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Caveat Emptor: Let the Renter Beware

This a good motto for business travelers to take to heart.  While the same can be said for families and individuals looking for rentals, the rental business is made and maintained by business travelers, and there are very few business men, especially older ones, who have not experienced some very unwanted last-minute surprises when the final bill for the car-rental is much higher than what they originally anticipated.

Caveat Emptor: Let the Renter BewareThere are a lot of horror stories involving expecting a $100 bill and paying $200, or of checking a credit card statement that included huge fees and expenses that the renter was never expecting.  The bad news is, usually these will have to be paid, and there generally is not an appeals process.  All rental contracts have small print, and guess what’s in that fine print?  The good news is that with only moderate training, your eye will be able to scan a contract whether on paper or online, and see the most common traps that renters fall into.  Once you see the traps, you’ll have the discernment to avoid them.

First off, watch out for local taxes and fees.  Taxes and fees should be part of the quoted rate, but some places will try to pull a quick one by having the rental fees without the taxes.  Always ask to be sure.  Ignorance is not an excuse, and some rental places make their money off people not asking questions they should.  Taxes and fees can increase your final cost by up to 70 percent in the worst situations.

Although usually a minor expense, you should note that most rental car places now add a small fee to customers earning frequent flier miles for their rentals.  Expect to pay 50 cents per day, up to a maximum of $2 per rental, for earning those miles.

The most major thing to look out for is insurance.  This is the one major car-rental fee you can do something about.  When they pitch collision or liability damage waivers, don’t fall for rental car agents’ hard sell (these are commission items, which is why they are so strenously recommended at the counter).  Normally, if you own a car and have insurance you’re already covered when driving a rental car.  Many major credit cards offer insurance as long as the rental is charged on that card.  Before your next trip, call your insurance company and credit card company to see if you’re covered.  If you are, tell the person at the counter to forget the pitch: it’s not worth $30 a day or more to buy something you already have.  Avoid these things, and your next car rental bill will be far less likely to start a migraine.

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