Tips for Renting a Car for the First Time

Nov 25, 2021 10:23 AM EST | Staff Reporter

Tips for Renting a Car for the First Time


(Photo : Michael Fousert on Unsplash)

Whether your vehicle is in the shop, you're headed away for work or personal reasons, or you just need access to a car for a limited period, at some stage, you'll likely need to rent four wheels for the first time.

When this whole process is new to you, it can be a bit stressful, but there's no need to worry. Here are some top tips you need to know for renting a car.

Do Your Research

Firstly, do yourself a favor and do plenty of research before choosing a hire car company. Don't just rock up to the airport or other spot and go with the first firm you spot if you want to get the best deal. Instead, spend time looking up rental car options online well before the day of your travel so you can obtain and compare quotes from different businesses and see what will be the best option for your needs.

For example, search online for "car rental, Seattle airport" or "hire a car in NYC," etc., to see which firms service the area you need to pick up a car from. You'll generally always get a much better deal when you pre-book in advance than showing up on the day and asking for prices. Plus, booking early will help ensure you get a car that most suits your needs regarding size, make, model, and the like.

Have Documents On Hand

Next, keep in mind that no matter which company you hire a vehicle from, you're likely going to need numerous documents on hand to show the person you're dealing with or to scan and upload digitally. This is even more necessary if you're planning to hire a car internationally.

You'll need to show your valid driver's license or potentially an international driver's license and passport if renting a vehicle overseas. You may need some other ID, too, such as a birth certificate or credit card. If you've pre-booked online, you may need a printout of that booking confirmation or to show proof of emails acknowledging your booking and pre-payment. Plus, if you hope to use any discount vouchers to get a deal, you'll need evidence of coupons or other offer details. 

Look Into Additional Fees

Before you choose a rental company, look into any additional fees they might charge. Some businesses seem much cheaper and great value for money compared to their competitors until you read all the fine print on their rental paperwork. For example, there are often extra charges for picking up cars from airport locations or for dropping them back to a different lot than where you picked them up.

You may have to pay more to drive the car on certain terrain types or take it out of the state or area, too. Plus, learn about whether you have to return a vehicle refilled with gas or not and what the penalties are for bringing it back after the agreed-upon return time. Keep in mind that many places will charge you for another full 24 hours' rental if you're just 30 or 60 minutes late to return a car.

Take Note of Any Damage to the Vehicle Before You Drive It Away

A top tip not to ignore is inspecting a vehicle closely before you drive it off the car hire lot. You must pick up on any scratches, dents, or other damage to the car and record this information (or have it noted in your signed paperwork) so that the company can't try to say you caused the destruction.

Some firms will already list issues in contracts or other documents, so you can just check that everything has been noted before you sign. However, other organizations won't mention anything, so you need to take it upon yourself to acknowledge things ASAP. Before driving off the lot, it helps to take time-stamped photos of damage on your smartphone or another device. This way, you'll have proof that problems were there before you drove the car, if it comes to that.

Investigate Insurance Options

Another vital component of renting a car is protecting yourself with the right insurance. Before you pay for expensive cover from the rental company, though, check your credit card and other already-purchased insurance products to see if you have included car rental insurance already. If so, you may not need to outlay any more money on additional products.

If you don't, ask plenty of questions about the insurance on offer at the car hire place to see if the product they're offering you is worthwhile or not. Don't just jump straight to getting extra or the highest cover, either, unless you truly think you'll need it.

Renting a car can be a great decision that enables you all the flexibility and freedom you need for a period. However, don't rush the process and do your due diligence, so you don't waste money or have problems with the firms you deal with.

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