Three Rental Car Myths To Avoid
(August 26, 2002)
Many assume that small cars are the cheapest,
car rental company's websites offer the best rates, and our credit
cards completely cover us in case of an accident. Not necessarily
so, as I recently discovered. So, how do you know if you're getting
the best deal, and what should you look out for when renting a car?
Here are three rental car myths you should be aware
Myth 1: Smaller cars are the cheapest
last-minute trip to Seattle, I was astonished to discover that the
cheapest weekend daily rate for a compact car was $53, plus tax (18
percent plus a $4 concession fee). I don't like compact cars, so I
checked the rates for larger cars. I discovered that a standard car
ended up being less at $48, and a full-size at $52.
of the four car rental companies I looked at, all but one had larger
cars for less. What's going on? In short, the lack of business
travel is what's going on. According to a recent Abrams Travel Data
Services' study, corporate rentals are down by 15 percent, which
means that there is a surplus of big cars that need to be rented.
And when supply is up, prices go down.
assume that smaller cars are the cheapest. Always scan the rates for
all car sizes. You may end up with a pleasant
Myth 2: Rates quoted directly from car rental
companies are the cheapest
Yes, it's true that most car
rental companies offer exclusive discounts for booking directly
through their websites. For a recent trip to Lake Tahoe, I booked a
full-size car through Hertz at a special rate offered only on their
website. (Again, a rate that was cheaper than that of a compact- or
economy-sized car.) On top of that, I was able to upgrade to a
bigger car using Smarter Living's Hertz member benefit.
However, the biggest savings can be found on sites like Hotwire and Priceline. (Keep in mind that these sites don't
disclose the car rental company until after you book.) Using
Hotwire, my Seattle car, a standard car from Budget, ended up costing only $28 a day (plus
tax). On the Budget website, this car was $64 a day (plus tax).
Even rental car employees can't believe these deals. Upon
check-in at the Budget counter, the agent remarked that my rate was
the best he's seen in awhile. In addition, I had an upgrade coupon
from US Airways Dividend Miles. The agent ended up giving me a
double upgrade to a Hyundai Sante Fe SUV, normally $85 a day.
Myth 3: My credit card provides all my insurance coverage
When you rent a car in the U.S., liability
insurance is included in the rental, but collision insurance is not.
If you don't have any car insurance, it's best to purchase
supplemental coverage which will run anywhere from $15 to $20 a day.
Some credit cards automatically provide collision damage insurance
that covers damage to or theft of rental cars. However, policies
vary by credit card and location of the rental. It is important to
understand that most credit cards provide only "secondary" collision
coverage, which goes into effect only after your personal auto
insurance has been activated.
Be careful when upgrading your
car because many credit card companies will not cover the
Don't upgrade until you check with your
credit card to find out what's covered. If you end up in an
accident, you could be financially responsible for some or all the
damage. And that's one rental car pothole you'll want to
- Some luxury cars.
- Exotic cars such as Porsche or Lamborghini.
- Certain SUVs (and they will not cover any accidents off paved
- Pickup trucks.
- Vans that carry over eight passengers.
- Moving vans or trucks.
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