When I travel, I usually like to rent a car, though first choice is taking public transportation. I’m fairly adventurous, and have no problem taking daily excursions on the bus or subway system in the country I’m visiting. But, if I’m in a place with inadequate public transportation, I’ll rent a car. If you choose to rent a car, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are six tips to make your experience a little better:
- Always book your reservation in advance. Use either an App, the rental company’s Internet site, or call the toll free number. If renting a car becomes a last minute decision, use your phone or find an internet café to make your reservation. If you’re a walk-up customer, you’re very likely going to pay a lot more.
- When conducting your search, consider picking up your vehicle at a site other than at the airport. Airport rates can be anywhere from 10% to 30% higher. I just did a random search for vehicle in Paris, France. The rate at the airport was $95 per day. The same class vehicle at the rental car’s downtown location was $84 per day.
- Look for a coupon code for the rental company you’re considering using. I happen to prefer the coupon site Retailmenot.com, but there are plenty of others out there. Any one of them will offer you some great discounts. Just do a search on the site for Hertz, Avis, or any of the other rental car companies for additional savings. You might find a coupon code that offers you free upgrade, dollars off per day, or you might even earn a free day (i.e., pay for 3 days and get one day free).
- You may need an international driver’s license (IDL) to drive legally. You can check with the embassy for the country where you’re going to find out; but it’s not a bad idea to get one any way so you’ll always have it just in case. It only costs $15. You’ll need to get it before you leave the United States. The US Department of State formally endorses only two companies to issue an IDL:AAA or National Automobile Club. It’s wise to not use other companies or organizations, as there are some fraud schemes that issue counterfeit IDLs.
- Insurance can be a tricky thing. My first advice on this topic is to never decline the insurance offered by the car rental company. Factor that cost into your budget when you begin planning and saving for your trip. Your credit card company will often provide insurance coverage if you use it to pay for your rental. But there is often a long lag time during the claims process. Until it is resolved, you’re still liable in the mean time. Additionally, even if your own personal auto insurance policy will cover it (mine covers any car that I drive), who wants a claim on their policy? So, just go with the additional insurance rider of the company. It’s easy and simple if there is an accident, and if the car is totaled, they’ll swap it out and get you another vehicle promptly; and
- If you’re only skimming through this list, be sure you don’t skip past this last one. Unlike US-based companies, the fleet of foreign rental car companies has a large number of cars with manual transmissions. You don’t need to use this as your chance to practice. You might find it to be frustrating, and that will take away from the enjoyment of your trip. This is why it’s important to make your reservation ahead of time. You’ll want to specify if you need a car with an automatic transmission.