It’s important to have reliable transport when traveling, and those who value their freedom tend to opt for the hire car option.
Renting a car offers one of the most reliable ways to explore a city and its surrounds without having to deal with the tediousness of public transport or the money-draining nature of taxis and day tours. However, many people shy away from overseas car rental, thinking it’s too complicated.
Spoiler alert: it’s not!
Renting a car can be an overwhelming process if you’ve never done it before, so to that end, we’ve put some tips and tricks for renting a car like a pro.
It’s easier than it looks, and the perks are amazing!
Tips For Renting a Car Like a Pro
Use Brokers to Simplify the Process
When you search for rental cars you’ll find dozens of companies, each with a vast number of cars you can rent, and for each of those cars there are different prices and packages.
There are layers over layers of options when it comes to rental cars, and it can be extremely overwhelming for first-time renters. Heck, even people with a lot of experience at it can often have trouble sorting through the minefield of offers!
So, the first tip to renting a car like a pro is to use a car rental broker company (also known as a third party booking site, or a comparison booking site) to simplify the choosing process.
What is a broker company? Brokers are companies that do the searching for you and greatly narrow the results, so that you have to choose from twenty or so options instead of thousands. Some even assist you when it comes to the rental process itself, so these sites are a great asset.
The Best Car Rental Booking Sites (Brokers)
#1 Miles Car Rental: Trustpilot Score 4.7 / 5
Miles Car Rental has some of the lowest prices you’ll find on the market. The information on their page is clear and transparent and their customer service is fantastic.
You can reach their customer service via chat, email, and phone. And while their rates are already low, they’ll additionally run promotions and other offers throughout the year.
Viajemos.com: Trustpilot Score 4.7 / 5
Viajemos.com is another great choice for renting a car, as their reservation process is fast, easy and safe. Their customer service reps are very clear and straightforward so you always know exactly what you’re getting.
In addition to that, there’s a lot of flexibility with the cars you book, ie you can arrange your reservation so to pick up your car directly at the airport.
Priceline: Trustpilot Score 4.5 / 5
Priceline is very complete, and has a pretty decent response time. Most of their offers are based on the use of their app which is constantly being upgraded.
Their information regarding the vacationing services offered is often accurate and trustworthy. In addition to car rental they also offer cruises and hotel deals, so you can organize everything at once.
CarRentals: Trustpilot Score 4.2 / 5
CarRentals is regarded by most of their customers as fast and over-all effective. Their page is very easy to navigate and they have a good variety of cars to choose from.
Additionally, they have information on which of their vehicle types is best for each occasion which can be a real help if you’re planning out of the ordinary driving, like off roading, or through extreme weather like the snow.
Rentalcars: Trustpilot Score 3.9 / 5
RentalCars offers an easy to use app that focuses on the needs of international travelers. They have many accessibility options for people all from all over the world to find fast, effective, and varied car rental services.
Additionally, they give you advice on the best times to rent a car for a determined destination.
Fulfill the Requirements
More often than not, when a problem arises with car rentals it’s usually linked to people not fulfilling the requirements; both the requirements of the car rental company, and the legal requirements for driving in that country.
These will vary from country to country, ie some may require a specifically issued international drivers license, others may accept the license of your home country. So it’s important to read the fine print of your agreement.
This is where most people get overwhelmed, but the requirements typically aren’t complicated, tough, or overly stringent. You should read up on the road rules in every country you’ll be driving, and check if anything specific applies to foreigners.
If in doubt, ask your car rental company.
While there may be specific rules depending on your rental (ie, when renting a car in the USA, you typically can’t drive into Mexico), the following are the basic requirements for renting a car in most countries.
Presenting a Valid Driver’s License
The first requirement that any rental car company is going to ask for is presenting a valid driver’s license. You typically don’t need to travel with your drivers license when going overseas, after-all you’ll have your passport for ID. But a passport will not be accepted in place of a drivers license.
No license, no keys. So don’t forget to pack it.
If you’re traveling with other people you can add an additional driver during the rental process, and in that case, they should bring their license too. That said, if the main driver doesn’t bring his or her license, they may not rent you the car at all.
Most countries will accept your drivers license from home for legally being allowed on the roads in their country, but it’s important to never assume this is the case, or take this for granted. Always check prior to your trip.
An Embossed Credit Card
A credit card is required for every car rental, whether or not you intend to pay in cash. This is a way for the rental car company to have a deposit so that you won’t run off with the car.
Because of this, it’s typically non negotiable.
When you check in to pick up your keys, the rental car company will swipe your card at the desk, and typically take an authorization, which freezes funds in your account to confirm you have the money to pay at the end. Then, you pay when you return the keys, and the authorization money is unfrozen (hotels do the same thing when you present your card on check-in).
Your credit card will be charged in the event that there is any damage to the car upon return, and you’ll also be charged at the end if you cross any tolls along the way, or if you return the car without petrol.
A car rental company should never keep your credit card, and they should never ask to take a photo-copy. Keep the receipts from the authorization if they swipe your card at the counter at the start of your journey.
Being Over 25
Sadly, there are no known methods to grow a couple of years in an instant, so I’m afraid that there is not a lot you can do if you happen to be under 25 except perhaps waiting.
Most car rental sites will require that the main driver is over 25 to rent a car. In some states in the US, such as Michigan and New York people over 18 can in fact rent, but extra fees will apply and those can, in some cases, be quite expensive.
Other countries like Australia, and the UK, do rent to under 25’s though you’re likely to have very limited choices and might have to call around a fair bit to find a company willing to rent to you; once again, the fees are likely to be higher.
If you’re traveling with friends or family, put someone over the age of 25 as the main driver. You can be the designated driver in a few years time!
It’s important to note that you can’t fake this, and doing so can land you in a lot of real trouble; while it may be easy to fake an international drivers license if the overseas agent isn’t super aware of what they should look like, you’ll likely also have to present your passport.
Even if you don’t (have to present a passport), if you get into an accident and they find out you lied, this will completely void your insurance, and you may find yourself chilling in an international jail for fraud – not how you want to spend your vacation.
Full Coverage Insurance
If a simple fender-bender on your own car can become a nightmare when you’re driving uninsured, imagine how bad it can get when you’re driving a rental car. For that reason, all rental companies require you to have full coverage insurance.
Rental companies are known to pressure you into purchasing additional insurance at a premium. While you should certainly drive with insurance, you probably already receive enough coverage through your current travel insurance.
If driving overseas, review your current insurance policy to see if you have overseas coverage. You might even already qualify for insurance coverage through your travel credit card (we do with our Chase Sapphire Preferred).
Even if you do end up needing extra insurance for your car rental, there are third party options that are generally cheaper than the one provided by your rental company. So don’t be pressured at the counter.
It’s important to understand exactly what you’re covered for too though – often times, general car hire insurance through a credit card may cover you for damage, but exclude things like third party liability and excess waiver insurance.
So it’s really important to read your policy.
Say No to Extras
Many car rental companies will offer extras to improve your driving experience, but these often come at a premium, and can almost double the cost of your rental sometimes.
While it might seem nice to have a GPS or satellite radio, most smartphones already have GPS technology or you could bring your own from home. As for special radio, bring your own auxiliary cord to use your own playlist instead.
These small extras add up quickly and can increase the cost of your rental car by a large margin. You could probably purchase a new GPS for cheaper than the cost of the daily rental if it’s a long trip.
Also, it’s important to remember that if you don’t use these features at home, odds are you won’t use them while traveling.
Reasons to Rent a Car
Renting a car might seem at first like a lot to wrap your head around, but if you take the time to understand the process, it’s absolutely worthwhile – promise!
When it comes to reasons to rent a car on vacation, renting a car allows you to better explore the destination you’re in, as you can do it at your own pace, with total convenience and freedom; self drive offers 100% flexibility, and complete freedom of movement.
Day trips, for example, are made far easier when you have a vehicle, allowing you to get up early to get to an attraction ahead of the tour buses, pull over to the side of the road for detours or viewpoints, and take unscheduled toilet stops.
And a car gives you the ability to see more; Las Vegas can be spiced up into a trip to Red Rock Canyon or perhaps you can add a trips to Niagara Falls when making plans to visit New York City.
And, let’s be honest, your own vehicle offers a level of comfort that most public transportation alternatives don’t provide.
What’s been your favorite destination to explore by hire car? Leave a comment to let us know!