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How to Avoid the Pitfalls When Renting a Car

How to Avoid the Pitfalls When Renting a Car

From getting a good deal to figuring out insurance requirements, renting a car can be a complicated, pitfall-prone experience. Here are some best practices to follow, from reservations through returns.

Prices vary widely based on the vehicle model and the location of the agency. Airport rentals, subject to extra taxes and fees, are generally more expensive.

Some cities are now charging similar fees if an agency is within 20 miles of the airport, according to Jonathan Weinberg, the founder of AutoSlash, a car rental platform. “Always check both,” he said.

If you’re flying and choosing an off-airport rental location at your destination, factor in the cost and convenience of transportation to the agency. Most have more limited hours than airport-based outlets, which could be important if your flight is delayed.

Many agencies offer discounts for prepayment. But prepaid contracts often incur fees if you cancel.

Most unpaid reservations are flexible, allowing you to cancel anytime with no penalty. Experts advise reserving early and then using the time before your trip to check prices. If they go down, you can cancel and rebook at the lower rate. Many agencies, including Budget and Dollar, offer best rate guarantees, meaning if you find a better rate on their cars elsewhere and they can verify the claim, they will rent you the car for 10 percent below that price.

The website AutoSlash will track your reservation at no cost and alert you to any price drop.

Use memberships at the retailer Costco or the organizations AAA or AARP to get a discount at specific companies. Payoffs vary. If you’re strictly joining Costco to rent cars, it may take a few rentals a year to recoup the $60 membership fee.

If you join loyalty programs at Avis, Hertz or other major rental companies, which are usually free, you are entitled to express pickups, which means you can skip the line at the counter and go directly to your vehicle.

Turo and Getaround act like Airbnbs for rental cars: Owners offer their vehicles to rent through company websites or apps. Turo, available in 11,000 cities in the United States, Britain, Canada, France and Australia, requires renters to work out where and when to pick up cars from their renters, though some owners will bring the car to you.

Available in more than a dozen cities in the United States, the app- and…

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