Car rental agreements contain fine print so read carefully.
Car rental contracts are full of big words in fine print and understanding them can be difficult. Furthermore, the fine print is ever-changing and too often not in the renter's favor. What renters are not responsible for this year could easily be something for which they are the next.
There are some typical restrictions and processes when renting a car, but each agency produces its own contracts, which the renter must understand. A little research into car rental agencies -- not just one, but several before making a rental reservation -- can help renters get the best deals and protect themselves as well.
The responsibility of the renter has increased over time. In years past, the driver was only responsible for vehicle damage or theft. Presently, however, some companies will hold the renter liable for any resale value that might be lost because of a damaged vehicle. Additionally, there can be what is called a loss-of-use provision. In this case, the renter may have to compensate the agency for any loss in revenue incurred while the car is in the shop. Not every agency is going to have these provisions; therefore, it is very important to compare the contractual obligations of several prior to renting.
To protect individuals from these costly scenarios, the agency provides its customers with optional car rental insurance, which can be purchased. However, rental insurance often leaves many renters confused by which policies are the most important and which are just added on to make the agency more money. Edmunds recommends getting insurance contract information at the rental agency or over the phone, rather than using just a website to ensure accuracy. Rental agencies commonly offer liability insurance and a loss damage waiver, or LDW. The liability insurance protects renters from other drivers' claims. The loss damage waiver protects the renter from liability should there be an accident. All policies and insurances have a fee not included in the rental price of the vehicle.
There are some downsides to purchasing the agency's insurance. Drivers should beware that these options have some strict guidelines that must be followed or else the coverage can be voided. If the driver has been drinking alcohol, if a non-authorized driver drives the car or even if they find that the driver is under the age required by the car rental agency, the insurance does not have to be honored. The liability would then fall on the person who rented the car, and it could be very costly.
Using a personal car insurance policy is an option, since some policies include rental vehicles. But it should be noted that any accidents would be reported to the individual's personal insurance company. This could mean an increase in personal car insurance premiums.
Prepaid gas is an incentive that agencies offer renters. For a set price, the rental agency will fill the tank with gas and allow the renter to return the vehicle without having to refill the tank. This is a good option if a renter will use the whole tank of gas or doesn't want to worry about stopping for a refill. However, most agencies do not offer a refund for unused gas, which means the agency makes extra money off renters who don't utilize a full tank. A renter can save money by just refilling what was used before returning the car.
Rental agencies also offer child safety seats for a cost. Available seats include those for infants or for older children who need a booster seat. Special hand controls for physically challenged drivers are also available from car rental agencies. These perks are not included in the cost of the rental, and it is a good idea to mention needed items when making a reservation.