Best Tips for Renting a Car on Your Vacation

If you are staying entirely on the island of Siesta Key during your trip, you may not need to rent a car.  However, there is so much to see and do around Sarasota, as well as the state of Florida, that renting a car makes sense to most.  Now, more than ever, travelers need every tip they can get to rent a good car at a good price.  Here are our best tips for renting a car.

Choose the Right Vehicle

This may seem obvious, but more than one family has rented a vehicle thinking all of their members and gear will fit comfortably, only to be crammed in like sardines.  Likewise, some rent a larger car than they need, wasting money and gas.  Think ahead about the type of car and storage space you will need.  There are many categories now, like the economy, compact, intermediate, standard, full size, premium, luxury, small SUV, large SUV, extra capacity SUV… well, you get the picture.  Don’t hesitate to ask a representative about how many bags and passengers a vehicle can hold.  Also, ask about extras that you may need, such as a ski rack, car seat, or GPS system.

Avoid Airport Locations

Yes, airport locations usually have the best selection of rentals in that city, but they may not offer the best price.  Many car rental agencies charge supplemental daily fees at airport locations.  This can really add up if you are staying for a week or two.  Do some price comparisons and see if another office nearby may offer the same rate (or lower) without the added fee.

Ask About Discounts

Before agreeing to any rental, inquire about discount programs.  Many car rental agencies partner with other companies such as airlines, hotel chains, insurance companies, and credit card issuers.  Saving 25% or more can be a big deal to most travelers.  Once you find the companies that offer discounts you qualify for, spend the time and comparison shop again.  You may be surprised at how much you are able to save when factoring in the discount.

Look Beyond the Daily Price

It’s easy to get suckered into looking at the price per day when shopping for a good deal.  Be aware that the price per day is offered at an attractive rate, but usually does not include taxes, fees, and other charges included with the rental.  Instead, always search for the total price.  There are a number of sites, like Expedia, that let you search by total price rather than the price per day.

Book a Weekly Rate When Possible

This only works if it fits in your travel plans, but weekly rates are usually far better than daily rates.  In fact, sometimes the weekly rate is even better than if you rented for just five days.  If that’s the case, just return the car early and you will still save money unless there is a penalty for returning early.  Always check the fine print.

Understand Rental Car Insurance

Every rental car company will try to get you to buy their Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW).  This provides insurance for the car in case of an accident or damage to the car.  The problem is that it is crazy expensive.  In most cases, your personal auto insurance will cover the collision damage.  Check with your insurance company for full details.  Also, certain credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, include CDW for their members.

Returning the Car

In some cases, returning a car early could create penalty fees.  However, in virtually all cases, returning a car late will rack up high fees, so make sure you get the rental car checked in on time.  It is also a good idea to avoid prepaid gasoline plans.  Just give yourself time to gas up before you drop the car off.  Try to avoid the gas stations near the airport where the prices are the highest.

It is wise to have an attendant check out the car before you leave and that you agree about any damage.  Once you are on a plane and several states away, it’s hard to dispute the damages they ding you for.

Renting a car in Florida gives you the freedom to come and go as you please.  While short trips can be accomplished with taxi cabs or ride-sharing companies, you probably wouldn’t want to take an Uber to Walt Disney World and back.  Following the above tips can make sure that you enjoy your rental vehicle and get the most for your money.

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