Tips for Renting a Car

You guys are amazing! All of your tips for renting a car will certainly help people with that first rental. Below, I have put the tips together in a comprehensive list. But first, the winner! With over 60 responses to the contest on Monday, the winner (chosen using the random number generator at is Fran, with the following tip:

….you may not always want the “upgrade.” I got upgraded to an SUV once and was excited until: 1. it took more gas and 2. since it was bigger it was harder to get around, ESPECIALLY in unfamiliar areas. When you are around unfamiliar territory it is much easier in smaller car, I wish I would have kept my compact, lesson learned.

Great tip! On Friday I will be doing another contest, giving one reader Emerald Club Executive Elite Status for a year. Stay tuned for that one!

Readers’ Tips for First Time Car Rental

  • If you’re in an unfamiliar area, get a GPS, or written instructions if you’re in the mountains.
  • Look for gas stations as you’re leaving the airport, and notice which side of the car has the gas tank.
  • Sign up for the club! You’ll get rewards, and it will take way less time to get your car.
  • Be familiar with your company policies—gas, insurance, accidents, and anything else. When I rented my first car, I got the insurance. Turns out my company doesn’t reimburse for that, and I had to eat the cost. Lame.
  • Examine the car for preexisting damage before you leave. If you find something, show the agent or take a picture with your phone.
  • Find out all hidden fees before you give your credit card! Print out your reservation, which will help document everything you should be charged for, as well as make it easier for the person at the counter to find your information.
  • Know where the rental facility is—sometimes it’s offsite, which means more time and trickier returns.
  • Become familiar with the car before leaving–know how to turn it on, use the a/c and radio, and how to adjust the mirrors.
  • Put all of the rental emergency info in your phone, or better yet your email. It doesn’t help you to have all of the info in the car if it is wrecked or stolen.
  • Go to the website and get familiar with the car rental company and its processes; also assume it will take you longer than you think at the counter.
  • Companies will often put holds on funds when using a debit card, which can lead to issues down the road. Credit cards are easier to use, and often have benefits such as insurance coverage.
  • When dealing with smaller locations, call and confirm that everything is as it should be. They are not always as technologically connected as we may want.
  • Find out ahead of time the policy for toll roads–some rental companies make you pay them, some have automatic payment boxes. Don’t double pay!

Thanks for all of the entries, and all of the great tips!


  1. Here’s one I didn’t see:

    If you have a GPS or rent one, before you leave, mark the location of the rental lot as a favorite. Too often, it is either hard to find in the menu or the location has changed. This will ensure an easy-to-return process (when problems that consume extra time is most stressful).

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