Complete Guide on How to Rent a Car

  • by: Patrick Peterson
  • February 04, 2020

how to rent a car

Renting a car is something people do every day, for a variety of different reasons. It may be due to traveling, getting your regular vehicle repaired, or having a temporary need for a different type of car. Car rental businesses can reliably be found in and around airports, as well as throughout cities and towns. There are a number of well-known car rental franchises, and rental cars can be reserved by phone, online via multiple types of websites, or by walking into a car rental business. Rental cars can be picked up and returned at different franchise locations based on your logistical needs. Some car rental companies offer a shuttle service to customers for easier access. Below are some helpful tips about renting a vehicle. 

Age Requirements to Rent a Car

The US minimum age to rent a car is twenty-five. This does not mean that those under that age cannot rent at all, however. Some car rental businesses will allow licensed drivers under the age of twenty-five rent vehicles as long as they pay a fee. Others, however, have policies that do not allow renting cars to those under twenty-five at all. Drivers that are under twenty-five should research car rental company policies to determine which ones will rent to them, and what underage fee they can expect to pay. 

How to Find Cars to Rent

There are multiple avenues one can take when seeking a rental vehicle. Below are tips that can help you find the right rental vehicle and get a good deal. 

Tip #1 – Use travel websites to book your rental

Sites that allow you to book air travel and hotels also offer car rental reservations. This is a great way to compare prices across different car rental services. Cars are grouped by class: compact, economy, standard, mid-size, SUV, van, truck and others. You do not know exactly the make and model of the car, but most sites will list a make and model and state that it will be that one or a similar vehicle.

Tip #2 – Call car rental businesses to reserve a car

If you need a car quickly, or are seeking a specific make and model, or simply do not have access to the Internet, calling car rental business locations can allow you to inquire about inventories, check prices, and make a reservation, as well as coordinate a pick up if the business in question offers a shuttle service. Because car rental businesses are often chains, they can advise you about the most convenient pick up and drop off locations, and check inventories of vehicles across their other locations for you. 

Tip #3 – Get a Referral from your Auto Insurance

Many times when people end up renting a car, they do so because their regular vehicle is being repaired. In cases where an insurance claim is covering the repair, it may also cover a temporary car rental while your car is in the shop. Check your insurance policy to see if it covers car rental costs, and if it does, you can usually obtain a list of car rental businesses that work with your insurance. In some cases, the insurance agent helping you with your claim can book the car rental for you, making it a seamless experience where all you have to do is pick up the vehicle and sign some paperwork. 

car rent tips
Things to Check & Consider Before Renting a Car

Taking a few specific steps prior to renting a car can help you end up with the best vehicle for your needs, and prepare to make decisions about insurance coverage when you pick up the vehicle. Listed below are steps you might consider taking: 

Step 1: Consider the Size of Vehicle Needed

Car rental businesses divide vehicles up into a few specific categories:

  • Compact
  • Economy
  • Standard
  • Intermediate
  • Mid-Size
  • Full Size 
  • Premium
  • Luxury
  • SUV / Truck
  • Minivan
  • Convertible 

For the most part, different car rental chains will have the same set of categories, though some variations can exist. Usually, car rental businesses will list a couple of make and models that fit into each category, to give customers an idea of the type of vehicle they can expect based on the category they select. 

Think about who will be driving with you, how much stuff you will need to transport and where you are likely to park. Think about whether gas mileage is an important consideration for you. Then, decide what type of car category best fits your needs. For example, if you are renting a car that you will mainly drive yourself in, and you expect to have to park on the street, you might consider a compact for its smaller size and cost savings. Similarly, if you regularly drive your family around, you may opt for a full size or SUV, or even a minivan. 

Step 2: Check Your Insurance Coverage

One of the main questions you will be asked when you are signing your car rental paperwork is if you want to add insurance coverage. If you have your own car insurance, you should check whether you have any coverage for rental vehicles on the policy. You should also check what coverage your credit cards offer you in the event you rent a car. In a lot of cases, the coverage you already have through one or both of these channels is actually redundant to the extra coverage offered by the car rental business. Researching this ahead of time can help you make the right decision when you pick up the rental vehicle, and possibly save you some money. 

Step 3: Figure Out Logistics 

Give some thought to your location needs before and after the car rental. Are you needing to get to an airport or a train station? Another place? Does it make sense to drop off and pick up in the same location, or do you need more flexibility with locations? If it is the latter, choose a car rental chain that has multiple locations, and check where the most convenient locations for you might be. If you plan on driving a lot, check gas prices in the area so you can decide whether you will fill up the vehicle prior to drop off, or allow the car rental to charge you for the gas – they will let you know what their per gallon gas rate is.

What not to do with a Rented Car

Cars are expensive items, so it is important to be careful with the vehicle while it is in your possession. Any damage you cause could cost you additional money, and may make it harder for you to get rental vehicles in the future. Here is a list of some things you should not do in a rental car: 

  • Smoke 
  • Park very close to walls / other vehicles 
  • Speed 
  • Operate the vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Additionally, pay attention to the items you bring into the vehicle, so that you do not forget any of your belongings. 

Vehicle rental is a necessity for travel, car repairs, and life situations that arise, such as moves or pick-ups of large items. Renting a car is an important convenience for the American driver. Understanding how the business works, and your rights as a consumer can help you save money and have a positive car renting experience.