Tips to Jumpstart Your Next Car Rental

by Janean Flowe

Trip Notes

Driving off in a rental car revs your sense of freedom and adventure — the world is your oyster! Unfortunately, the transaction itself can carry a slew of uncertainties. Here, we ease the car rental process with answers to six frequently asked member questions.

Q: Should I buy insurance?

A: Probably so. Some car insurance policies will cover the accident. If a deductible is required, the amount will likely vary with each insurance company. Don’t want to risk it? Consider two options: For those buying in advance, AAA’s rental car protection plan, Allianz Global Assistance, costs just $9/day. For those buying at the rental counter, Hertz — AAA’s preferred partner — offers a comprehensive plan that runs anywhere from $15-30/day. Either way, you’re covered in the event of an accident.

Q: Should I pre-pay for a discounted tank of gas?

A: Probably not. Financially speaking, you’re always better off topping it off yourself. Unless you feel confident you’ll use every last drop of gas — or have an early flight out — you should pass on their offer. But whatever you do, don’t opt out and then return your car with a tank less than full. You’ll pay more for the fill up.

Q: What should I do if I’m involved in an accident?

A: Call 911 if someone is injured. Otherwise, call the local police department. If the police don’t file a report, be sure to exchange insurance information and snap plenty of photos. Finally, call your rental car provider within 24 hours to report the accident.

Q: Can my spouse drive the car, too?

A: Check your contract. There is often an additional cost to add another driver. If both parties are AAA Members and you book with Hertz, Dollar or Thrifty, adding a spouse is free.

Q: Do I need to book my car in advance?

A: Yes. There may not be a cost advantage to planning ahead, but you never know when you’re flying into a destination playing host to a big conference or convention. Better safe than sorry.

Q: Should I report pre-existing damage?

A: Absolutely. When you pick up your rental car — even if you go get it from an automatic pick-up lane — thoroughly inspect the inside and outside and report all damage. Take a photo or video for your records. If the rental company didn’t catch that scratch or ding when the previous driver returned the car, you risk the likelihood of being blamed.
          — Alexis Moore

Visit your local AAA Office for your next car rental or call 1-800-750-5386.

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