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7 Car Rental Tips and Tricks That Will Save You From Common Mistakes

Renting a car on your vacation makes getting around to see the sights much more comfortable, especially if you’re visiting somewhere remote. But with the abundance of car rental companies out there, not to mention all the rules and regulations involved, it’s hard to know which way to go. We’ve compiled some car rental tips to give you a few pointers, so your next hire will be smooth riding from start to finish.

Renting a car doesn’t have to be a stressful, costly event. In fact, if you do your research and take on advice, hiring a vehicle on your vacation can be enjoyable. Check out our car rental tips that will give you the knowledge to book your next rental with confidence!

Car Rental Tips and Tricks

view of a plane from a car mirror
Holiday Car Hire Advice | Skyscanner Canada

1. Shop around for the best car rental deals

Gone are the days of only two or three rental companies to choose from! Not only are there more vehicles on offer, but more competition also means competing rates.

Although you’ll find top rent-a-car brands like Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Europcar in most parts of the world, look for smaller, local, yet reputable, companies in your chosen destination and you may score yourself a great holiday car.

2. Don’t always go with the cheapest car rental

It may seem like the ideal choice, especially if you’re travelling on a shoestring budget, but reserving the cheapest car hire deal isn’t always in your best interest. The cheapest may mean limited size and features, which might end up as more of a hassle for your vacation.

Consider where and when you’ll be driving the rental car and how many people need to travel. If you need a car for yourself and one other person to get around a small town, you may only need a basic, economy style car, which is usually the most economical.

If you plan to do a lot of highway travel or driving on dangerous roads, you may feel safer in a full-size vehicle. Similarly, if you’re travelling with kids or a group, a large vehicle is advisable for the comfort factor alone.

3. Use membership discounts

Before you book a rental car, think about which club subscriptions could save you some dollars. Pull out all your membership cards and look for ones that could offer discounts and deals on car rentals. If it’s a point-based membership, see if you have enough points to reserve a vehicle.

Here are just a few of the memberships that offer discounts, deals, upgrades and/or point accumulation at select car rental companies. It’s worth becoming a member of companies like CAA, which can help save you money in so many parts of travel.

Couple enjoying driving in convertible car
Car Rental Tips and Tricks | Skyscanner Canada

4. Know the best time to book your car rental

When to book to get the best price is always tricky. That’s why Skyscanner search tools are a great way to see a range of car rental rates at once. Just put in your destination and dates and a list of options pop up to choose from.

Let’s be honest, there’s no sure-fire way to guarantee you’ll always get the best rate – car rental companies change their rates daily; hourly sometimes. And it depends on a few things: where you’re going and what time of year. Naturally, if you’re travelling to a major airport or a popular, busy place in peak season, car rental prices may be high and rentals limited. For this reason, you should book early – three to six months in advance to ensure you’ll get your vehicle of choice. You may end up paying more if you book more than six months in advance, so avoid being a serial planner. You can also use our ‘Car Rental Near Me‘ search to find car rental deals nearest you. The search will point out alternative car rental spots so that you’ll have the chance to snag a great deal!

If your vacation falls in the offseason, you’ll probably safe to leave it a couple of weeks before your arrival. The best recommendation on renting a vehicle here is to keep watch for deals and be aware of the rental company’s cancellation policy before you book. Some offer free cancellation, which means if you book something and find a better deal later, you can cancel your reservation and re-book the better rate.

5. Read the insurance policy before signing the contract

Yes, terms and conditions and insurance policies can be a right pain to read, not to mention time-consuming, but it’s in your best interest to make the effort. That’s why it’s a good habit to do this before you arrive at the counter to sign the documents and pick up the car keys. By the time you do face a staff member, you’ll be armed with questions to ask, if you need to clarify anything.

Know exactly what you’re signing. What’s covered? What’s not? How much is the excess? Do you even need the additional insurance or does your personal car insurance cover you for rentals?

Also, make sure you’re not agreeing to extras like a GPS or an upgrade that you don’t need or want (unless you do want them, of course).

open road desert USA
Car Hire Heaven | Skyscanner Canada

6. Inspect the car inside and out before driving away

This may be the most important car hire advice we can give you: always, always do a thorough inspection before you drive away. Do a full walk around the exterior of the vehicle to look for dents, scratches, pings, and chips. Take photos. Lots of them.

Do the same inside the car and trunk. Be sure everything is in working order. If you find anything that you’re concerned about, insist that a staff member accompany you to the vehicle to record the issues. There are countless stories from disgruntled car rental customers who have been charged excessive amounts for the smallest of scratches or for marks that were allegedly there when they rented the car.

This may seem like a lot of work, especially if you arrive in the dark or after a long-haul flight, but this one, vital practice could save you thousands of dollars.

7. Return the rental car in the same condition

Our last piece of car rental advice may sound like common sense, but it’s one that will save you a few bucks. Most car rentals come with a full tank of gas – always check this when you do your initial inspection and take a photo. See car rental tip number 6 for more information. This means that you are responsible for returning the vehicle with a full tank of gas. If you don’t, you will be at the mercy of the contract, which will state the per litre rate you’ll be charged, and you can bet it’s more than you’d pay at the local gas station.

Avoid this by filling up at the closest gas station to your drop off point. And lastly, although you’re not usually expected to return the car spotless, be respectful and keep it as clean and tidy and possible. Naturally, a little dirt and sand will get on the floors and the exterior will be dusty and tires muddy, but if you take it back looking like you’ve been living in it for a month, you may be up for excessive cleaning costs.

Ready to Book Your Next Trip?

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