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Many people resolve to enjoy life to the fullest, and that may involve indulging in new experiences and traveling to different locales. The United States Travel Association says nearly four out of five domestic trips taken are for leisure, and 1.7 billion person-trips, or travel taken by a person away from home overnight to places 50 miles away or more, were logged in 2015.
Ground transportation remains one of the most popular means of getting around. People who choose not to use their own vehicles for travel often find that a rental vehicle suits their purposes and can be quite convenient. Consumers seeking a rental car can ensure their travel plans go smoothly with these tips.
• Travel off-season. Not only might travelers save on airline tickets, hotel accommodations and more when traveling off-season, but they also can save on rental cars. For example, according to the Abrams Travel Data Index, consumers can expect to pay 56 percent less in March for a rental car than they would renting the same vehicle in July.
• Know what you want. Before renting, decide which type of vehicle will best fit your needs. If you're traveling with children, you may need a van or a large sedan, rather than a compact car. If travel includes certain hobbies, such as skiing or bicycle riding, look for a rental with a ski or bike rack — or one that can fit such accessories. Those concerned with the environment may want to rent an eco-friendly model.
• Shop around. Major car rental agencies are located all over the world. However, depending on where you travel, locally owned companies may offer comparable service and lower rates. Lower operating costs (think no franchise fees or big advertising budgets) mean these rentals typically cost 15 to 30 percent less than rentals from mainstream agencies. Research lesser-known rental companies beforehand to compare prices and read any reviews to see if these businesses are up to the standards of larger, better-known chains.
• Avoid renting from an airport. It may be convenient to step off a plane and grab a rental right there. However, rental car agencies operating at airports may pass on airport surcharges to their customers. Try a car rental service away from the airport and take a shuttle or cab to get there.
• Understand mileage caps. According to Angie's List, some rental car companies offer unlimited miles for a rental period, while others may employ mileage caps. Read the fine print of the agreement, especially if you'll be using the rental for long-distance driving.
• Ask about membership affiliation. Inquire about discounts for any major national organizations, frequent flier programs and credit card programs to which you may belong. If you're employed by a company that frequently rents cars, they may have a negotiated rate for employees.
• Investigate insurance coverage. You may be able to decline extra insurance coverage at the rental desk. Some personal automotive policies will cover collision damage and personal liability for temporary use of a rental car, according to MileCards.com, a travel rewards card comparison website. What is not covered by your insurance may be covered by secondary insurance offered by the credit card used at booking.
Rental cars are a major component of travel. Consumers can save money and make trips even easier by understanding some of the basics of renting.