All articles

10 Common Car Rental Mistakes to Avoid

Ready for your next road trip? Find out about the most common car rental mistakes and how you can avoid them. Make sure to start your vacation without any car rental problems!

Car parked on the side of the highway to watch the sunset.
10 Common Car Rental Mistakes to Avoid / Skyscanner Canada

Renting a car in a different city can open up your trip to so many unique possibilities! From day trips to long road trips, you’ll get to see a different part of the country than the average tourist. However, there are some things to consider when renting a car before you drive off into the sunset. Check out these common car rental mistakes to make sure you avoid them!

Buying Extra Car Insurance

Before renting a car, you should make sure you aren’t already covered for rental insurance. There are a few places to check like your auto insurance policy and your credit card benefits. Some auto insurance policies cover rental cars, while quite a few credit cards provide car rental insurance. For credit cards, you have to book and pay with the card that provides coverage and it has to match the name of the driver.

Car rentals agencies will offer you to purchase extra insurance, so arrive at the location knowing if you are already covered (and what is covered). Sometimes it does make sense to purchase insurance through the rental agency, but often it is a car rental mistake to pay insurance twice.

Most drivers under the age of 25 will have to purchase an additional car rental insurance, so confirm that extra detail if your auto insurance or credit cards claim to cover car rental insurance.

Image of someone using a gas pump.
10 Common Car Rental Mistakes to Avoid / Skyscanner Canada

Forgetting to Fill the Gas Tank

Gas is very rarely (if ever) included in the price of the car rental. There are usually three gas options offered at the start of your rental. You can fill up the tank yourself (to the same gas amount in which you received the vehicle), you can let the car rental agency fill up the tank at a set rate, or you can prepay for an entire tank of gas at a slightly lower set rate.

The most money-saving option is to fill up the gas tank yourself because the set rate at the rental agency is usually significantly more expensive than the local gas stations. If you don’t fill up your own gas, your wallet will pay for it. If you opt to prepay a gas tank, you will most likely lose out because you’re unlikely to return a car on empty.

When filling up your own tank before returning your rental car, always put a little extra to make sure you arrive at the car rental agency with the proper amount and didn’t burn through a bunch of gas on the way over. This is a common car rental mistake that you don’t want to do!

Closeup of an airport sign pointing to the car hire area.
10 Common Car Rental Mistakes to Avoid / Skyscanner Canada

Not Researching the Options

There is an abundance of car rental companies, all in different locations around the city, with different types of vehicles. This also means the prices can vary drastically, especially when it comes to pick up and drop off locations. For example, airport car rentals tend to be more expensive than a rental agency that is slightly less convenient for tourists. Also, there are often discounts for different time periods and lengths of rentals.

Make sure to research different car rental companies, different types of cars, different dates, and different rental length. Always check to see what is included in the cost to make sure there are no hidden surprises at the end of your trip.

Skyscanner makes it really easy to get the best car rental deals because the search engine does a chunk of the research for you! Enter your details and receive instant information about the best car rental deals in the area. It’s an easy way to avoid a car rental mistake!

Image of a car driving along a windy road with a body of water and mountain range in the background.
10 Common Car Rental Mistakes to Avoid / Skyscanner Canada

Thinking Car Inspections Aren’t Necessary

Before driving away from the car rental agency, make sure to inspect the car and note any damage – no matter how small. Often, the car rental employee will do an inspection with you and provide documentation of any dents or scratches that the company is already aware of. You should do the inspection with the employee to point out anything they might have missed.

If this is not the case, and there is no one performing an inspection, then you definitely need to conduct one. Take photos of any damage around the entire car and report anything to the car rental agency prior to driving away. Don’t forget to check the inside for any tears or stains.

Once you’ve driven off the lot, any new unreported damage could be blamed on you! It is important to complete a proper car inspection so you aren’t dinged with repair costs from someone else’s damage – one of the worst car rental mistakes to make. If you drive away and the car seems to have a mechanical error, bring it back right away.

Renting a GPS from the Car Rental Agency

If the vehicle you are renting does not already come equipped with a GPS, the car rental employee might offer you to rent a GPS or navigation system for the duration of your car rental. While it might seem like a great idea, these GPS rentals cost quite a bit! In fact, it is often cheaper to purchase a local SIM card for your smartphone and use Google Maps on data (you can even use Google Maps without data).

If you aren’t into the idea of purchasing a SIM card, then consider shopping for a portable GPS prior to your road trip. Bringing your own is often much cheaper than renting one for a daily rate and making this GPS car rental mistake.

A woman holding a map while outside of her car. Camping tent next to a lake in the background.
10 Common Car Rental Mistakes to Avoid / Skyscanner Canada

Crossing Country Borders

There are two things to consider when planning to cross a country border. You need to make sure that your car insurance is covered in all of the countries you plan to visit. If it is not, it could result in a costly mistake!

If you are planning on picking up a car in one country and dropping it off in another… consider the extra fees. Often, there are enormous fees to do an inter-country trip. The fees might even be more expensive than the whole price of the car rental! A good idea is to drop the car off near the border, take public transit across the border, and pick up another car on the other site.

It might sound inconvenient but it can save you hundreds of dollars and avoid any border-related car rental mistakes.

Not Erasing Your Bluetooth Information

If at any point, you had connected your cell phone to the car’s Bluetooth system, you need to make sure you’ve erased it before returning the rental car. Even if you just used it to listen to music, all of your data is still paired with the car unless you erase the memory on the rental car. It’s a big car rental mistake to give the next person accessing any of your information.

Expecting Fast Service at the Rental Agency

In major cities, it is unlikely you will wait more than an hour before you can drive away in your car. Between waiting in line, signing all the documents, and doing a car inspection – it can take longer than expected.

However, in smaller cities, it will probably take you much, much longer than expected. It can happen that you have to wait for someone to return a car, have an inspection, get it cleaned, and then start your paperwork. In major cities, there are usually cars available, even if it means getting a different car than expected (in the form of a convenience upgrade). In smaller cities, there might not be any extra cars waiting around. 

Dropping off cars might take longer than expected, so make sure you plan plenty of time in your itinerary for the car rental process. You don’t want to miss a flight due to a common car rental mistake!

Checking if the Car is Manual or Automatic

Manual cars are often cheaper to rent than automatic cars. Manual cars are also often the only option in certain parts of the world. If you can’t drive manual (or if you don’t want to), always check prior to booking if it is manual or automatic. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a foreign country with a manual transmission you can’t drive.

Red car driving along a highway.
10 Common Car Rental Mistakes to Avoid / Skyscanner Canada

Not Returning the Car on Time

Depending on the car rental agency’s terms, dropping off a car late might result in a more expensive bill and a huge car rental mistake. Some places are more flexible with drop-offs, but many have very strict deadlines. It is possible that arriving 20 minutes late will result in charges for an entire extra rental day. You should always return the car on time, but you should be aware of the policy for late returns, just in case.


Finding the best car rental deals is easy with Skyscanner’s search engine. Enter the information for your trip, and get all the best options to choose from. If you avoid these common car rental mistakes and book with Skyscanner, you’ll be all set for your road trip! Check out Skyscanner’s FAQs for more info.

Car Rental Articles: