Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Renting Cars on Holiday: 4 Things to Keep in Mind

There's nothing worse than going on a vacation and then realizing that no matter where you go and no matter what you do, you're stuck depending on the whims of others. That's what happens when you're forced to leave the car at home, and it can be frustrating. But what you can do is get your power back by hiring a car for your vacation or business trip, giving yourself the freedom you do at home and putting more of your destination's greatest treasures at your fingertips.

Here are 4 things to keep in mind when renting cars on holiday.

1. Planning Ahead is Cheaper

First of all, it's typically cheaper to plan ahead when renting an automobile. The worst thing you can do, especially in a popular tourist destination, is wait until you get there and pay the "fresh off the boat" price. And most businessmen, in any industry, like to fill the books well ahead of time, so they typically offer cheaper prices the farther ahead you plan in advance.

This is a great reason to do your booking on the internet before you're on the ground. Keep in mind, however, that this typically only works if you use some kind of booking system that works directly with providers to get you a cheaper price—because many local providers will charge 30% more on their online bookings than they do to those on the ground (especially in foreign countries where you probably don't know the real prices).

So the best way to go about it is to find an online service that compares prices. Which reminds me…

2. Always Shop Around

It's always important to shop around and do a car rental price comparison as well. There are some great online car rental search systems that scour the biggest and smallest companies online to find the cheapest rates at your destination. Yet another reason to book ahead online.

3. Insurance is a Must

Resist the temptation to skip on the insurance—it's just not worth it. I know how it feels. You get that feeling in your gut that the insurance is just an upsell designed to drag more money out of your wallet, and I guess in a way it is. But it's worth it.

You do not want to end up in a worst case scenario and end up paying for a totaled or stolen rental car.

4. Inspect the Vehicle

One last note is that you should always inspect the vehicle before you leave and take note of any damages, no matter how insignificant. Because you can bet that this is what the boys in the shop at the rental company are going to do when you bring it back, and too many car rental customers end up paying for damages that shouldn't have been their responsibility.

It could be owed up to the rental company missing the damages on the last go or simple dishonesty—either way, you can't really point any fingers if you didn't inspect and document everything. Get them to sign it before you leave as well.

Renting a car these days has gotten cheaper than ever, and even if it seems risky business to take an expensive property into your hands that doesn't belong to you, it doesn't have to be by following these simple tips. Have fun!