well in advance. Planning ahead means fewer surprises. Fewer surprises means fewer add-ons and fees that make the costs pile up. One more thing: it’s smart to pay for your car rental before you make your trip. You can avoid paying poor currency conversion rates when you try to change your American dollars for foreign currency on the spot.

(For more information, check out the Value Rental Car Pinterest page for Car Rental in Other Countries)

Remember, for the ultimate in convenience for car rental in the Los Angeles and Pasadena area, rely on Value Rental Car for the best rates on the best cars.

How To Get the Best Deals When You Rent a Car!

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Consumers rent a car for many different reasons. If your daily driver is in the shop for repairs that take more than a few hours, a rental car can avoid a major inconvenience. If your regular car is a compact, you can rent a larger car or van when you have a big crowd to transport. Business travelers love to rent a car for convenience and security. Vacationers like the freedom that a rental car affords. Because of all the benefits of renting a car, pretty much everyone does at one time or another. However, if you only rent cars infrequently, the number of rental car offers can seem pretty bewildering. We’ve compiled a list of handy tips to make it easier to shop for a great price on a car rental.

Beware Price Comparison Websites

Consumers mostly rely on internet searches to find deals on most everything from everyday shopping to vacation getaways. It’s also a popular way to search for car rental deals. Price-conscious shoppers are often surprised to find out that the best deals don’t always appear on price comparison websites.

You Don’t Reserve a Car. You Reserve a Rate

The real problem you’ll face if you deal only with price comparison websites is that they don’t actually have anything to do with renting cars. A price comparison and booking app on your phone is simply a go-between for car rental companies and potential customers. Even though it can appear that you’re dealing with an online company when you’re making your reservations, eventually you have to directly deal with the actual rental car agency, and the price, fees, rules, and even the availability of a car might not match what was understood when you made your reservations online.

It’s especially dangerous to rely on internet go-between apps for car rental when you’re far away from home, and you’re depending on the agency to honor the deal an internet aggregator quoted. Some travelers arrive at the rental counter only to find out that only the rate was guaranteed. There was no guarantee that a car would be available to take advantage of that rate, however. (Related: read our previous advice on what to do when your hotel, auto rental company, airline overbooks).

Ask About Car Rental Fees

Price comparison apps and websites basically spit out a number when you search for car rentals. That number is often massaged to make it appear as low as possible. The car rental companies advertise the lowest rates they have, but they count on upselling and add-on fees to make money.

Smart price shoppers inquire about additional fees and needed services before plunking down their credit cards on an auto rental. Many car rental companies charge hefty premiums for young drivers. They also charge more for multiple drivers, necessary insurance, and even filling up the gas tank when you return the car. It’s important to find out an accurate rate for all the services you require on a car rental to make an informed choice. Fee structures at the major car rental agencies make that very difficult on price comparison websites.

This video clip from the Today show has a good rundown on assorted car rental fees:

Try Independent Rent a Car Companies

Price comparison websites might seem like they’re cutting edge, but in many ways they’re stuck in the past. They usually only feature a few of the largest car rental agencies in the country. Just a few years ago, there really weren’t that many companies for car rentals. In the last two decades, the number has exploded. If you rely only on price comparison apps to find car rental companies, you’re probably missing out on the large majority of choices.

For example, if you want to rent a car in Pasadena CA, or anywhere in greater Los Angeles, the most recent US Census survey found 163 car rental establishments to choose from. That’s an astonishing amount of choice for consumers. Only a small fraction of these car rental companies can be found on the largest online aggregators.

US Census rent a car in pasadena ca or los angeles

Avoid a Rush

Many hotel and airline booking aggregators specialize in last-minute deals on travel. If you’re willing to travel on a moment’s notice, many carriers and lodging chains will offer you great rates to fill a room or plane seat that would otherwise go empty. That approach doesn’t work well for car rental, however.

Car rental companies give the best rates to customers who book ahead, and who rent for the longest terms. They try to balance the number of cars they have with the number of renters they expect to serve. That’s not a recipe for great rates or even availability when you try to rent a car at the last minute. Shop ahead to get the best rates.

Check Your Insurance Carefully

Most drivers who own their own car have a lot of automobile insurance. That insurance usually covers the drive when they rent a car for business or pleasure. There are also a handful of other ways to cover your liability when you drive a rental car. Some credit cards have insurance benefits attached to their terms that also apply to car rental. As an added bonus, you may also qualify for some discounts depending on which card you use.

These types of insurance benefits should be considered carefully when you rent a car, minivan, or truck. While it’s always good to qualify for coverage at no extra cost, you need to make sure that your insurance is comprehensive enough to cover your potential liability. This is especially true if you rent a car in another country, where the terms of your policies might become murky. When in doubt, it’s easy and free to contact your insurance company and ask for guidance.

Don’t Rent More Car Than You Need

When you’re checking your insurance for renting a car, make sure you accurately identify the type of car you’ll be renting. Sometimes it’s fun to splurge on an exotic car rental, or more convenient to rent a bigger car or truck than you regularly drive. However, you may be in for a nasty surprise when you find out that the liability limits you’re paying for on your tiny subcompact don’t measure up to the potential losses when you wreck a rented sports car.

In every case, you’ll save the most money when you rent only as much car as you need. The rates for simple, small cars are lower, and you’ll avoid a lot of added fees.

Rent A Car in Pasadena CA, and Los Angeles

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Ten Must-Have Travel Apps for Carefree Trips

android and apple apps for car hire and travelVacations should be fun. Family gatherings should be about reconnecting with loved ones. Business travel should be efficient and financially rewarding, for your company if not for you in particular. Unfortunately, trips of all kinds can turn into stressful situations in a heartbeat if they’re poorly planned. And even the best planning won’t be enough if your flight is cancelled or your hotel is overbooked. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. The modern traveler has a supercomputer in their pocket. Smartphones can help you do a whole lot more than call home or pass the time in the airport with games or videos. Travel apps for your smartphone make it easy to plan your whole trip, from tracking flights to arranging for car hire. They can also help you deal with unexpected hiccups on the fly.

Value Rental Car has assembled a selection of ten must-have travel apps that will make your next trip less stressful. Don’t leave home without them!

Google Trips

We’ll start with Google Trips, and for good reason. If you only have one travel app, this one should be it. Google trips isn’t really a single travel app. It’s more of a Swiss army knife for travel. It’s as close to a personal assistant for your travel plans as you’ll find for your smartphone.

Google trips is great for consolidating all your various hotel reservations, car hire info, airline flight details, and other tour details. Google Trips is totally plugged in with other Google services, to it’s easy to grab details from Gmail accounts and maps and keep them in one place. One nice detail about the app: you can save your information right to your smartphone, so you can retrieve it even if you’re unable to connect to WiFi.

Google Trips for Android

Google Trips for iOS

Waze

Nothing knocks the fun out of vacations like sitting in traffic. Traffic jams can also turn a lucrative business trip into an expensive waste of time if you can’t get to an important meeting. That’s why the Waze app is invaluable for every kind of traveler. After you’ve taken care of car hire, getting maps and directions to your destinations is only half the battle. Waze is great for up to date travel information that includes things like construction zones, speed traps, and plain old heavy traffic alerts. If it will keep you from reaching your destination on time, Waze will probably know about it.

In addition to regular alerts, Waze can also map alternate routes, find inexpensive gasoline stations, and calculate arrival times for you.

Waze for Android

Waze for iOS

Lounge Buddy/Priority Pass

Let’s face it: no matter how well you plan, travel can be stressful. The secret to smart travel is to take every opportunity to relax along the way. The LoungeBuddy and Priority Pass apps are a great way to turn dreary layovers in airports into restful breaks from planes, trains, and automobiles.

Getting access to airport lounges doesn’t have to be expensive. Many frequent flyer programs and credit card rewards programs include them as extras. Even if you don’t automatically qualify, it’s usually inexpensive to buy a single day pass (see our rundown of ways to win at airport layovers for more info). LoungeBuddy and Priority Pass check if you’re already qualified, and they offer up a list of available lounges and prices if you’re not.

Priority Pass on Android

LoungeBuddy on iOS

Accuweather

Small details can make a big difference to your trip. There’s no more important detail than weather. It’s important to be able to see weather anywhere on the globe where you might be traveling, including real-time summaries and radar maps. Accuweather has a great interface, and their forecasts can be personalized right down to a GPS location, with up-to-the-minute weather forecasts. Their long term forecasts also make packing the right clothing easier.

Accuweather for Android

Accuweather for iOS

WiFi Map

Reliable WiFi is indispensable for business travelers. It’s pretty handy for vacationers, too. Many data plans will empty out your wallet if you incur roaming charges, and it can be hard to know how much money you’ve spent until it’s too late to do much about it. WiFi Map is a simple app that sniffs out all the local WiFi hotpspots, and it collates all the available login details for each in one place. Users of the app can report their experience with any particular hotspot, making it easier to find reliable, safe, high-speed connections when you’re away from home.

WiFi Map for Android

WiFi Map for iOS

Encrypt.me

Speaking of WiFi, security is always a concern whenever you use an unfamiliar hotspot. Public WiFi is convenient, but it’s not always safe. That’s why a tool like Encrypt.me comes in handy. This app isn’t free, but it’s well worth the money if it keeps you from having sensitive personal and financial info exposed at a public hotspot. The app encrypts all your data on the fly, and sends it via a virtual private network for the ultimate in privacy and security.

Encrypt.me for Android

Encrypt.me for iOS

Roomer Travel

You might think you can do without an app for finding accommodations if you’ve already got a hotel or rental lined up. But what happens if your booking falls through? Airlines aren’t the only businesses that overbook. If your plans for a room don’t work out at the last minute, you’ll need help and you’ll need it fast. The Roomer app specializes in finding last-minute deals on hotel rooms and similar places to stay. The app also helps if you have reservations and have to cancel. You can use it to sell your stay to another user, and save money and aggravation on cancellation fees.

Roomer for Android

Roomer for iOS

XE Currency

XE Currency is a simple app that can save you a lot of arithmetic. It allows you to keep track of any number of currencies, and it has up-to-the-minute exchange rates as long as you’re online. You can also use the app when you’re offline. The app has an old-school interface, which makes it easy to use in a hurry when you’re settling a bar tab or a hotel bill.

XE Currency for Android

XE Currency for iOS

Translate

Google Translate is another free, essential app to include in your travel arsenal. It allows you to type in or dictate a word or phrase, and have it presented to you in over 100 different languages. It will even pronounce the word or phrase for you if you want. The app has recently been expanded to include translation of signage simply by using your cameraphone to take a picture of the text. The app even works when you’re offline, but the suite of services it provides is limited.

Google Translate for Android

Google Translate for iOS

WhatsApp

It’s not always possible to make voice calls when you’re on the road. Even if you can, it can be hard to determine if you’re going to pay a substantial roaming charge. It’s almost always easier to find a WiFi signal than a rock-solid cell signal, so it’s smart to have a messaging app like WhatsApp installed on your phone. WhatsApp is a lot more than a texting app. It allows you to send photos, recorded voice messages, and even make video calls without incurring roaming charges.

WhatsApp for Android

WhatsApp for iOS

Related: How to move apps to an SD card to save space on your Android phone:

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Remember, for the ultimate in convenience in car hire in the Los Angeles and Pasadena area, rely on Value Rental Car for the best rates on the best cars.

Insider’s Guide for Layovers at LAX Airport

lax layover renting a car value rental carLos Angeles is one of the most interesting cities on Earth. It has a great climate, great beaches, and stunning scenery. It’s also home to fascinating industries like movies, television, and music recording. If you’re in Los Angeles for a day or a lifetime, it’s easy to find something interesting to do. But what if you’re stuck in the airport? Never fear. There is lots to do inside the LAX airport, and it’s centrally located in Los Angeles. That puts it within a short distance of all kinds of attractions and amenities. Depending on the length of your layover at LAX, turning a delay into a vacation is as easy as renting a car and poking around the area.

If you find yourself with some time to kill at LAX, or you’re planning ahead for a substantial layover, here’s a handy guide to what to go and what to do:

What’s LAX Like?

Los Angeles is a big, sprawling city. It’s only natural that it would have a big, spread-out airport. LAX is certainly that. Not only is LAX big, it’s also not really a single airport. It has eight different numbered terminals, plus the main terminal, and they’re not all connected together. The level of amenities varies a great deal between terminals. This disconnection is an artifact of the way LAX has evolved over the years. In the past, it was no big deal to walk out of one terminal and catch another flight at another terminal, or visit restaurants or shops.

TSA security makes that difficult now. In order to exit some terminals and enter others, you’ll have to submit to security procedures all over again. That can make it tough to plan excursions between terminals while keeping track of time. The amount of time spent in security lines can vary a great deal.

The good news is that LAX understands that passengers need to be able to circulate freely after they’ve cleared security, and are working feverishly to connect the terminals on the “airside.” The largest terminal, the Tom Bradley International Terminal, is where most international passengers end up during layovers. There’s a lot of amenities inside the TBIT, so it’s possible to amuse yourself for a few hours or a long day. Terminals 4 through 8 are now connected airside, so you can move freely between them to find things to do. If you’re in any of the other terminals, you’ll probably need to go through security additional times if you want something substantial to eat, something interesting to occupy your time, or want to go shopping.

Between Terminals

Whichever terminal you end up in, you’ll probably have to plan ahead to amuse yourself, and you’ll have to be ready to walk long distances to visit other terminals. LAX has a free Airline Connections shuttle that stops in front of every terminal. If you’d rather walk, be aware that the distance between any two terminals can range up to a mile. It’s smart to check the maps of the airport to see how far you have to walk before setting out.

What To Do With Your Luggage

On-site luggage storage can be a problem at LAX. There are companies that offer curbside pickup, storage, and retrieval, but a regular traveler’s luggage might cost $100 for a single day. Yikes.

If your layover in Los Angeles is at least a day, there are several ways to ditch your luggage without emptying your wallet.

Hotels

If you’re staying at a nearby hotel, their day rates might might be competitive with luggage service, and you can take a shower and rest as well as store your luggage. Many local hotels have shuttle services that save steps and money. The Hyatt Regency, the Courtyard Los Angeles, and the Sheraton Gateway are all located within a 2-minute shuttle ride of the main terminal. For a lengthy layover, renting a car and traveling a few more miles will save you a lot of money. There are hundreds of hotels and motels in the immediate area at every price level. You can search for hotels near LAX on TripAdvisor to compare prices and service levels.

Early Check-In

If your layover is simply to wait for a connecting flight, you may be able to check your bags in early. There’s a limit to how far in advance you can check in, but it might be enough time to allow you to enjoy a meal or some shopping without dragging your bags around with you. You can find out more about early check in offers here.

Renting a Car

If you’re staying for a few days, renting a car and locking your luggage in the trunk is a great way to keep dibs on it without lugging it around. There are many car rental agencies inside the terminals. Renting a car from a nearby agency that picks up and drops off at the terminal will save you money, though.

Shopping Inside LAX

The Great Hall of the Tom Bradley terminal has a fantastic shopping mall in it. It’s more like an inside shopping street than a run-of-the-mill airline mall. There’s lots of duty free offerings, and the retail boutiques include some really high-end names. like Bvlgari, Hugo Boss, Hermes, Gucci, Burberry, and others. Most of the other terminals have at least one or two interesting shops, but for the most part, you’ll have to settle for the usual newsstand shopping experience. The company that operates LAX has a list of shopping outlets here.

Dining Inside LAX

Los Angeles has a fantastic foodie culture. LAX features a growing number of first-rate eateries, plus more economical choices for travelers on a budget. The Tom Bradley terminal has upscale dining to go with its fancy shopping selection. Terminals 4 through 8 are now connected on the airside, and between them they have a great selection of food choices for leisurely dining or a quick bite. Terminals 4 and 5 have more affordable, but still adventurous choices. Eater Los Angeles has a current list of eateries at LAX here.

Airport Lounges

If traveling by air is getting the better of you, an airport lounge can turn a layover into a mini-vacation. There are many airport lounges at LAX. Your preferred airline or credit card provider might entitle you to free admission to an airport lounge. Many of the lounges will also let you purchase admission for a single day if you don’t qualify as a frequent flier. Almost every terminal has at least one lounge, and many have several. There’s a great rundown of LAX airport lounges on LoungeBuddy.

The amenities at the lounges at LAX vary a bit. One thin you won’t find is sleeping facilities. It’s fairly hard to catch a nap at LAX. The regular concourses are loud, and the airport has constant construction noise to deal with.

If an airport lounge isn’t enough to chill you out, LAX also has a few spas onsite. There’s a big one in the Tom Bradley terminal, and smaller locations scattered around where you can get a quick massage.

Day Trips

If you have a full day to kill, there’s no reason to spend all your time inside the airport. Public transportation in Los Angeles isn’t great, but renting a car at LAX is easy and economical.

Beaches

There are many beaches located only a short drive from LAX, and most beaches in the LA area have nearby boardwalks and shopping strands to make a side trip enjoyable.

Golf

The Westchester Golf Course is located just north of LAX. It’s a public, 18-hole course that’s fairly affordable for an urban setting. They’re used to serving LAX customers, and have a good supply of clubs for rent, including premium clubs.

Local Tours

If you’ve got at least 4 hours to kill, the Starline Hop On Hop Off Tour of LA is a fun way to see the sights. The service has several different routes depending on your interests. If you have a full day, the trip through Hollywood is lots of fun.

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Insider’s Guide To Driving in Los Angeles

los angeles freeway cheapest monthly car rentalIf you’re planning on staying in Los Angeles for more than a day or two, it’s smart to rent a car to get around. Los Angeles has always been a car-centric place. Public transit is spotty compared to other big cities like New York. Driving in Los Angeles is slightly more complicated than simply looking for the cheapest monthly car rental you can find and turning on your GPS. If you’ve never driven in Los Angeles before, you’ll soon find out that drivers do things a little differently here compared to the rest of the country.

Because of the sunny weather and the big highways, many drivers find that it’s simpler to make your way around Los Angeles than it is in almost any other major American city. However, it still pays to understand the city’s neighborhoods, traffic patterns, and local traffic laws and driving customs. We’ve assembled an insider’s guide to driving in Los Angeles to make it easier!

What To Call It

Los Angeles is a big city. It has a definable vibe, and that vibe is based in large part on the automobile. Drivers in Los Angeles have their own particular vocabulary for most everything that has to do with getting around in a car. You’ll have fewer problems getting from point A to point B in Los Angeles if you know some driving terms that are peculiar to the Los Angeles area:

Los Angeles Has Freeways, Not Highways

Get used to every big road being called a freeway. You’ll almost never hear a Los Angeles driver referring to anything as a highway, an interstate, or a state route. If you want to sound like you belong in Los Angeles, call everything with guard rails a freeway.

Los Angeles freeways all have names. For instance, the 405 freeway is called the San Diego Freeway. The Golden State Freeway is the 5 freeway anywhere north of Downtown L.A. It’s not really necessary to learn all the freeway names, however. Los Angeles drivers don’t use freeway names very often. They simply refer to roads by their number, preceded by “The.” If you ask for directions in Los Angeles, you’ll most likely hear something like, “Take The 405 to The 10.”

Even the road signs are set up for following freeways by number. Road names are mostly absent from freeway signage. Most simply list the freeway number and the compass direction. Some add the largest city or neighborhood for each direction. For example, if you’re looking for signs for the Santa Monica Freeway, you might miss your turn. Look for “The 10,” and you’ll be fine.

Telling Surface Streets From Service Streets

It can be easy to be confused by the difference between the terms “surface streets” and “service streets” when you’re getting directions in Los Angeles.

Surface Streets in Los Angeles

You’ll hear the term surface street a lot when you’re driving in Los Angeles. For the most part, locals refer to any street that isn’t a freeway as a surface street. If it’s not a limited access road, it’s a surface street. Los Angeles is an enormous grid of surface streets that’s crisscrossed by big, limited access freeways.

Service Streets in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the city of boulevards. In general, a boulevard is a wide, multi-lane road, often with a median strip. Boulevards can also have lanes that run parallel to the main road. These lanes are called service streets, and are usually separated from the main boulevard by a grassy island. If you’re trying to visit an address on a boulevard that has a service street, you’ll have to make a turn before you reach your destination, or turn around shortly after.

Luckily, service streets don’t usually have a different name than the boulevard they serve. The signage will read the same as the main road. If you’re from a crowded eastern city, you’ll appreciate how much easier it can be to drive slowly along a service street to find a street address. It makes finding a parking space, easier, too.

There Are Cities Inside The City of Los Angeles

You can drive at full speed for more than an hour and never leave Los Angeles. It’s a big city, and really spread out. However, it’s also possible to pass through four different cities in about ten miles of road. Cities like Beverly Hills and West Hollywood are completely encircled by the City of Los Angeles.

All these smaller cities inside of Los Angeles makes the city much more vibrant and interesting. They can pose problems for out-of-town drivers, however. Street names can change when you enter a new city. Sometimes a street name changes when you enter a city, and changes back when you reach the other border.

Sometimes streets just end when they reach a notable destination like a park, a lake, or an airport. The road may begin again on the other side of the obstacle, but they’re disconnected.

Beware Familiar Street Names in Unfamiliar Places

If you’re stuck in traffic, it can be tempting to see a familiar street name on a sign, and take the exit thinking you can go the rest of the way on surface streets. Be careful. Many smaller cities inside of Los Angeles have roads with the same names as other local cities, but that are completely unrelated to roads with the same name elsewhere.

cheapest monthly car rental driving los angelesHow Los Angeles Natives Drive

Driving in Los Angeles isn’t much different than anywhere else in the US. There are some laws and habits you might not be aware of, however. Here’s a short list of traffic rules for L.A

DUI

Law enforcement is very strict for driving under the influence. The legal limit for blood alcohol is 0.08%, and sobriety checkpoints are common. You can still be charged with driving under the influence for even lower levels if you exhibit other signs of intoxication. If you’re out for a big bash in Los Angeles with a bunch of friends, it’s smart to rent a party bus or use limousine service to avoid trouble with a DUI.

Carpool Lanes

Los Angeles was a pioneer in the use of carpool lanes. On L.A. freeways, they’re called High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, or simply HOVs. You can recognize HOV lanes by they diamond painted on the road surface. You’ll have to be vigilant about what constitutes a HOV lane. Some require only two occupants, others are reserved for three or more.

If you’re visiting from other parts of California that have HOV lanes that are only restricted during rush hour, don’t forget that in LA, carpool lane rules apply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Some motorcycles and low emission vehicles are eligible to ride in the HOV lane at any time, so don’t get confused if you see a car in the HOV lane with just a driver.

Cell Phone Etiquette

It’s legal to talk on your cell phone while you’re driving. You must use a hands-free device, though. If you’re spotted holding a smartphone to your ear while driving, you can expect a hefty ticket. Texting is specifically banned, including reading texts. You shouldn’t use the GPS in your handheld phone while driving, either. Even the cheapest monthly car rental deals are available with dedicated GPS now, and it’s smart to use one.

Leaving Children in the Car

It gets hot in Southern California. It’s not smart to leave a small child in an unattended car even for short periods, and it’s also against the law. Children under the age of six can’t be left in a car alone, and a child must be at least twelve to look after another child in a parked car. It’s also illegal to leave pets unattended in parked cars. One more thing about kids and cars: it’s against the law to smoke if you have a child in the car.

Traffic Is a Fact of Life in LA

If you’re new to Los Angeles, you might be astonished by the number of cars on the road, and the number of roads for cars to be on. LA natives are accustomed to heavy traffic, and have smart strategies for avoiding freeways during rush hours. There are plenty of major surface streets that can look like parking lots for long stretches during commuting hours. If you have a traffic app like Waze,  Google Maps, or Mapquest, you’ll be able to avoid many traffic tie-ups. You’d do well to ask LA natives for advice on the best times to travel, too.

If you’re more old school, you can tune in t KNX-AM 1070. They feature traffic reports six times an hour, all day and night. You can also dial 511 on your phone for an instant traffic report, but remember to use hands free mode on your phone.

If you’d like to get a real feeling of what it’s like to drive in downtown Los Angeles, check out this video:

Remember, for the cheapest monthly car rental in greater Los Angeles, contact Value Rental Car, with convenient locations in Los Angeles and Pasadena.

Insider's Guide To Los Angeles Freeway Names from rentavaluecar.com

Photos courtesy of the The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

How To Rent a Car Without a Credit Card

cash deposit car rentals value rental carWhen it comes to modern traveling, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. With the power of the internet, there are a million ways to choose destinations and make travel arrangements. It seems like there’s a million ways to pay for your trip, too. Consumers are no longer tied down to a credit card or two when they want to make purchases. Alternative payment methods like PayPal, virtual currencies, debit cards, and wire transfers are accepted almost everywhere now. If you’re trying to rent a car, however, you might run straight into a wall if you’re trying to pay with anything but a major credit card. Cash deposit car rentals are one alternative if you want to rent a car without a credit card. You’ll have to hunt around in some cities to find car rental companies that accept cash deposits, however.

If you’re one of the millions of consumers who don’t carry a major credit card, don’t lose heart when it’s time to rent a car. We’ve assembled a handful of smart strategies for renting a car without a credit card.

Avoid Prepaid Cards

Rental car companies that accept cash deposits aren’t as common as regular car rental companies. Most cities have at least a few to choose from. They’ll all have different rules for cash deposit car rentals, but you can usually work out something that fits your budget and your payment method. However, it’s smart to avoid using prepaid credit cards, like gift cards, to rent a car. Here’s why

A prepaid credit card isn’t cash, it’s not a debit card, and it’s not really a credit card, either. It doesn’t bring all of the benefits that a traditional credit card enjoys. There’s no credit line backing it up, and there are no extra features like free travel insurance.

Since the money is available immediately on a prepaid card, you might think that it’s as good as cash. Your car rental company probably won’t. That’s because even though the card is loaded with cash, it still carries a few of the protections for the consumer that a regular credit card has. It might be possible to reverse a charge on a prepaid card, for instance. That means you might have a more difficult time using a prepaid card than with straight cash deposit car rentals.

Debit Card Car Rental

Many travelers are surprised to find out they can use their debit card to rent a car. Car rentals using a debit card are similar to cash deposit car rentals, but not exactly the same. The differences might mean the difference between a carefree trip and a traveling disaster, so plan ahead.

Travel budgets can be tight. It’s smart to have contingency funds available at all times to take care of travel hiccups, or to take advantage of opportunities for extra shopping or added excursions. That kind of cash buffer can be hard to maintain if you use a debit card. Cash deposit car rentals have a fixed amount, for instance, but using a debit card for car rental, hotel stays, and the like can be trickier. Many businesses treat debit card transactions like a regular credit card purchase. That means they place a hold on contingency funds they require to cover any potential charge you might make.

On a credit card, this contingency isn’t such a big deal. It’s applied against your credit line. The car rental agency just verifies that you could charge up to the amount that’s required.  It doesn’t charge the whole amount at once. With a debit card, they freeze the total amount they need to cover any potential charges. That means your money will be held in your debit card account until the transaction is complete. That won’t happen until your vacation is over. Even if your car rental charges are low, you can’t spend the rest of your money until the bill is settled. If you need the money in your debit card account for other purchases, you’ll be out of luck.

Use Premium Debit Cards

All debit cards are not created equal. Some debit cards are more like hybrid credit cards, especially if they’re linked to bank accounts that have overdraft protection. If you use a premium debit card at the car rental counter, you’ll probably end up with a smaller hold on your available funds. That will leave you more leeway on other purchases while you’re traveling.

For example,  PayPal debit cards come in many flavors. If you qualify for a Business or Premier PayPal debit card, you can link a backup funding source to the card. This can be one of any number of accounts, from checking to a money market fund. This allows you to use the debit card for things like car rental, but doesn’t require having a huge cash balance that’s put on hold to make the transaction go through. As long as there’s a backup funding source for emergencies, you’ll satisfy the requirements of most car rental agencies. When you return the car, the hold on your backup funds will be removed.

Cash Deposit Car Rentals

If you don’t carry a major credit card or premium debit card, car rentals with cash deposit is always an alternative. For the most part, you’ll do better at smaller, independent car rental companies than at the major car rental outfits. While some big car rental companies advertise non-standard rental terms, you might be turned away from the counter anyway. Many car rental companies are franchises, and the local outlet has the right to refuse service to cash customers.

Beware Online Aggregators

If you’re planning on looking for car rentals that accept cash deposits, you have to be very careful if you use online travel comparison sites. Car rentals that take cash deposits are harder to find, and many comparison websites lump all their listings together. Some travelers make reservations through online travel aggregators because the listings promise one thing, only to find out that the listing is out of date or in error.

This can lead to a big problem when your reservation puts a hold on your funds. If you cancel the reservation because the car rental company won’t accept a cash deposit, the hold on your funds can last for days, or even weeks. You won’t have a rental car, and you won’t have access to your available balance, either. It’s always better to talk to the actual rental car company for car rental with cash deposit.

Avoiding a Credit Check

Lots of traditional car rental agencies advertise cash deposit car rental. They use credit checks to turn away cash customers anyway. Many consumers who use cash don’t have a credit history, or are still rebuilding their credit. A credit check can be a non-starter for any kind of car rental. Make sure a prospective car rental agency will accept cash and valid ID for cash deposit car rentals, and without any strings.

Don’t forget, one of the reasons car rental agencies like credit cards is that they represent a second form of identification. They also serve as a form of of credit check. If you’re using cash, or a debit card, be prepared to show more proof of identity than just your driver’s license. Some possible ID might include things like a passport, an insurance card for a vehicle, an airline ticket, or a copy of a utility bill or bank statement that shows your name and address. A military ID is also an excellent form of identification.

For more information about cash deposit car rental in Los Angeles, contact Value Rental Car. They have convenient locations near LAX, and in Pasadena. 

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Car Rental Under 21 Years Old? Here’s How!

car rental under 21-value rental car-los angelesIt’s great to be a young adult. You’re in the prime of life, and you have fewer responsibilities than you’ll have when you’re older. You can travel around, see the world, meet new people, and try out different vocations. It’s interesting to visit other parts of the country, and the world, and then decide where you might want to live. Unfortunately, even though you’re old enough to vote, join the armed forces, and pay taxes on your earnings, you don’t always qualify for many of the benefits that older adults take for granted. One of the most common troubles young adults face is car rental under 21 years of age.

Sorry, Everyone Under 25 Pays More

If you’re between the ages of 18 and 21, don’t assume that your troubles will be over when you hit the magic 21. While car rentals for under 21 drivers are hard to come by, you’re still going to be treated differently by car rental companies until you’re 25 or over. Here’s why:

Car Rentals Under 25 Are Riskier

Car rental companies worry about accidents. Their insurance rates are very high, and they’re always on the lookout for ways to lower them. Car insurance companies use statistics to set their rates, and drivers under the age of 25 are much more likely to have a car accident than older, more experienced drivers. Car rental for under 21 drivers is statistically even riskier for them.

The insurance companies don’t forbid car rental companies from offering underage car rental, but they do try to discourage it. Blanket insurance policies for rental car agencies make insurance rates higher across the board if underage car rentals are included. Most large car rental companies charge substantially more for car rental under 25, and simply forbid car rental under 21.

State Laws Don’t Help Underage Rental Car Customers

A few state legislatures have tried to help out younger drivers. Michigan and New York, for instance, require all car rental companies to offer rental cars for under 21 drivers. The federal government has also looked into regulating rental car fairness.

There’s a catch. While the state can force car rental agencies to rent the cars, they don’t set what the rental car companies can charge. If you’re over 18 but under 21, you might find yourself paying daily fees in excess of $100 to rent a car in states where it’s mandated. That’s usually far more than the rental itself costs. And that doesn’t count all the other fees involved. In practice, underage rental car laws don’t have a big effect on your ability to rent a car affordably.

Major Agencies Avoid Car Rental Under 21

If you shop around for rental cars for under 25 drivers, you’re bound to find conflicting information. This is especially true of major car rental companies like Advantage, Dollar, Enterprise, Avis, and others. While many of the policies for car rentals are set at a corporate level, a lot of details are left up to the operators of each car rental location. That included policies on under 21 car rental.

That’s why it’s important to check with the actual car rental location where you’ll be picking up and dropping off your car. If you rely on the information on a central corporate website, you might be turned away. It’s also possible that the requirements to rent a car are so strict that you’ll be unable to meet them.

How To Save Money on Under 21 Car Rental

Renting a car when you’re under 25 is expensive, and even pricier and harder to find when you’re under 21. That doesn’t mean you can’t find great deals. Smart shoppers do their homework, and look for companies who specialize in unusual rental situations. Because you’re not a typical customer, there are bound to be more rules and higher fees. Here are some smart strategies to offset some of the drawbacks of car rental under 21:

Avoid luxury vehicle and truck rentals

What you rent is as important as how old you are when it comes to car rental. Many young drivers see car rental as an exciting change from driving their parents humdrum minivans, or riding on public transportation. That’s understandable, but trying to rent high-powered sports cars, large trucks, and other luxury vehicles is going to be prohibitively expensive or impossible for young drivers.

That makes sense. More expensive cars need bigger insurance policies, and car rental agencies charge more to cover their potential liability. Be smart, and stick to renting regular vehicles at regular rates. You’re much more likely to be turned away at a rental counter if you try to rent a Porsche than a Toyota.

Don’t overlook corporate and organization rates

If you have a job with a big company, be sure to see if they have a corporate account with a major car rental firm before you shop around. Most corporate accounts require the rental car companies to treat every member the same, including young drivers. Not only will they rent to underage drivers, they’ll often waive all fees as well.

Exceptions for military members

You can join the military when you’re 18, so there’s really no reason you shouldn’t be able to rent a car at that age, too. Most car rental companies agree. If you’re a serving member of any military branch, you probably qualify for rental car service at reduced rates. Civilians who work for the federal government sometimes qualify as well. Membership in USAA may also help underage drivers to rent a car. Children of members often qualify for the same benefits as their parents.

Your insurance might be more important than your age

For young drivers, rental car companies will take a particular interest in your car insurance policy. If you’re fully insured to drive in the state where you want to rent a car, you’ll have a much easier time finding a good deal. If not, look into the benefits you get with your credit cards and other insurance. While it might not be enough to avoid big fees at the counter, it might make the difference between driving away or walking away from the counter.

How you pay affects what you can rent

If you have a major credit card with all the bells and whistles, you’ll have an easier time finding a rental car agency to work with you. Debit cards also work, but you’ll have to have a big balance available to cover any potential liability. If you’re too young to have good credit, it is possible to rent a car using a cash deposit. However, you should be prepared to pay a lot more, and to be able to prove your identity in several ways to rent a car. For all car rental under 21, you’ll need good insurance to get the best deals.

Independent Car Rental Agencies Are Your Best Bet

You’ll have an easier time with car rental under 21 years of age if you recognize that you’re an unusual customer for a regular car rental company. You’ll have an easier time dealing with independent car rental agencies who specialize in unusual car rental terms. Every city has small car rental companies with more flexible policies than the bigger brand names.

For Los Angeles car rental under 21, contact Value Rental Car in Inglewood and Pasadena. They have flexible policies and alternatives to traditional car rental policies that will have you driving in no time, even if you aren’t over the age of 25.

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7 Solid Strategies for Vacationing With Children

family vacation tips affordable car rentalsVacations are for relaxing. They’re great for getting away from your regular schedule so you can recharge your batteries. That means that the best vacations have the fewest hassles. Even if you love energetic holiday getaways filled with activities like hiking, skiing, or swimming, taking care of travel arrangements, comfortable hotel accommodations, and affordable car rentals in advance will allow you to relax and have more fun.

Even for the seasoned traveler, bringing children along sometimes makes travel more of an adventure than you’d like. Children can bring unexpected complications to any kind of travel. That doesn’t mean you can’t plan a successful vacation just because you’re bringing children along. With careful planning, you’ll be able to avoid common pitfalls and enjoy your vacation even more. Here’s a list of 7 solid strategies for vacationing with children:

Pre-Book. Or Else

Adults often get away on the spur of the moment. Once you introduce children into the mix, spontaneity gets much harder. Children like normal routines, and they prefer to have familiar things to eat, wear, and look at. Travel can be challenging for an adult. It can be even harder for a child who’s overtired, hungry, and in a strange place.

Make your reservations for hotels, car rental, and flights well in advance, so there’s less chance of being shut out at the last minute. You’ll get more affordable car rentals, hotel rooms, and airfare if you don’t book at the last minute, too.

Have Entertainment Handy

In any long trip, there are bound to be periods when nothing much is going on. Children have a much shorter attention span than adults, so it’s best to have something on hand to amuse them during layovers and other trip interruptions.

Many people rely on smartphones as their go-to entertainment device these days. Think twice before putting all your eggs in the smartphone basket, however. You never know when there will be gaps in your internet connectivity that might turn your smartphone into a dumbphone in a hurry. A tablet pre-loaded with favorite movies and games might be a better bet. Don’t forget to bring the charger!

Prepare for Car Trips

If you have a lot of pavement to cover between stops, make sure you’re ready to amuse your little ones the whole way. Luckily, it’s easy to keep children amused in the car. Try matching and identification games like “I Spy,” or “Punch Buggy.” A bag full of little handheld toys like fidget spinners are useful, too.

Don’t rely strictly on devices like tablets or phones to amuse your children during car trips. Many children get motion sickness when they stare at screens for long periods in the car.

Synchronize Flights With Sleep

Smart travelers plan their long haul flights and lengthy rental car rides to coincide with their children’s sleep patterns. You’ll have a much easier time if your children sleep on planes and during car trips. They’ll also be less cranky when you do arrive at your destinations.

Search for Child-Friendly Services

Traveling with children is different than traveling with other adults, and many businesses cater to traveling families. Don’t settle for the first offer you find for your trip. Choose resorts and hotels that cater to families instead of singles. Some resorts have activities just for kids that can give you a welcome break, too. Finding affordable car rentals doesn’t just mean low prices. Select a car rental company that has the right kind of vehicle for your group. Many car rental companies have minivan rentals, for instance.

Keep the Weather In Mind

Adults sometimes enjoy roughing it a little when they’re on vacation. Children enjoy themselves more when they’re comfortable and rested. Make sure you have a lot of the proper clothes for your children for the climate at your destination. Children need more spare garments, too, because they spill food and drink more than adults.

Make Parenthood Pay

It’s true that traveling with children requires more careful planning than traveling with only adults. If you minimize any hitches, your little companions can also make your trip more enjoyable and lively. Having children along can also pay off another way. Many businesses offer family-friendly deals on transportation, lodging, meals, and accommodations. Many attractions like theme parks offer very attractive discounts, or even free admissions, depending on the age of your children. Make sure to inquire about family rates when you book your trip. You’ll enjoy your trip even more if it costs less!

How To Deal With an Overbooked Airline, Hotel, or Auto Rental

hotel lobby auto rental valuerentalcar.comFor many travelers, airline flights, hotel stays, and auto rental are heavily dependent on each other. If any one of your travel arrangements are disrupted, it can have downstream effects on all of them. Each reservation you make for your trip is like a link in a chain. It’s important that no link in the chain is less reliable than any other.

For most travelers, the weakest link is airline travel reservations. Airlines routinely overbook their flights, because they figure that some of their customers will cancel. This policy helps airlines keep their flights full. It can cause a lot of problems for travelers who need to make connections like auto rental pickups, and hotel check-ins, however.

Airlines Have More Regulations Than Hotels and Auto Rental Companies

Airlines operate under more government regulations than most businesses. That’s because they’re common carriers. Since major airlines operate internationally, they must comply with regulations from many different countries. That means that when there’s a problem with your flight, there are more rules in place to cover it.

If your flight is oversold, it’s likely that you qualify for specific levels of compensation. The exact amount of help you’ll get depends a lot on the circumstances of your travel arrangements. Short hop economy flights with last-minute tickets don’t qualify for the same level of compensation as round the world trips booked many months in advance. However, it’s important to keep in mind that anyone bumped off a flight is entitled to some form of legal recourse.

Hotel Guests Have Rights, Too

Hotels overbook rooms for the same reason that airlines overbook flights. They want to ensure that their hotel is full of guests, and they’re afraid that some guests will cancel. Hotels usually have a better idea of how many cancellations they can expect than airlines. They’re also much more likely to have a few rooms in reserve at all times in order to deal with emergencies. Airlines can’t just add a few folding chairs in the aisle and invite more people on board. Hotels have more flexibility.

There are many reasons why a hotel might be overbooked. It’s not always due to deliberate overbooking of rooms. Hotel guests often check in with a certain length of stay in mind, but later change their minds and stay longer. Hotels are under no legal obligation to enforce the length of hotel stays in order to make sure rooms open up in time for new reservations. It would be infuriating to most hotel guests to be turned out of a hotel to make way for new guests in any case.

Car Rental Reservations

As anyone who has watched Seinfeld can tell you, some car rental companies aren’t great at holding on to reservations. There are very few laws about auto rental reservations. That means it’s up to the individual car rental company to set a policy, and stick to it. Most large car rental companies have policies set by their home offices, and don’t have a lot of flexibility. Independent car rental companies are much more likely to work with you when there’s a problem.

What To Do if Your Reservation Falls Through

Airline Customers

Remember, the airlines have a lot of rules to follow. If you’re bumped from a flight, you almost always have compensation coming. Some delays and other mishaps also qualify you for additional compensation. It’s important that you defend your rights, but without becoming agitated at airline personnel. Airlines offer passengers different alternatives when their flights have been interrupted. You’re under no obligation to take the first offer made to you. Passengers who hold out for more often get more.

Don’t make the mistake of being unreasonable, however. Airlines do have limits on what they’re willing to offer you. If you get an offer that takes care of your inconvenience, you should take it and move on with your trip.

Hotel Customers

If your hotel is overbooked, it’s likely that some form of alternative will be offered to you. It’s actually quite common to get an upgraded room at no extra charge if you’re bumped from the room you reserved. On the other hand, if your reservation was for a large suite, and the only room available is an economy room, make sure you receive the downgraded rate.

In the event that a hotel doesn’t have any rooms available, don’t give up. While there are no laws forcing them to, most hotel chains have a policy of “walking” customers to a new hotel if they can’t accommodate them. It’s quite common for overbooked hotels to make all the arrangements for your new room with another hotel, and even pay for your cab ride if you need it.

Auto Rental Customers

There are few legal requirements for car rental companies to honor their reservations. Once traditional car rental companies run out of cars, there’s usually very little they can do to help you.

First, ask if an upgrade or a downgrade is available for the car you reserved. If there is, it’s usually smart to take what’s available. You’re in the right, but it’s more important for you to get some sort of transportation. It’s OK to negotiate, but being adamant can turn you into a pedestrian in a strange city in a hurry.

Never Do This

No matter whether you’re bumped from a flight, a hotel room, or an auto rental, there’s one approach that never works. Never cancel your reservation in a huff. A reservation is a legally binding contract. While it doesn’t always pay to argue at a reservation desk over your rights, it never makes sense to cancel your reservation because you’re angry. By cancelling your original reservations, you remove the original obligation the company has for you. In essence, you’ve made their problem into your problem.

In all cases, be reasonable with the companies you’re dealing with, and they’ll be more likely to be reasonable in return. Threatening bad reviews on social media sites is unlikely to help you, and may hurt. Don’t be a pushover, however. Ask for what you’re entitled to, and remind the company of their obligations to their customers when they take — but don’t hold — a reservation.