Insurance and Finance

Complete Guide to Renting a Car

By Peter Simek 6.8.22

Renting a car can be a hassle. With so many rental car companies and auto makes, models, and options to choose from, it can be difficult to determine how to get the best deal and find the car you want. The pandemic hasn’t helped matters.

Over the past two years, the supply of new cars has shrunk due to production and supply chain issues, forcing rental car companies to hold onto their older fleets and resulting in fewer rental options and higher prices.

However, if you’re planning on renting a car this summer, you can still find good deals and, more importantly, the peace of mind that you are getting the most bang for your buck. Follow this guide to renting a car for tips.

1. Comparison Shop

There are so many companies and third-party travel websites that offer car rentals, it can be difficult to know how and where to start searching. Aggregate sites such as KAYAK and AutoSlash can search through multiple car rental sites, which can be advantageous — but you should compare the results with the prices offered directly on car rental company websites. Sometimes, you’ll find that the direct company rate will beat the aggregated options.

Pro tip: These days, many companies also offer free cancelations if you decide to change your reservation. One strategy for comparison shopping is to book the lowest price you can find and then keep looking. If a lower price pops up, book it, and cancel your other reservations.

2. Time Your Rental

When you book your rental will affect the price — but not always in ways you might expect. Generally, the earlier you rent your vehicle, the better rate you will get. However, a NerdWallet study found that customers pay $75 more on average when booking three months in advance versus just a week out. But renting a car too early can also cost you. If you rent a car more than six months in advance, rental car companies may inflate the price. However, if you need a specific vehicle make and model, it is important to reserve the car early.

Pro tip: Comparison studies have found that the best time to rent a car is between three and six months before you travel. Booking during this window is particularly important if you are trying to secure a specific make and model.

3. Skip the Airport

Where you pick up and return your car can also affect your rental cost. Experts suggest skipping the airport rental locations in favor of in-city options. Sure, renting at the airport may be convenient, but that convenience comes at a cost. Airport rental facilities often apply a “Customer Facility Charge,” which can be difficult to spot on your bill. These charges can range from a couple of dollars to several dollars per day; they can quickly add up, depending on the length of your trip.

Pro tip: Check to see if there are other rental locations away from, but close to, the airport. The cost of a taxi or ride-sharing service to the rental location may be less than the airport surcharge.

4. Find Savings and Discounts

The cost of your car rental will depend on a variety of factors, some of which you can control and some of which you can’t. Prices can vary depending on:

  • Car class
  • Length of rental
  • Location of rental
  • Driver’s age (if under 25)
  • Number of additional drivers
  • Additional products such as car seats, GPS, etc.
  • Prepaid fuel
  • Insurance

Pro tip: There are ways to find rental car discounts. Some options:

  • Use your Texas Farm Bureau member benefits to get discounts on quality car rentals.
  • Skip add-ons and extra offers.
  • The prepaid gas option most rental companies offer is almost never worth it.
  • Avoid extra fees by returning your car during regular operating hours, as some companies charge extra for late drop-offs.

5. Should You Buy Insurance?

It depends. Most auto insurance policies will cover drivers even if they are not in their primary vehicle. If you will be the only driver of the rental car, then you may not need to buy extra rental car insurance offered by the company. Check with your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent to confirm that your auto policy will cover you during your rental. In addition to your own insurance, you may be covered when traveling by other policies. Before you opt for the rental company’s insurance, check to see if your credit card or travel insurance extend coverage to rental cars.

Pro tip: Double check your coverage limits. If you are driving a rental, you may want to purchase additional coverage if your rental is a more expensive car than the one you regularly drive.

Contact your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent to make sure you have the coverage you need before you hit the road. © 2022 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance