It is increasingly common to get a rental car either to move during a vacation or for a work or business trip. The autonomy provided by a vehicle without a driver makes it ideal for visiting remote places, hacer nuestras gestiones de forma ágil or moving a work team.

  Everything you should know when renting a car goes beyond what common sense would tell us and there are very specific aspects about this type of service.

Where, when and who do matter.

International car rental agencies such as Hertz, Avis, Europcar, Sixt or Enterprise, just to mention some examples of well-known brands, usually have a wide range of models available, also the rates offered are very variable with considerable differences depending on demand.

These types of companies are usually ubicated in places where rental rates are usually higher, such as train stations, bus stations, airports, ports or city offices placed in central locations.

Local businesses have more stable fares and often a more favourable offer, as well as a wide selection of guaranteed offers if you book in advance. Having a more stable rates, added to their location, means you can hire a cheaper rental car compared to international ones.

Taking into account all of the information above, it would be advisable to book several days in advance in order to rent for a cheaper price, to ensure the vehicle you desire is available and, likewise, pay attention to the local companies’ fares in addition to the international ones.

To illustrate with a specific case those differences between companies, we take a common 15% extra airport fee:

To rent in Barcelona for 7 days a 9 seats minivan for €673 for a shooting crew, with a €101 franchise insurance (€ 300), means a total of €774, which with an additional 15% extra, would cost € 116 more than renting the minivan to a local agency.

And it could still be more expensive, because if you arrive outside the agency’s pick-up time at the airport, you could easily have an additional charge of €50 to €100.

You should also know that if you are going to return the rental vehicle in a different city from where you picked it up, this will cost extra depending on the company and the time you rent your car. This extra factor is not negotiable with an international company, but with a local company, if your rental has a certain volume ask if this service would have added cost.

It’s better if you take full advantage of online tools. Use the comparers to have a reference and then with your favourite search engine you will easily find a local provider to book directly on their website, without intermediaries. For example, if we enter in the search engine “cheap car rental in” and the town we would like to rent the car, local companies will appear, also having in many cases the reviews written by other customers like you to know for sure about the agency’s reputation.

¿Which car do I need? Equipment (AACC, automatic transmission, Bluetooth…) and accessories (chairs, extra trunk space…)

In addition to the number of seats for travellers and the luggage compartment capacity, companies offer different levels of equipment to travel more comfortable, from air conditioning to automatic transmission and more or less sophisticated music and radio equipment with Bluetooth connection to connect your smartphone or USB inputs.

When you make your reservation, indicate clearly the elements you need, for example, if applicable, an approved child seat, so that the reservation includes the price of the elements that may incur an extra cost.

Rental payment via internet, the card payment

All companies require a credit card to rent. Some companies accept debit cards, although not all of them equally, as there may be the circumstance where you’d have to do an additional payment in case of any incident or fine, for example.

Some online booking sites and some comparers do a charge in advance, if you can choose, choose to make the payment when picking up the car, carefully review any additional charges and try to fully understand if you need or not any extra that the agency proposes, especially if you rent to a company where staff have variable remuneration for placing extras on customers.

Fuel, kilometers and the final amount to pay

There are rentals in which you have to pay for the extra kilometers you travel that exceed those included in the rent. If this is your case, consider the kilometers included and calculate if you get more unlimited mileage account. If the mileage is limited, you will pay the extra kilometers at the price agreed when booking. You have to check the price for the extra kilometers so you don´t get any surprises.

You also have different modalities for the fuel cost, in general you can choose among the most common, although each company can have its own.

In the Full / Empty mode they give you the vehicle’s tank full and they charge you the full tank as you deliver it either empty or full, so you see that with this modality you’re always losing money.

In the Full / Full mode you pick up the car with the tank full and you must return it like it was. If you do not return it full you will be charged for refueling. Remember that in this case some companies charge an extra amount for not returning it full, in addition to the cost of refueling fuel.

Given that, the Full / Full mode is the most recommended modality. It is cheaper to fill up the tank at a gas station next to the return location than the price you’d have to pay for not returning the vehicle the way as it was agreed.

Mandatory insurance, optional insurance and recommended insurance

An insurance is a fundamental aspect to which we do not give much importance because we usually think we’re good drivers, and we forget that we will drive in circumstances beyond our daily lives: an unknown place, perhaps an unknown country, unknown customs and with a unusual vehicle, come on, we will be somewhat newbies.

The mandatory insurance only covers the basics for collisions and theft, but does not cover own damages or other incidents that you may have, and if it’s the case, you will be required to pay the franchise that can easily reach € 800 or more. It is common to find €1,400 and €1,500 franchises.

You will have the option to contract the insurance with a franchise reduction, for example a €300 discount, or an all-risk insurance with a franchise reduction of €0.

Out of his own experience on a trip to Lyon, who’s writing to you, I strongly recommend to take the all-risk insurance without franchise. In my case, when I was taking the car to go to the airport, one of the people I was saying goodbye distracted me a second from outside the car with an effusive goodbye, enough time not to see a small pylon, invisible from inside the car, which it was at the exit of the parking lot and that I brushed when I was turning the car to go out to the street. The result: a small dent with a scratch on the passenger’s door cost me €600 of the franchise, a repair that in the most expensive workshop would have cost €250. The business trip resulted in €600 more than planned.

So, in my case I already learned it and I’m sure about it, the cost of the franchise reduction is cheap compared to the franchise that you would pay in case of suffering any damage or accident with your vehicle and you’ll travel with more tranquility.

But not only a mistake or an accident can be a problem, think of another vehicle rubbing against yours when it’s parked, getting a flat tyre, a hit to the rearview mirror, the impact of a small particle on any window…

Demand them to explain as clearly as possible what it covers and what the insurance doesn’t cover, be aware of the fine print.

Restrictions: credit card, age and permits.

The car rental agency will request a credit card (some may accept debit), your national identity document or your passport and your driving license. If any of these three are not valid you’ll not be able to rent the vehicle. I have seen people crying helplessly for carrying their expired card and not being able to rent the car. The explanation of why agencies are so strict is simple, insurance does not cover you.

If you travel to a country that does not accept your driving license or you do not know it for sure, you can apply on the DGT website (https://sede.dgt.gob.es/es/tramites-y-multas/permiso-de-conduccion/permiso -international/ ) for a temporary international driver’s license, it is a quick procedure and costs €10.30.

All companies have age restrictions. Many of them require that the driver’s between the 21 and 70 years old, and if the driver is under 25 or over 70, it is likely that an extra amount must be paid, or the vehicle cannot simply be rented. Again, the explanation is simple, the insurance only covers the age range offered by the insurance company.

The seniority of the driving license also tends to be a restriction in many agencies. They generally request a minimum of 2 years, also by restriction of the insurance companies.

Secondary driver

If you have in mind to share the vehicle with a second driver or even a third one you have to declare it in the contract when picking up the car and the same restrictions will be applied to them.

Never lend or let your rental car be driven by a third party if it is not in the contract, if there’s an incident the consequences can be monumental and their important economic derivatives.

The rental car pick-up

Maybe you’re tired of a long plane ride, or maybe you’re in a hurry to start your journey. The rush and rental cars do not get along, take patience, relax and manage with serenity. It is for this reason that it is often preferable to rent the car the next day or after a few hours of arriving at our destination, fatigue or haste may cost us some extra if we have not been thorough in the reservation and collection.

Whether you pick up the car at an agency office, at the airport or at the hotel, the agency may not have exactly the model you booked but it should provide you with one of the same category, features and size. It may be the case that they even give you one of a higher category, but the agency must always respect the reservation fee.

Before getting into your car, examine the exterior carefully, take your time and take photos or a video if you detect any damage. Do the same with the interior. If the vehicle has any damage when you pick it up, ask the agency staff to fill out the form available to indicate the damage. This form will be signed by both the agency and the driver.

Check the condition of the tires, the level of fuel in the tank and that the kilometers marked by the car correspond to those of the contract.

When you take photos or videos, include some context that clearly denotes that they are taken on the time of collection or at the time of delivery. An extreme example is this video that a client sent us when picking up his rental car in Havana. It should be said that Cuba is a separate case in rental cars as in many other aspects of trade due to the economic restrictions suffered by the island. Typically, in most countries, your rental car should be in perfect condition.

And finally, before starting your trip, review any extra and pay special attention to the type of fuel contracted, the insurance franchise and roadside assistance.

Rental car return

Make sure you have a considerable margin in your delivery schedule, a flat tire or any unforeseen event may disrupt your planning and may incur an extra rental cost.

Likewise, delivering the car to the agency is a time for the staff to check that the car is in perfect condition, the level of the deposit, if there is any extra processing the charge and other paperwork.

It is a good idea to take photographs or videos again to the car, just to make sure that in case of any undue charge on your card for damages you can file a substantiated claim, with more reason if you deliver the car without anyone from the agency staff checking the car, for whatever the reason is, something common in delivery to airports and stations.

If you have a flight to catch, in many airports the offices are not right next to the terminals, so you might have to take an internal circuit bus or make a couple of metro stops. You need to calculate the appropiate return time so you can be on time for your flight.

Which will be the final amount to pay? If you do not have mileage, and you have filled up the tank before returning the car and you haven’t had any incident, your final amount to be paid should be exactly what you were budgeted when making the reservation.

Finally, when you are back home, check the charges on your card. If there’s any extra charge, request a documentary proof (fine, damage…) and claim if you disagree.

Roadside assistance

Another key aspect is the roadside assistance that you will have available with your rental car, consult all the roadside assistance options, whether for a flat tire, an engine breakdown, an accident …

You need to have on hand at any moment the roadside assistance phones provided by the agency, in case of any inconvenience with the assistance call the agency before trying to solve any problem on your own.