Avoid Unexpected Fees When Returning Your Rental Car

For many people, driving is an essential part of daily life. In 2021, there were more than 282 million vehicles registered in the U.S. Additionally, the United States Department of Transportation reports that over 90% of those commuting to work each day do so using a personal vehicle.

On average, Americans are now spending a total of 70 billion hours behind the wheel annually. Numbers like these have made a significantly positive impact on the car rental industry. This economic segment is predicted to reach nearly $30 billion in revenue by the end of 2023.

Whether travelers are driving for business or taking a long-distance road trip for fun, there are benefits to renting a car rather than using a personal vehicle. Renting a car can minimize wear and tear on your own vehicle during long-distance trips. Many drivers see this as a cost-effective choice.

While a driver can avoid personal vehicle damages when renting a car, the downside often shows up in the form of unexpected fees. Many drivers expect to pay the standard insurance fees and understand they will need to fill up the gas tank upon return. Unfortunately, there are a variety of lesser-recognized charges that can quickly add up.

Nothing puts a damper on a road trip quite like a larger-than-expected bill when you go to return your rental car. The best way to avoid this is to understand the pitfalls before renting. Being proactive and informed is sure to save you money in the long run.

Be aware of the unnecessary extras offered

It's important to take time to think about what you'll need from your rental car experience before making any decisions. This is because rental companies make a significant profit off the extras they offer customers. Many of these extras don't contribute to the overall safety or success of your trip.

Avoiding unexpected fees starts with being a stickler about paying only for essentials. You'll likely be offered options like GPS navigation technology or satellite radio when you go to book a vehicle. These extras can be fun additions to an on-the-road experience, but ultimately, they're significant added costs and unnecessary for drivers who have personal smartphones on hand.

Toll transponders are an item drivers are often offered when booking a rental car that can lead to unexpected charges on the return. They're designed to help drivers pass through tolls easily, but comparing prices is important. It could be more cost-effective to take a longer route that's free of tolls altogether. To avoid the unexpected, first ask if the rental car company charges a separate fee for the use of transponders.

Prepaid fuel charges can be another unpleasant and unexpected addition to the bill when you return your rental car, especially for those who don't realize that most rental companies require customers to pay a significant premium for this option. Avoid the added cost altogether by opting to fill up the tank yourself upon return.

Be sure to read the small print

It's easy to feel taken advantage of when car rental company fees show up unexpectedly. Reading the fine print before signing on the dotted line is a good way to bring what feels like a hidden fee into perspective. Rental policies can be daunting and tedious, but fees vary from company to company so it's important to read through all the policy documentation. This helps drivers understand exactly where fees are originating before they hit the road.

A fee that often catches drivers off guard is the rental car facility charge. Where you return or pick up a vehicle could incur an added cost. Renting a car at the airport is a notoriously more expensive process because rental car companies are charged a concession fee. The company then redirects that fee to its customers.

The difference in the final price tag can be drastic. Drivers could pay up to 26% more just because they rent a car at the airport versus an off-site location. When location plays a part in added fees, renting from a destination further from the airport and paying a ride-share to get there might be a more cost-effective route.

Ultimately, add-on charges don't have to ruin your car rental experience. Taking some time to anticipate the costs before renting and eliminating what's unnecessary ahead of time can help you keep money in your wallet. It will also give you the peace of mind you deserve to enjoy the journey.