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How to Rent a Car

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By Erin Thompson on April 7, 2022 in Life Hacks

There are so many ways to travel. There’s Uber or Lyft to cart you around town or after a late night. Bikes are especially handy for exploring trails and biker friendly cities. Trains, buses, and subways help you navigate big cities quickly and cheaply. We have planes for longer journeys and international travel. Although there are countless ways to travel, sometimes a rental car suits your travel needs the best. While we understand renting a car might not be as easy as logging into an app or hailing a cab, we have some information to help make the process a little smoother.

Preparation

Valid Driver’s License

First and arguably most important, your driver’s license. We’re talking about a real physical copy (and Real ID, if you got it), not a photocopy. This is not exclusively a necessity for renting a car, but for all travel. If you’re not planning to rent a car, you could use a passport as photo identification.

Make sure to check your license’s expiration date to confirm you’re in good standing. If it’s expired or about to expire, head over to your local DMV to renew it. It can take 7-14 business days to receive your new license in the mail, so don’t wait until the last day before your trip.

Check Age Requirements

Age requirements vary by company and state. Some states allow drivers as young as 18, but generally you can expect states to require you to be 21 or older. In all our Say states, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, rental car drivers need to be at least 21 years old. The magical rental car sweet spot is 25 years old.

According to Enterprise, drivers between 21-24 (and 18-20 in states that allow 18-year-old renters) can expect to pay a young renter’s fee and sometimes be restricted on vehicle types. The fee amount and restrictions vary based on the rental car company, so be sure to ask!

Renting

Choose a Rental Car Company

There are options galore! Each company will have different mileage limits, fees, specific taxes, and one-way costs. If you’re having trouble choosing a rental company, The Points Guy walks through which to choose if you’re a frequent traveler, on a budget, have a family, looking for a luxury vehicle, just traveling one way, and more!

Choose a Vehicle Type

This might be an easy task. If the whole family is coming, you already know you’ll want to lock down that minivan or Suburban. If you’re on a girls’ trip with your BFF, you’ll want to drive a smaller ride that’s easier to park.

Sometimes the decision isn’t so simple. So, start by figuring out your budget and specific needs for the vehicle. There are some “hacks” to save some serious cash money when renting. Love With Travel lists a couple of these as: book in advance, check costs often and check other companies, modify pick-up and drop-off times, book the smallest ride possible, limit rental days, avoid extra driver charges, and don’t pick up the car at the airport. Implementing one, or more, of these tips could help you save so you can spend more on your adventures!

When you pick up your rental, inspect it for dents and damage BEFORE you leave the rental establishment. RentalCars.com recommends looking for external damage and checking the dashboard for any flashing lights or warnings. Sometimes it can be helpful to take your own photos during the initial walkthrough! If you have a mileage cap in your rental agreement, note your starting mileage and keep an eye on it during your travels to avoid going over and facing fines!


Make Your Payment

Beware: Most companies require a deposit up front.

Your rental agreement will break down what you are expected to pay – including any fees or extra charges. So, this is definitely a time when you should thoroughly read the whole agreement and truly take time to digest the information.

Another hack? Opt for the insurance offered through the rental car company. You already know we’re always pro-insurance because we’re big insurance fans. However, most personal auto insurance providers do not cover rental cars. Double check your specific policy to verify and avoid double paying.

Last note about payments: Keep all rental receipts until the car has been returned. These receipts can help you avoid any miscommunication with payments!

Return Your Vehicle

Returning your vehicle on time is crucial because companies WILL charge late fees. Make sure to peek at the return policies before completing your booking to fully understand what’s expected of you and your passengers. Most rental companies ask that you fill up the tank but reference your rental agreement to confirm!

Should you Buy a Used Rental Car?

If you loved your rental ride, you could buy one! Rental companies sell off their fleet when the vehicles no longer look or feel new, so that could be a great opportunity for you. There are pros and cons to buying used rentals. Pros: The cars are nearly new, they’re kept cleaned and well-maintained, rental companies choose durable vehicles, the sales process tends to be easier, and you can test drive for a couple days before buying. Cons: They can have more wear and tear than other vehicles because of the way renters treat rentals, they have higher mileage, the resale value is lower, and there aren’t many options with special features or luxury trims.

Interested in learning more about buying a used rental car? We’ll hook you up with the details.

Erin Thompson is the Marketing Manager for Say Insurance. She's responsible for guiding the strategic direction of all Say marketing campaigns. Prior to joining Say, Erin worked for a media agency based in Columbia, MO. She spent several years developing successful advertising campaigns for a diverse set of clients across the United States. Erin began her career in television advertising after earning her Master’s from the University of Missouri Journalism School with an emphasis in Strategic Communication. Her love of communication and helping people directed her to the insurance world.

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