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Automotive Articles >> Car Rentals

Car Rental at the Airport

The travel experts all tell you to reserve your rental car before you set out on your trip but, whilst that’s not so vital as it used to be, it’s probably well worth considering.

Your agent’s primary motivation in offering this advice was likely related to commission. It is a good idea to book ahead, but you are likely to get best rates going it alone. A significant proportion of car rental bookings are made via the Internet. There are a number of services such as Expedia, Orbitz or Priceline that offer substantial discounts on car rental rates. That does the travel agent no favors - he gets no commission and generally, either the airline company or the booking portal you’ve chosen realizes any monetary benefit.

When you book ahead you almost always get a better deal. Done on line, a car rental booking is a hands free operation. Company costs are relatively small and the savings are passed along to you, the consumer. Even the credit or debit card transaction is done electronically so there’s no cost involved there either. It costs the company next to nothing to process an online rental and in fact, they may be working from a pool of set aside arrangements made with car rental companies, which makes the transaction even easier. Often there’ll be an upgrade automatically applied but you may well get that anyway when the class of vehicle you booked turns out to be unavailable when you land.

The best way to make sure you don’t share the savings with an air carrier or a booking network is to go direct to a general site such as one listed above or the web sites of car rental operators. All the major brands have on-line booking facilities on their sites and most of them offer reduced rates for pre-bookings.

It’s worth doing some surfing - unless of course, you belong to a loyalty program – to find the best rates and deals. If you leave arranging your rental car until you disembark, you’ll walk down the row of rental company booths and, within a few bucks, all the prices will be the same. That’s not the case when you book on line - they’re all different and, more to the point, they all have different ways of working out the extras. It’s worth making sure you know exactly what you’re going to be charged for - does the fee include CDW, mileage, a tank full gas etc.? CDW? If you’re not used to renting cars, you need to be a little careful. Quite often there’ll be bits of jargon you don’t understand and if for example there is a mileage charge, you need to take that into account. At even 5c a mile, a big charge can suddenly show up on your card statement if you don’t watch out for it.

A free upgrade is a nice thing to be had. You get a more comfortable car but there is a downside. Gas isn’t as cheap as it used to be and a premium 4 door vehicle uses a lot more of it than does a subcompact – those extra dollars will come from your travel budget.

Once your rental has been confirmed you will still need to iron out a few details such as gas choices and insurance. If you already have car insurance there is no need to duplicate coverage by electing (and paying for it) it through your rental agent. Be sure to identify all drivers of the rental and finally, consider fueling options carefully. Some companies allow you to prepay refueling costs and return the car empty. You also have the option of refueling the car yourself. If you elect to skip prepaying and return the car with a full tank of gas be sure to honor that arrangement as the rental company will charge upwards of $7.00 to refuel the tank you left empty.

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