Going on a road trip is one of the best experiences that everyone should have at least once in their life. However, you don’t need to have your own car to enjoy an adventure on the road. Whether you don’t own a car or the one you have is not up for an extended tour across the country, your next best option is to drive a rental.
However, driving a rental comes with its own risks and inconveniences. To avoid that, here are some tips that can help keep your road trip as safe, convenient, and inexpensive as possible:
1. Get appropriate insurance
When you go to a rental car company, they will most likely offer you car rental insurance at the counter. But if you already own a car, your personal auto insurance may already cover rental cars. If you don’t own a car, on the other hand, get non-owner SR-22 insurance or take out car rental insurance from the rental company itself. Either way, always make sure that you have coverage before taking the car out of the lot.
2. Check geography and mileage restrictions
Most rental cars come with unlimited miles, but that is not always true. Moreover, some rental companies have strict geographical limitations on where you can drive, wherein you have to pay a fee if you break the rules. That said, always check geography and mileage restrictions before taking out a rental car. Map out your route beforehand so you can ensure that the company you’re renting from does not clash with your itinerary.
3. Plan gas stops
Getting gas at the first station you see might mean missing out on lower prices just a few miles away, but driving too far off the main road in search of cheaper gas can defeat that purpose entirely. To avoid this problem, plan out your gas stops beforehand using apps that let you find the cheapest gas prices regardless of your location. If you happen to go off route, you can always open up a gas station finder to look for the nearest source of affordable gas.
4. Avoid a hefty cleaning fee
Road trips can get messy, what with all the eating and drinking that everybody will do in the car. If you return the car to the rental company in a messy state, they may charge you a cleaning fee, especially if you leave stains on the upholstery.
One way to avoid this problem is by bringing your own fabric seat covers on the road trip. This way, you and your passengers can eat and drink to your heart’s content without worrying about staining or wetting the interior. Nevertheless, limiting what you can eat and drink while inside the car is still a good idea. Stay away from things that can easily stain, such as sauces, sodas, and coffee.
5. Consider buying a toll pass
If the toll pass at the rental car company is out of your budget, bring your own instead. Look up where your own transponder works, or consider buying a toll pass if you don’t have one.
6. Take pictures and videos of the vehicle before leaving
You must conduct a thorough inspection of the vehicle before taking it out of the rental company’s lot. Take plenty of pictures and videos as insurance. Since you’ll be taking a road trip, the car will undergo tons of exposure to the elements, road matter, and other things that can cause damage to it. If you are lucky enough not to cause any damage to the vehicle aside from normal wear and tear, your pictures and videos will serve as evidence if the rental company asks you to pay some kind of fee for damage you did not cause.
Moreover, bring their attention to signs of damage before taking the car. Doing so helps you avoid paying for damage that was not your fault.
7. Be mindful of where you park
Always remember that the car is not yours, especially when choosing a parking spot. Avoid parking under trees, near gutters, or next to vehicles with ‘baby on board’ or stickers of family stick people (kids can ding your doors when they open it). Better yet, try to park in an indoor parking garage as much as possible.
Going on a road trip with a rental car can be just as fun as driving your own car, but there are certain precautions that you have to take to avoid spending more money. That said, keep these tips in mind while planning your road trip—and before you go to the rental company.