New rules of the road for rental cars

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There are some rules of the road for car rentals right now that I want to share with you. Rental fleets are smaller than they have historically been, so the rates all over the board. You could get sticker shock if you only rent a car occasionally. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Before you book a non-refundable trip like an airline ticket, I want you to shop car rentals for your destination first. See what kind of money you’re looking at paying. Very often it can exceed the cost of an airline ticket.
  • Shop the rental rates more than just once. Rental companies use dynamic demand pricing and are always adjusting the prices of rentals. So you might do a car reservation when you book your flight, but one week before your trip, I want you to re-shop that rental again. (Most rental reservations don’t require you to lay any money out upfront during the reservation phase.) Also check Hotwire.com and see what prices they’re offering for rental cars.
  • Check with own insurer before you take your trip to make sure you are covered for temporary use of a rental car. In addition, your credit card may cover you for temporary rental use. That way you can decline the expensive coverage the agent tries to push on you at the rental counter.
  • Should you prepay for fuel? Over and over again, people fall for this rip-off. You have to take a chance on running out of gas on the way back to the airport to make prepaying for fuel pay off. On the other hand, be sure that you fill the car up before you return it. USA Today  reports some companies are charging $9/gallon for fuel when they have to put in for you!
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