Don’t Make These 5 Common Car Rental Mistakes

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Live on the cheap.

When renting a car, you might think that having an accident is the only thing that could cost you money. But while accidents are sometimes unavoidable, there are other mistakes that can cost you money when driving a rental car.

These include not taking pictures of your car before and after the duration of your rental, not scheduling an additional driver, and not understanding the economics of rental cars.

When a photo is worth a thousand dollars

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“Always take photos of all sides of the cars and inside the car to document any damage before pick-up and after drop-off,” says Michael Stalf, managing director of Myonecar, a German car rental company.

Why take vacation photos of your car? Because your car rental company probably won’t. If he finds damage to your vehicle, he will hold you responsible. By the way, if you find a dent, dent, or scratch on your car when you pick it up, make sure that’s documented in your paperwork as well. Or better yet, ask for another vehicle.

Additional driver, extra charge

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Renters also tend to forget that car rental companies charge high fees for additional drivers. For example, Hertz charges $13.50 per day, a maximum of $189 per rental, for each additional driver. Julie Demaret, director of car rental company Rhinocarhire, says you need to think about the additional driver before renting.

“If you want to share the driving, try to find an offer with an additional free driver,” she explains. “It’s always cheaper to book in advance than on arrival.”

Find cheaper rental coverage online

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And watch out for upsells. For example, insurance can add $20 or more per day to the cost of your rental. But you can get car rental coverage for about half that from a traditional travel insurance company. Allianz Travel Insurance offers a product called Rental Car Damage Protector for $11 per day. The insurance site, which is operated by Halo Insurance, even sells a policy that covers you for up to $1,200 for improperly fueling your car.

Ways to find a vehicle when cars are not available

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Also, make sure you understand the tricks of the trade. Car rental companies are busy during the summer. Nicole Gustas, a frequent Boston traveler, couldn’t find a rental car in Los Angeles recently, so she used a strategy that became popular last summer: She rented a U-Haul truck for two days . Then she found an SUV through Enterprise in a remote location off the airport.

“We wanted an economical car,” explains Gustas, marketing director for an insurance company. “But beggars can’t choose.”

Don’t be surprised by the high costs

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But perhaps the biggest mistake you can make when it comes to your rental car is underestimating your budget.

“Be prepared to spend the money,” warns Robert Walden, editor of, a car care site. “Due to shrinking fleets, deferred vehicle maintenance and many other factors, rental cars are in short supply today.”

Walden says higher prices aren’t the only thing to worry about. Vehicles will be scarce, following last summer’s shortage of rental cars. That means some of us won’t even be lucky enough to make these common car rental mistakes.

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