Better Business Bureau: Don't be steered into paying extra for rental car

Gas prices are steady, so this might be the perfect time for a road trip. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota provides tips for renting a car without breaking the bank.

In 2011, the BBB received 3,773 complaints against the auto renting and leasing industry. Many of the complaints were a result of billing and contract issues. When it comes to navigating the rental car process, there are many little details that oftentimes leave consumers confused in their rush to hit the road.

"Even though you’re excited to start your trip, be sure to take the time to inspect the car and ask questions," said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. "Car rentals can make any trip easier, but make sure you know your options, such as the cost of any 'add-ons,' before signing on the dotted line."

The BBB recommends the following tips to avoid overspending when looking to rent a car:

Shop around and be on the lookout for hidden charges.There are several different budget travel websites that can provide a good idea of what’s out there pricewise, as far as the major rental companies. But make sure to visit the websites of the national chains directly to verify you’re getting the best rate. Also, don’t assume the lowest rate means you’re getting the best deal; make sure to always clarify which taxes, surcharges and other fees you’ll be expected to pay. Many states have additional fees for drivers under age 25 or for multiple drivers.


• Opt for a smaller car.If you’re traveling solo, or don’t need a lot of leg room or trunk space, go for the smaller car. Oftentimes, the salesperson will steer you in the direction of an upgrade for "only a few extra dollars" because the smaller economy cars are in high demand — just say no, and stick to the smaller car (or smile politely and ask for a free upgrade).

• Ask lots of questions.Make sure that you understand where the "unlimited mileage" rates apply. Some rental car companies have restrictions.

• Gas up and be on time.Many times, car rental companies will ask if you want to prepay for gas, but it’s not always necessary and it’s rarely the best deal. However, don’t forget to refill the tank before returning the car — and make sure to return your vehicle on time. Some rental car companies will charge an extra day for being late, so make sure you know their policy for early and late returns, and call if you get stuck in traffic.

• Inquire in advance about insurance.Some auto insurance policies cover car rentals. However, you want to verify that before you rent your vehicle. If you aren’t covered under your auto insurance policy, you will likely want to purchase some form of insurance from the rental agency. Nothing would ruin a vacation quicker than a costly fender bender.

• Bring your own car seat and GPS.If you’re going to be traveling with children or fear that you’ll get lost, make sure to bring your own car seat and GPS. No need to pay for the daily fee for these items if you have them at home.


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