Tips on Renting a Car


Getting the best deal on a rental car or truck is more complicated than finding the lowest daily rates. Unexpected costs like mileage caps, insurance and drop off fees can change the price dramatically. Putting in a little extra time for comparison shopping before renting can save you money, and future hassles.

Rental car firms offer three types of rates: a rate with an additional per mile charge, an unlimited rate, or a rate that includes free mileage for a specified number of free miles per day. Rates are based on a 24-hour period, typically with a one-hour grace period. Rates vary for daily, weekly, or weekend rentals. Special rates may also be available for certain time periods, at specific locations, and including services you may not need.

Advertised rates are not always the price you will pay. Some firms require renters to pay an additional amount for fuel, additional driver insurance, or an airport fee. Required fees should be disclosed in print at least one-third as large as the largest print, as per New York City Consumer Protection regulations, and not in a footnote. However, not all firms comply with these standards. Therefore, you should always inquire about additional fees.

Insurance, Fees and Extra Charges
In New York State, rental car companies may not, if the car is rented for 30 days or less, hold the renter liable for more than $100.00 in loss or damage, except in specific circumstances. The company, in most cases, may not charge more than the actual cost paid by the company for repairs if they are under $100.00 and must, upon written request, identify the repairer and allow access to the vehicle to verify damages.

Rental car companies may not require any security, deposit, or charge for damage during the term of the rental agreement or pending resolution of any dispute. Rental car companies may not advertise, quote, or charge a rental rate that does not include all charges, except taxes and any mileage charge, which a driver must pay to obtain a rental car. Rental car companies cannot hold drivers liable for any of the above, unless the rental agreement prominently discloses the driver's liability.

In New York, rental car companies may not charge any excess fee as a condition to renting the vehicle, such as fuel or airport surcharges, or a fee for transportation to the location where the vehicle will be delivered. However, rental car companies may charge additional fees for optional services the renter requests, such as a service charge for returning the vehicle to a different location, or charges for refueling the vehicle.

Policies issued in states other than New York may vary from the above description. Check with your insurance company. Also, your employer may provide insurance covering rental cars for business trips. Your credit card company or membership in certain organizations may provide rental car insurance. Call to check if you are eligible for such insurance before buying any through the rental agency.

Additional Fees Other factors which may influence the price you pay are:

  • Size and type of car: examples are compact, midsize, luxury, or mini-van;
  • Drop-off charges: may apply if you return the car to a different location;
  • Taxes: state, city, or airport;
  • Location: rates may vary within the city and at the airport for the same firm;
  • Day of the week: daily rates may be higher during certain days of the week;
  • Seasons of the year: special offers may be available during certain holidays or seasons;
  • Additional drivers: fees may apply for extra drivers.

Special Statutory Rights

  • New York law prohibits rental car agencies from requiring a credit card.

  • New York law provides that rental car firms may not refuse to rent a car to anyone 18 years of age and older if insurance is available. The actual extra cost for insurance related to that age group may be passed on to the person renting the car.

  • New York City regulations require that rental car firms which take reservations "make available either the car reserved", or a similar car "within one half hour of the reserved time either at the reserved location or at another location to which the consumer is transported without charge."


Airport fee:
Some airports tax rental car firms on services rendered on airport property and for transporting the customer to off-airport locations. The fee may be passed on to the consumer.

Cash qualify form:
Firms require renters to fill out forms prior to renting with cash. Questions may include length of employment, telephone in renter's name, or income. Advance reservations may be required for cash rentals to provide time to process the application.

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW):
With a Collision Damage Waiver, the company waives its right to collect the deductible on collision insurance from you. These waivers cannot be issued in New York.

Confirmed reservations:
A firm may confirm a reservation by issuing a confirmation number which is used when picking up a car. Not all firms take reservations or offer confirmed reservations.

Drop-off charge:
For one-way rentals, firms charge this fee to cover the cost of returning the car to the original rental location.

Mileage cap:
Some firms may place a limit on free mileage. You are charged a fee per mile after that limit is exceeded.

Miscellaneous Charges Order (MCO):
If rental car reservations are made through a travel agent, the agent will issue an MCO or voucher which is submitted to the rental car firm in payment for the rental car.

Personal Accident Insurance provides life and medical insurance for the driver and passengers.

Important Tips

  1. Call several firms to find out if the car you want is available and at what price. Rental companies vary widely in their prices. Make sure you are comparing similar sizes, types, locations, and dates.

  2. Inquire about required fees such as fuel or airport fees and additional costs which may affect the price you pay. A deposit may be required if you do not have a credit card.

  3. Make a reservation, if possible, as unreserved rentals may cost more. Also, call to confirm your reservation, so to be certain that the car will be available when you arrive.

  4. Read the contract before you sign it. Most firms have written their contracts in plain language for all to comprehend.

  5. Check the car before driving away. Be sure that any dents or scratches are noted in the contract, so that you will not be charged for damaging the car.

How to Complain
To file a complaint against car or truck rental agencies, consumers can contact: 

Bureau of Consumer Frauds & Protection 
New York State Attorney General's Office 
120 Broadway New York NY 10271 

Consumers can also contact the Better Business Bureau in the area where the company is located. The BBB serving Metropolitan New York can be contacted in the following ways:

Write to:

BBB serving Metropolitan New York 
257 Park Avenue South 
New York, NY 10010-7384

For immediate assistance, call 212-533-6200. The charge is $3.80 plus applicable tax, charged to a major credit card. Consumers can also call 1-900-225-5222. The charge is 95 cents per minute; the average call costs $3.80. You can also check our site on the World Wide Web at