Renting a car
This article is a travel topic.
Renting a car may be a good alternative for some travellers. It will often be cheaper than going everywhere by taxi, and usually more convenient than travelling by public transport like buses or trains. Also, in many cases, a rented vehicle is the easiest way to reach various places that are difficult to get to otherwise — the isolated beach with no tourists, remote mountain areas, whatever.
In some countries, traffic conditions may differ wildly from what you are used to; see Driving in China for one example. In those places, it may be better to rent a car with a driver. In countries where wages are low, this may not cost significantly more.
Finding a rental company
Normally, rental companies have offices in major cities, plus airports, large seaports and large train stations.
It is a good idea to book in advance of travel. Brokers can help you find car hire from many of the leading car rental providers worldwide, and at reasonable prices too.
Price is normally calculated by number of days. The more days you take, the less you pay per day. Usually, price decreases on the following points: 1 day, 2 days, 5 days, 7 days.
If you have signed a contract for N days, but returned the car later, normally price per day is applied from your contract, not based on your actual duration of rent.
Price for durations less than a day normally are not regulated, so it always takes bargaining.
Booking and haggling
Booking in advance (either over Internet or through an agent) guarantees you a car, but it also fixes the price. When you reach your target country, you can't expect any discounts as renter secured you as a client when you have reservation. When possible, find two companies providing nearly the same price and level of service, then book only with one of them. This both gives you room for bargaining on price with one company (20% can be introductory discount, more depends on your skills), while you have a backup with another company.
Local representative of a global renting company will accept pre-payment for your reservation, but it may act just an agent, bearing no responsibility for the condition of the car you get, on details of contract at the country where you drive, and giving you just the same information you have booking on the site (sometimes even unwilling to call the office at your target country). If you find your representative acts just like an agent, step back and book via Internet: you'll have the same reservation, but also freedom to switch to another rental company, or to bargain with the company of your first choice for a better car. However, if you need for some reason to give a prepayment, a representative office will do the job.
Insurance, Security deposit and Waiver
Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Liability Waiver limits your responsibilty to the rental company in case of collision or theft respectively. Waivers are also called franchise. Technically, the waiver is not insurance, rather the rental company agrees not to pursue you for damages, and covers the repair costs itself.
To ensure tourists will pay a waiver, rental companies take a deposit in either of two forms:
- make a paper slip of your credit card asking you to sign the slip without any amount stated on it at the moment of signing; ready to give the slip back to you upon normal return of the car
- freeze some amount on your card (deposit; not necessarily equal to franchise amount). Ask at the moment of rental how large the deposit is; expect the amount to be unfrozen weeks after you return the car.
Neither the franchise amount nor the security deposit amount is officially fixed in any contract - this is based on your trust to rental company.
Third-party insurance is either included in rental price or a separate optional fee.
Instructions that should be provided
When you are done with contract and papers, personnel should instruct you on every detail of using the car. Check against the following list to make sure you have all you will need:
- what to do in case of accident; breakdown when you still can drive; breakdown if you cannot
- how should you react to traffic policeman; any local specifics of driving rules and conventions
- controls of the car that differ between car manufacturers (rear gear, seat adjustment, lights, radio, opening gas tank etc)
- what kind of fuel is recommended (A98 vs A80; petrol in a diesel engine--both can prove an expensive mistake)
- whether it's safe in this region to leave a locked car with luggage
- known issues of this car model, of this particular hire car
In some cases you may be provided with a free driving map of the region.
Checking initial condition
Before you go, check the exterior and front glass of the car and ask personnel to mark in the contract every scratch and dint you find, and sign the scheme on both copies of your contract. When you return a car, it will be checked against the scheme you put in the contract.
Check that all numbers in the car registration papers correspond to the numbers on your car (body, engine) - it will be too late if police find an inconsistency in the middle of your journey.
Gas and mileage
Normally, a rental car is provided with either an empty or full tank, and is expected to be returned the same way. If the tank is not full when the car is returned but it was when it was received, you will be charged an premium for the tank to be filled.
Ensure with rental company personnel that your mileage is unlimited.
If the car breaks down
If the car can still move, at least expect that rental company will replace the broken car with a working one, of the same or higher class. If the breakdown totally prevents you from using the car, contact the rental company to return it ASAP, eliminating the risk of paying for days you actually couldn't use the car.
We still need experiences here on broken cars when travellers couldn't drive with it further.
Normally, rented cars should not run over 50k kilometers or live more than 2 years.
Asking for a CD player in the car radio works only in direct contact with your rental company; agents normally won't help with this.
Returning a car
Normally you return the car to a rental office at your final point in working hours and have a final calculation done there.
If you left a slip instead of deposit, don't be expect it to travel to your final destination. You need to trust personnel that they won't just charge amount they want.
In theory, it's possible to return the car even outside business hours of the nearest office:
- choose a different office (usually, airport offices close later than in the downtown)
- leaving all the papers and the keys either to a renter's trusted person (like another renter nearby, or a nearby shop) along with a blank paper where you write your full name, time and date of return
- leaving all the papers, keys and the notes at the desk of closed office (pushing it under a door etc)
What will happen with your deposit when you don't have anyone check the car is a question.
There are more than half a dozen worldwide operators that have offices in most countries in the world: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Easy Car Hire, Enterprise, Hertz, Traveljigsaw, Nationaland Thrifty. Information specific to each operator follows.
Alamo / National
- Locations in more than 42 countries--in Canada, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia-Pacific, Africa and Australia
- Over 1,000 locations in the United States
- In some countries Alamo, works together with National Car Rental
- International franchises include: Costa Rica, Canada and United Kingdom
- If deposit is taken by freezing on credit card, Alamo promises to return it during 1..2 weeks from the moment of car return (no travellers experience reported with this so far)
- Country-specific details available in: Morocco
Booking Alamo from Russia - when you book rental in another country from Russia, Alamo.ru acts only like an agency, not a full-scale local representative (see Booking and haggling). They also declare that cars are never used longer than 6 months in Africa, which is much better than true for Morocco.
- Operates in over 7,000 locations all over the world
- International franchises include: United Kingdom,USA, Germany, France, Italy, Australia
- Over 4,400 locations worldwide: in North America, Latin America, Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand
- Avis Europe plc who are a separate company operate European locations
- International franchises include: Ireland, United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Grand Cayman, Malaysia and Israel
- Over 1,800 locations worldwide
- International franchises include: Ireland, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa
- 640 locations in 53 countries: United States, Canada, Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, Philippines, Japan, South America and Europe
- 350 locations in the United States and Canada
- International franchises include: Costa Rica, Ireland, Germany, Mexico and United Kingdom
- Over 2,400 locations in 60 countries: United States, Canada, France, Portugal and Spain
- International offices include: car hire USA Germany, and United Kingdom
- 1,028 locations in 68 countries in: United States, Canada, Europe, Central / South America, Africa, Middle East, Caribbean and Asia
- 478 locations in the United States and Canada
- International franchises include: Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa
- Operate in over 5,000 locations all over the world, in 19 languages and 20 currencies
- International franchises include: Russia,UK, Germany, France, Italy
This page was last edited at 12:20, on 3 March 2009 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by Denis Yurkin and Marina Salvini, Wikitravel user(s) AutoEuropeUK, Pashley, Machugh and MMKK and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.