Seven Things to do When Renting a Car

by Travel

Have you ever rented a car and forgot what it looked like, spending several minutes wandering around a parking lot?

Have you been late arriving at the airport because you counted on the airport exit to have a gas station?

When I travel for a short time, I prefer Uber so I don’t have to worry about navigating and the wasted time at the car rental counter, however, Uber isn’t in every city and many airports forbid them. If you are renting a car, here are seven things you should do.

  1. Know what kind of car you have and take a photo of it with your phone. A lot of travelers forget where they parked their rental car or even what kind of car they are driving. I don’t know how many times I’ve picked up a car in the evening, not paid attention to the color, make or model and driven to my hotel. The next morning, I wasted precious time wandering through the parking lot trying to figure out which car was mine. I have opened trunks or started the alarm to find it, and when the car keys didn’t have either option, I even tried unlocking doors. Now I take a photo of the car and where it’s parked before I walk into the hotel.
  2. Take a photo of where you park at the hotel. It’s late, you’re tired, and you are in an unfamiliar parking lot. Take a quick photo of the car near a landmark like a light pole or sign or in relation to the entrance. There are apps that will locate your car via GPS, but so far I have been ok just taking the photo and then deleting it when I’m finished.
  3. Don't prepay for gas. It's almost always going to be in the rental agency's favor. You are paying a hefty amount for the convenience of not refilling.
  4. Scope out a gas station on the way out of the airport. One of my travel pet peeves is getting back to the airport before I find a gas station and having to circle back out and waste time trying to find one.
  5. There’s rarely a need for insurance because your company, your personal insurance and / or your credit card will cover you.
  6. If upgrades aren't the highest priority, wait until you get to the counter to ask for one. Better yet, wait until the agent asks you and find out what their best deal is. Sometimes they need more lower-priced cars on the lot, and they are happy to get rid of their upgrades.
  7. Take photos of any dings or scratches before you leave. Many of us take a cursory walk around the car before and after (if at all). If there is anything on that car you hadn't pointed out before you left with it, you are 100% responsible.

I've often wondered why rental companies give you two keys until someone at a conference accidentally took my key. Thankfully, he turned the key into the rental center when he realized his mistake, although the right thing to do would have been to drive it back to me. I was two hours from the airport and my options were to have a tow truck come and tow the vehicle and take me to the airport or have someone at the conference center drive four hours round trip to take me to get the key. The charge for the key alone would have been $140, and the tow trip would have been $300. What a great money-maker for them!

This posted adapted from the Amazon Bestseller Beyond Travel: A Road Warrior’s Survival Guide

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jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects