Don’t be fooled at the car rental desk – Forbes Advisor

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Like other travelers, Sam Cristol hates being picked up by his car rental company. Once, after handing in his vehicle, he received a reminder demanding payment for a damaged bumper. His answer provides an important lesson in how to avoid being ripped off at the rental car counter.

After Cristol, the president of a food specialist in Lake Worth, Florida, received the repair bill, he knew what to do. He was waiting for the bill and had made arrangements – and photos.

“I sent them before and after pictures of the car,” he says. “I never heard from you again.”

Cristol’s case offers a glimpse into the world of car rental rip-offs. Some car rental companies are pushing for expensive insurance plans. And if you say “no,” you may face a repair invoice that may not be real. And there are more fees than you know that some unscrupulous car rental companies depend on for profit.

But you don’t have to be ripped off at the rental car counter.

So they try to rip you off at the rental car counter

One recently Consumer Reports Survey found that 31% of respondents experienced surprising car rental charges in the past two years. And that problem could accelerate as car rental companies – some of which go bankrupt – look for a way to generate income.

The surprise fees include:

  • Insurance and comprehensive insurance (CDW) fees
  • Fuel purchase options
  • Car seats for children
  • Forced upgrades when the company runs out of vehicles in your class
  • Junk fees such as “tire disposal fees” and “concession recovery fees”

Experts say you have to be prepared for the extras.

“These are car rental profit centers, and car rental companies are often encouraged to sell these products,” said Dorothy Harpool, senior marketing lecturer and director of student and community initiatives at the W. Frank Barton School of Business in Wichita. “Customers should be prepared to make decisions before going to the counter to ensure they are making a rational rather than an emotional decision.”

Here’s the biggest rip-off with car rental companies

Perhaps the biggest of all of these pitfalls is the unexpected fees you have to pay for rental car insurance. Your car is not coming Car insurance. If you damage the vehicle, you will have to pay for it. The car rental staff are trained to sell you on a policy that may not be required.

Interestingly, car rental companies could boost insurance sales by targeting customers like Cristol after their rental. If he had to pay for a new bumper, he would warn other travelers who might be more inclined to purchase an expensive cover.

The best way to avoid all of this? Expect it – and like Cristol, take precautions.

“Before you pick up your rental car, you should know that the rental car insurance policies offered at the counter are not your only option,” says Daniel Durazo, spokesman for Allianz Travel. “If you research your options in advance, you can find an affordable alternative.”

First, note that your own auto insurance will often cover a rental car, including yours Collision protectionWhen you have it. The only reason to buy the fully comprehensive insurance is to keep claims for damages for rental cars out of your personal policy in order to avoid a rate increase.

Second, check the credit card you are using to pay the rent. It can include either primary or secondary rental car insurance. The primary coverage would pay first, before your own car insurance. See the The best credit cards for rental car insurance.

A third option is to take out your own rental car insurance. One side like InsureMyRentalCar.com can make you an instant quote on a car rental policy even while standing at the counter. You can then show the policy to the agent as evidence in the event that the person insists not to rent you a vehicle without insurance.

Allianz Travel also has a product called Rental car damage protection, which costs $ 9 per day and covers you up to $ 40,000 for certain collisions, loss and damage, travel disruptions, and baggage loss and damage. For comparison: Policies at the rental counter cost around twice as much.

When to Get Car Rental Insurance

When you have no other options, sometimes you have to say yes to rental car insurance. But Tammilee Tillison, who used to handle car rental claims for a major car rental company, says you should never accept car rental insurance without asking questions.

“You should be prepared to wonder what the actual coverage is, if it covers all drivers, if it covers third party damage, and if your credit card or insurance needs to be contacted,” says Tillison, who now runs a travel blog called Tammilee publishes tips.

Take out rental car insurance if:

  • Your own insurance does not fully cover the rental car. You don’t want to be taken to court and mortgage your house in order to pay for a rental car damage.
  • When traveling to Alaska or other states, use the gravel for snowy roads. The gravel causes a lot of damage to the windshield.

Another way to get ripped off at the rental car counter: Forced upgrades

Here’s a trick that some car rental companies prefer over their customers. You arrive at the counter and an agent tells you that you no longer have any cars in your class. You have two options: wait a few hours or upgrade to a next class vehicle. Sometimes the agent is telling the truth; The location is actually without cars.

But the second part is less true. It is standard industry practice to provide you with a free upgrade. Choosing between a long wait or a higher payment is another way of calling you at the rental car counter.

You don’t have to fall for it. If an agent asks you to make this choice, you can ask for a supervisor. If that doesn’t work, go to the nearest car rental company and give them your business.

Don’t let fuel purchase options offend you

Another benefit of car rental is the fuel purchase option that eliminates the need to refuel your car before dropping it off. Erik Hastings, host of the PBS series Beyond your gardenHe calls this fee “nefarious”.

“There are usually three options for refueling,” he explains.

  1. Buy a full tank to start with. You pay for a full tank in advance and then return the car empty. The problem: If you don’t return the car empty, you will pay more than necessary.
  2. Let the car rental company refuel the vehicle. But the company can charge a lot more than the price of gasoline – you could end up paying $ 10 a gallon. It’s an expensive option.
  3. Fill up the car before returning it. But you need to make sure you fill it up completely and keep a receipt. Otherwise, your car rental company may charge you for the gasoline.

Which do you choose? It depends, says Hastings.

“Either buy the full tank at the time of rental and return the car empty, or refuel before you bring your car back to the rental location,” he says. “A quick search on Waze will tell you if there are any gas stations near the airport. In this case, it is economically best to fill up the tank before returning the car. “

Car seats for children? They are extra too

Here’s one last chance to get ripped off at the car rental desk: child seat fees. Avi Wilensky, founder of the Up Hail ridesharing agency, calls these charges “outrageous and hideous”. They are usually between $ 10 and $ 15 a day.

When you consider that you can rent a car for $ 30 a day, that’s a lot of money. It is also aimed at parents with young children who often try to save money while traveling. Over a week, you pay more rental fees than the seat is worth.

“If we pay more to rent an item than the value of the item itself, we feel taken advantage of,” says Wilensky. “Many parents do not count on the fee at the counter – it is not included in the booking price – and are usually forced to pay.”

The workaround? Bring your own car seat. The airlines let you check it in with your luggage and do not charge you for it.

Sometimes you can’t avoid all junk fees

Car rental companies beat you with other fees as well. And you can’t always avoid them. Include fees such as the tire disposal fee or the license recovery fee on your rental car invoice. The tire disposal fee, as the name suggests, is a fee that covers the company’s cost of disposing of used tires. And the license clawback fee covers the cost of licensing his cars.

At airports, you can also find an airport concession fee, which essentially covers the rental costs of your car rental company.

And of course there are special rental car taxes that are often used to finance stadiums and convention centers.

They can spill you the next time you rent a car, but unfortunately there is not much you can do about it. They’re frustrating – but immutable – line items on your rental car bill. Separating them from the base price may make your car rental look cheaper at first, but that’s about it.

You don’t have to be ripped off at the car rental desk on your next trip. By taking “before” and “after” pictures of your rental car and researching your insurance and fuel purchase options, you can avoid the worst of charges.

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