Renting a car seems one of those things that is so simple that we often tend to underestimate certain aspects that are actually fundamental.
As a result of my now numerous Road Trips with rental cars, I said to myself, “It’s time to write an article on renting a car.” In the past I would have much needed a guide like this. Therefore, I hope I can be of some help to you. [knock]
What does it take to rent a car?
So let’s start with the indispensable factors for renting a car.
- Credit card NOT prepaid and made out in the name of the person booking the rental: it has become mandatory now, I think it is no longer possible to rent a car without a card. Many years ago it was possible, I did it in Scotland, I still don’t know how but a local rental company allowed me to rent a nice Peugeot.
- Minimum age: 21.
- Valid driver’s license: seems obvious to me but fair to specify. To this I would add that renting a car abroad may require an international driver’s license.
- Large credit card balance: you will need this for the deposit when you take delivery of the car.
What to pay attention to before renting a car?
As far as Italy is concerned, the only things you need to pay attention to are those I mentioned in the previous point.
For a trip abroad it is best to consider a couple of other little things. First, check that you can use your Italian driver’s license, if not I have written a very useful post on how to do it and where you need the international driver’s license.
Second, inquire about the type of driving (left or right) and what the traffic laws are. Driving in Britain involves difficulties such as shifting on the left hand, so you could possibly opt for an automatic transmission. Regarding the code rules I will give you an example…in Mexico for whatever event occurs on the roadway (roadworks, road limited to one lane, sudden slowdowns, built-up area), everyone turns on the 4 flashing arrows. At first I was struck by this, usually in Italy the 4 arrows are used at times of sudden slowdown as a signal, or simply when you are stopped at the side of the road. So my advice is to inform yourself as much as possible about what the main features of the highway code of the country you are going to are.
How much does it cost to rent a car?
The variables that affect the final price are many, I try to summarize the main ones for you:
- Driver’s age: the minimum age to rent is 21. Drivers under 25 years of age pay an additional fee. This is related to the concept of “less experience behind the wheel.” Perhaps a somewhat outdated concept since there are also people who get their licenses at an advanced age. In any case, this is the rule.
- Presence or absence of additional drivers: in the case of long, high-mileage rentals, it is advisable to include an additional driver. It, too, will have to be subject to the licensing rules I mentioned a few lines above. You will pay a daily fee for each additional driver.
- Drop-off: if you rent the car at location A and drop it off at location B you will have an additional (high) cost, which you would not have if the route was from location A to location A. This is very important in budget planning. In on-the-road it affects the itinerary setting so much, be careful.
- Excess removal: for carefree travel there is the option of limiting your liability by paying an increased fee that goes to eliminate this excess.
- Car segment: trivial but I’ll specify it anyway. A Smart car will definitely not have the same daily cost as a Jeep.
- Requiring or not requiring certain accessories: do you want a navigation system? snow chains? child seat? All optional extras with a daily fee.
How and where to book the rental? What to watch out for?
You have two options.
1 – Rent locally at the counters of the various companies located at airports or scattered around cities.
2 – Rent online, on aggregators or directly on the rental companies’ websites.
I usually prefer to leave having arrange the trip in a fairly precise manner. I book online so that I do not waste time when I arrive. I already know how much I will spend and I have already put the cost into my trip budget.
My advice is to rely on comparators. Much like booking for hotels, these aggregators allow you to enter your rental location, dates and times and they do the research for you: they analyze the various prices of companies and provide you with a list of possibilities. Once you have chosen, you can proceed to rent the car directly on these sites.
I have always used this mode of rental and have never had any surprises. At the time of booking, the costs are summarized precisely and you are sent the quote directly via e-mail. Up to a few days before the rental date the quote can be changed or cancelled. When booking online you must pay attention to:
- Unlimited mileage: should always be unlimited mileage, check.
- Fuel policy: can be full for full or full for empty. In the first case you rent the car with a full tank and have to return it after filling it up again. In the second case you rent it to yourself with a full tank and return it as is. I recommend that you always do it full for full, you pay only for the fuel you consume and you do not risk losing money in unused gasoline.
- Deductible included or not: very important to check whether or not you have chosen full protection or not.
Are you renting in a country with opposite driving to Italy? This article on the 10 tips on driving on the left, may be very helpful to you.
What is comprehensive protection with deductible removal?
Do you want to travel and rent a car with peace of mind? There is such a thing as comprehensive coverage.
The comparator itself or the rental company can provide it to you at the time of pickup. I usually use the one from the comparators as Discovers Car Hire.
In case of lost keys, breakdown, some mechanical parts, wheels, broken windows, car body you will be covered by the full protection. You will advance the cost which will be reimbursed later by the online comparator rather than the rental company itself. With the basic protection this does not happen, the deductible remains up to 1500 euros in the case of damage and up to 3000 euros for theft (values to be always verified at the time of booking) Full protection has a daily cost.
Car rental: pickup and drop-off.
Once you reach the place where they will give you your car, you will go to the car rental counter and give your reservation reference. At that point some paperwork will be formalized and you will also be able to add any optional extras not previously selected, such as an additional driver. When you check in at the car rental counter:
- Present your credit card (in the driver’s name): must have “remaining credit.” If you arrive at the car rental with a low monthly ceiling, they will not be able to charge you for the security deposit, which is usually around 1,200 euros or so (it depends on the company but that’s more or less the figure). The security deposit is charged to you temporarily, the money will be credited back to you within a week of the end of the car rental.
- Check that they do not add another comprehensive protection: some companies in addition to renting the car try to sell you their removal of the deductible. If you have already purchased it through online booking, you will not need it. They almost always attempt it.
- Check the correctamount on the contract
- Fuel cost: some rental companies charge you along with the deposit the cost of a full tank of gas. Don’t worry, this too will be refunded to you upon your return. This practice is not always done. It happened to me only in the case of my Greece Road Trip
At the time the car is picked up:
- Check the damages together with the company’s employee: when they hand you the car they do a check of the car and mark the damages already on the contract sheet (of which they will give you a signed copy). Usually, I always follow up with them at this stage because I want the various scratches and bumps that the car has suffered in previous rentals to be marked. In the event that something is not marked because the company does not consider it a significant scratch, I take a photo so that I have something to deal with a possible dispute. Nothing will happen, but always better to be cautious. So far I have never had any charges, let alone any litigation.
- Check the car’s registration papers: inside the car there must be.
- Mark your contacts: transcribe the car rental company’s contacts should you need them during your trip and, of utmost importance, inquire about the emergency numbers used in the country.
- Have the car explained to you: if you are not used to the automatic transmission, better to have it explained to you in two minutes how it works.
- Mark down the GPS location of the rental and opening hours: it may happen that the pick-up location is far from the airport and the shuttle will take you there. In this case, since you will have to go back there to return the car, better take a screenshot of your location on the map. Directions are not always correct, better to prevent.
At the time of end of rental return:
- Bring the car to the check out area: there are some car rentals where the same check in desk also does the check out, so you will return the car to the same spot where you picked it up a few days earlier. Other car rentals, however, have a detachment where you can take it.
- Wait for the attendant’s review-they will take a look at the car to see if there is any damage. I always follow up with the company’s attendant; I want to be sure. If all goes well, they will give you the okay and the deposit will be credited back to you in a few days.
I think I have answered all possible questions, should you have any doubts that this article fails to clarify, please feel free to write a comment so it will help everyone.