Megan McCain and her family are flying to their spring break destination. Once they arrive, they'll need to pick up their rental car.
"It was fairly easy. We went on the website and looked for a car that would fit five people with two car seats so we needed a car with a third row."
Renting a car is a convenient option for many families, but is often an afterthought. Doing some legwork before you arrive at your vacation spot can really pay off.
"When renting a car, shop around. A lot of times people are picking up cars at the airport when they fly into their destination, but you may find it may be worth a cab ride to an off-site location because they might have lower fees," said Angie Hicks, Angie's List founder.
Also, shop online for the best deals and discounts. And avoid airports.
Airport locations often have higher prices due to the zoning and taxes associated with being located on airport grounds. One common mistake when renting a car: not reading their rental agreement before they sign.
"Manytimes people rent cars over their vacation, but the last thing they want to do is read details of the agreement on their way to having some fun, but it's important. You need to understand what you're responsible for with that car, what happens if it breaks down and what happens if you get into an accident? Know exactly what your obligations are," said Hicks.
"Treat it like it's your own. What would you do if you got into an accident in your car? You'd report it to the authorities. You would come back and let the rental car company know and fill out an accident report and go from there," said Jeff Nieman with Hertz Corporation.
Don't buy unnecessary insurance if you don't need it. Rental car insurance can cost as much as 40 dollars a day, and you may already be covered by your existing auto insurance policy or credit card.
"Before you hit the road, call your insurance agent and find out whether they cover you in a rental car and what kind of coverage you have. Also, you might check you credit card that you used to pay for the rental car. it might provide insurance as well. Check both of those to find out if there is a gap you want to cover from the rental company," said Hicks.
Angie’s List Tips: Cost-saving advice
Book early: Book your vehicle as early as possible. Rentals can sell out of available vehicles, especially at busier locations like airports and during peak travel periods.
Shop online: Along with almost everything else travel related, like plane tickets and hotel bookings, you can often find the best deals, discounts and freebies by performing plenty of researching and shopping online ahead of time.
Avoid the airport: Look for rental car locations that are located outside of airports. Airport locations often have higher prices due to the zoning and taxes associated with being located on airport grounds.
Opt for the compact: Unless your trip calls for something larger, only rent as much car as you need. Although compact and smaller rental cars are usually in higher demand by business travelers, you’ll save money on the rental itself and on the gas you’ll use during the rental period. If you’re offered an upgrade to a larger vehicle, be wary of gas guzzlers.
Think twice about purchasing additional insurance: Check your existing auto insurance policy or credit cardholder agreement – both may already provide insurance that covers your rental car. If you do purchase an insurance product, make sure you know what exactly the insurance does and doesn’t cover. The collision damage waiver or CDW, also known as the loss damage waiver, waives you of responsibility for loss or damage to the rental vehicle.
Top off the tank yourself: Although it’s a lot more convenient to have the rental company top off the tank for you rather than you doing it yourself, it’s an unnecessary expense that can be avoided with a quick trip to the gas station.