Clyde on Cars
We're getting into that time of year when people start mulling over their vacation plans, get out the airline schedule and think about rental cars.
Since this column talks about cars, there are a couple of little land mines in the car rental business you should look out for.
Because of competition, the price of renting a car at an airport has gone up marginally in the last few years. This has caused rental companies to find other ways to generate additional revenue.
Depending on the make of the car, you can rent a compact car for around $25 a day and a premium car like a Cadillac for $60 almost anywhere in the country. If you're in a wedding party, you can rent a car cheaper than a tuxedo.
Rental car companies offer different options, so it might be wise to remember that convenience usually costs money.
The most common extra is the rental car's insurance charge, which usually amounts to $6-12 a day for their collision-damage or loss-damage waiver.
Most renters don't have to pay this pricey insurance because their personal car insurance policy covers rental cars, according to State Farm insurance agent Joe Leal.
"However, if you mix business and pleasure you may not be covered while on business," Leal said. "All you have to do is get a broad-form coverage for the business use, which cost around $20 every six months."
Leal reminds his clients when out of the country they need a special insurance from the country they are traveling in, and never drive into Mexico without buying trip insurance in Mexico.
Another thing to look out for is the down time, or out of use, rental cars charge if the car you were driving gets in a wreck. Broad-form insurance will also cover down time.
"When in doubt, always call your insurance agent before you make the trip," Leal said.
Several credit cards also provide primary insurance coverage if the renter uses their card to pay for the car.
Another way rental agencies make money is by charging for the convenience of getting a full-tank of gas and returning it with an empty tank.
In almost every case it's cheaper for the renter to fill up the tank before returning the car than to buy gas from a rental company. The same goes with some smaller rental companies that charge you an extra fee for topping-off-the tank when you return the car and find the extra gas is on your bill when you check out.
It may be best to make reservations before you rent so you will know what charges the rental cars insist on.
A recent study by J.D. Power & Associates - the market research company that measures consumer satisfaction in different industries - identifies several things rental companies do that annoy customers.
Being told a reserved car is not available
Waiting for more than 10 minutes to be picked up by the shuttle bus and riding on an uncomfortable shuttle bus that is too crowded with no room for bags.
Renting an under-powered car they usually reserve for the leisure traveler.
Taking more than five minutes to check back the car and suffering through a long reservation process.
Clyde Noel is a car afficionado and a longtime contributor to the Town Crier.