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Renting a Car

Where To Rent?
Sometimes it is convenient having an "instant" auto, when and where you need it...paying for its use only when you have it... picking from a variety of sizes, makes and models... not worrying about maintenance problems. All these, and other valued qualities, combine to make rental cars a popular mode of transportation.
Where to Rent?
There are several auto rental companies. Many are offices of major coast-to-coast firms whose networks include locations directly within airports, and in all major cities. Other auto rental companies may be local neighborhood businesses with a single location.

Most reputable rent-a-car dealers offer you different classes of vehicles: economy, compact, mid-size, full-size 2-door, full-size 4-door, and luxury. The cars, generally, are equipped with a radio, automatic transmission, power steering and air conditioning.

Each auto renting company has its own scope of services. In determining which ones fit your needs:

Do: Match your motoring requirements with the company that best provides what you need.

Don't: Hesitate to ask questions until you choose the right company for you.
What About Rates?
Motorists can get confused when rates are discussed. Rent-a-car rates are based on a series of variable factors which include:

Type and size of car;
How long you plan to keep the car;
Gasoline charges;
Mileage charges;
Insurance coverages;
Waivers (CDW/LDW);
Drop-off charges;
Time of week; and
Season of year.
Car rental companies frequently offer two types of rates: a daily rate with a mileage charge, and a rate that includes free mileage (or specified number of free miles per day). Weekly rates, also, are available. Remember that specific rates vary from city to city.

Rates are often based on a 24-hour period with a one-hour grace period. If you keep the car more than four hours after this period, it may be less expensive to keep it another day, since hourly overtime charges may be high. Also, some rates such as weekend specials are only available during certain time periods. The rate you pay may change if you keep the car beyond that time.

Promotional or special rates that are lower than regular rates also may be available. Car rental arrangements are sometimes offered in tour packages that include airfare and lodging.

Reputable car rental companies that advertise a certain rate will have on hand a sufficient number of cars to meet demand. However, you should check the ad to see if it discloses the number of cars available or if the advertised cars are available on a "limited," or "first come, first served" basis. Also, check to see if the cars are available only at certain locations.

Most companies do not include the cost of gasoline in their rates. The tank is full when you pick up the car, and you pay for additional gas. Keep in mind that if you return the car without a full tank, you will be assessed a refueling charge by the car rental company which is often higher than gas station prices.

Also, when you return the car to a location other than where you picked it up, you may have to pay a "drop-off" charge. Find out what the requirements are when you make your reservations.

It is important not only to compare the rates of different firms, but to also check out the different plans offered by each company. Each type of plan offers certain advantages. To find out which type is most advantageous for you, consider how long you will want the car and the approximate number of miles you plan to drive. Then add up the cost both ways in order to find the plan that will save you the most money, yet offer the services you need.

An important consideration in any comparison of cost is to make sure that you are comparing similar types of cars, comparable insurance coverage and other personal considerations including drop-off privileges. It is a good idea to be cautious and to check out any company that advertises a rate that seems unrealistically low.

Do: Check all available rates and the services included in these rates against your requirements.

Don't: Let advertised "cut-rate" claims confuse you about real costs and services provided in the rental.

What About Insurance and Waivers?
Many auto rental companies include basic automobile liability and standard comprehensive insurance protection, including theft insurance, as a part of their service without added charge.

Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) is optional at an additional charge. This provides both life and medical insurance for the driver and passengers. But check your personal car insurance policy-you might already be covered.

Personal Effects Coverage (PEC) is also optional at an additional charge. It covers loss of, or damage to, personal property, such as luggage and cameras, in the car, with some limitations and exceptions. You should ask what is covered and what the reimbursement limits are.

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)-For a daily charge, the rental firm may offer you a CDW. CDW is not insurance. However, if you take it, the company waives the right to collect the deductible on collision insurance from you. Again, check your personal car insurance policy to see if it covers damage to rental vehicles. The CDW is optional, and it is illegal for a company to require you to purchase it.

Loss Damage Waiver (LDW)-Provides coverage against theft and natural disasters, such as floods and lightning. Each company has its own limitations. You should ask what is covered and to what extent.

It is a good idea to examine, and be sure you understand, the insurance coverage and any waivers offered by the renting company. This is especially important when advertised rental rates are considerably lower than usual.

Be sure you give the vehicle a thorough examination for unusual dents and scratches before you take it out. Any damage should be noted on the contract before you leave the lot, even if this means going back into the rental office to make sure the damage is acknowledged in writing. Also, make sure that the spare tire and tools are in the trunk.

Do: Read and understand everything printed on the contract. Check the back of the contract-this is usually where the conditions and limitations are stated.

Don't: Rent from a firm that stalls or refuses to provide insurance information, or rents vehicles with improper insurance coverage.

Do: Review your own personal auto coverage and major credit card member benefits.

Don't: Rent from a company that refuses to provide specific information on what its waivers cover, and what exceptions apply.

Making A Reservation
In some places you may be able to walk in and rent a car without a reservation. But to make sure you will have the type of car you want, when you want it, you should reserve it in advance. Most rent-a-car companies take reservations in advance and will guarantee them with your credit card number and arrival time. Often they will provide a reservation number which you should record.

When you call for a reservation, give the time and date you want the car and your preference of model and make. Major companies will reserve a car in the cities they serve in the U.S. and even in foreign countries.

Many established rent-a-car businesses have toll-free numbers which can be called from anywhere in the United States without charge, 24-hours-a-day.

Do: Make a reservation when possible. Recheck your reservation as close to the rental date as possible.

Don't: Forget to cancel if your plans change; this releases the car for someone else.

Who Can Rent A Car
Generally, anyone with a valid driver's license and acceptable credit card can rent a car. Most companies require renters to be 25 years of age, although in some cities the age limit maybe between 18 and 21. If you do not have a credit card, but qualify for a cash deposit, most companies will require a cash deposit including the estimated rental charges, as well as other verifiable information. In some areas, rental companies accept only valid credit cards and will not take cash.

Tips To Remember
Other rent-a-car services you might look for:

Infant safety seats (required in most states);

Specialized rates over particular holidays;

Winterized cars with snow tires or chains, ski racks and ice scrapers;

Top-of-the-car luggage racks for long trips;

Special controls for the handicapped; and

Four-wheel drive vehicles.
Rates and options are always subject to availability.

When you reserve your car, ask if the rental company provides emergency road service. If so, you will be given a toll-free number to call if you need help. The rental company will either repair the car on the spot or bring another car to you.

Do: Wear your seat belt at all times, and always lock both car and trunk.

Don't: Leave valuables in the car.

Do: Check out the car to be sure you know where all the controls are and how to operate the equipment before driving.

Don't: Drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Do: Practice common sense and courtesy on the road.

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