Six Ways Car Rental Companies Can Get Tricky

It’s a mad, mad world out there when it comes to traveling (hello, baggage fees and pay as you go bathrooms) and these days it’s not just the airlines getting creative with their attempts to increase revenue. Car rental companies are joining in on the fun too!

CNN and Christopher Elliott check out six of the latest and greatest in tricky games car rental companies are playing.

1. Fast and loose pricing
Car rental companies might try to tack on an exorbitant late fee, as was the case of one woman who says a company warned her that returning the car after a certain day would amount to fees around $1,000 per day. Others cite fees for returning cars early. Try paying ahead of time through online travel booking sites.

2. Age limits often apply
Many agencies will add surcharges of $20 per day or more if you’re under 25, or outright ban you from renting if you’re under 21. Their reasoning for age limits? Younger drivers are said to be more likely to damage a car. Car insurance is useless, apparently.

3. More drivers = more money

Want to share those driving duties with another? It could cost ya. If there’s a second driver, car rental companies often ask for more money. So maybe just keep your mouth shut on that one.

“These charges currently run about $10 to $12 per day,” says Ron Prudhomme, a consultant from Sparks, Nevada. “A few years ago, spouses or close relatives were exempt, but car rental agencies are now not allowing any exemptions.”

4. Car seats come with a price

If parents need to rent a car but don’t have their own child safety seat with them, some companies will charge for a car seat… kind of like having to pay for using the seat belts.

5. Let’s redefine car sizes!
Getting creative with the definitions of car classes, like upgrading a smaller car to a bigger category, allows some companies to charge a little extra. Alamo changed its classifications last year after being acquired by Enterprise.

6. Driving under 75 miles will cost you
One consumer had this wording on her rental contract: “An automatic USD $13.99 refueling service charge will be applied to all rentals under 75 miles.”

Keep your receipt or you’ll have to buy another full tank of gas.

Car rental craziness: 6 odd rules [CNN]

Comments

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  1. TinaBringMeTheAx says:

    “If there’s a second driver, car rental companies often ask for more money. So maybe just keep your mouth shut on that one.”

    Once again, Consumerist is advocating illegal activity. If you’re not on the contract (or the contract holder’s spouse, at least in NYS) it would be a crime for you to drive the car, and you would not be insured.

    • maztec says:

      Could you quote us on that law please? You sure it is not just breach of contract? Most of the contracts have a clause explaining what happens if another person drives the car. Or are they going to argue conversion, after you return the car in good shape?

      • tsukiotoshi says:

        Yeah, I’m with you. I’m reasonably certain it’s just breach of contract, which is a civil matter.

        • BoredOOMM says:

          nope, the Personal Protection Auto (PPA) policy does not always extend to a “non-owned” car when not driven “by a person named on the declarations.”

          Auto insurance is a contract.

          Rental Car companies skirt around the contract and the cost of not paying the extra driver charges could be very costly. With high healthcare costs and lawyers circling like sharks, it is not uncommon to suffer $10000 for a minor parking lot mishap.

          • physics2010 says:

            You know your regular car insurance covers rental cars right?

            • SChance says:

              Your regular insurance covers a non-owned vehicle that you are driving *with the owner’s permission.*

              If you are not listed on the rental contract as an authorized driver, you do not have the owner’s permission to drive the car and are not covered by your personal insurance. You’re also not covered by the rental company’s insurance (if you bought their insurance) because, again, you’re not an “authorized driver.”

    • SOhp101 says:

      I don’t think it’s necessarily a crime, your insurance probably wouldn’t cover anything if the unauthorized person was driving at that time.

      • TinaBringMeTheAx says:

        If you get stopped by a cop, and cannot show that you are authorized to drive the vehicle, they can arrest you on suspicion that you stole the car. And really, what would your defense be?

        I’m not saying that the rental car company is going to put you in jail if they find out, but driving a car without legal authorization from the car’s owner, whether it is an individual or a rental agency, seems pretty illegal to me, prima facie.

        • Shaggy says:

          “If you get stopped by a cop, and cannot show that you are authorized to drive the vehicle, they can arrest you on suspicion that you stole the car. And really, what would your defense be?”

          …that you didn’t steal the car? That’d be the best defense.

          • doreen says:

            In NY the crime would be unauthorized use of a motor vehicle- Penal law 165.05
            “A person is guilty of unauthorized use of a vehicle in the third
            degree when:
            1. Knowing that he does not have the consent of the owner, he takes,
            operates, exercises control over, rides in or otherwise uses a vehicle.
            A person who engages in any such conduct without the consent of the
            owner is presumed to know that he does not have such consent;”

            I suspect other states have similar laws

          • TinaBringMeTheAx says:

            But you did steal the car. You did not have the permission of the owner to drive it.

            Plus, in all likelihood, you were driving it without insurance, also a crime.

            • Shaggy says:

              I’m not sure you know what car theft is; whatever it is, it is not defined as “driving a car without permission”. It would be a civil matter; the car rental place would be laughed out of court if it tried to define “auto theft” as “the guy who we rented a car to let somebody else drive the car, and didn’t tell us”.

              Is allowing someone to drive the rented car without permission of the renter is unethical? Perhaps. But unethical things aren’t always illegal.

              • peebozi says:

                in fact, look at wall street, politicians and any other publicly traded company…unethical/immoral doesn’t always = illegal but does usually = obscene profits and no liability.

            • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

              Umm… the person who DID rent the vehicle is most likely sitting RIGHT NEXT TO YOU.

              Yeah, that would be my defense.

              “Is this your car?”

              “No, but this guy next to me rented it.”

    • Shaggy says:

      It depends on the state. Here in Michigan, vehicles are insured, not drivers; this means that if insurance is bought for a vehicle, it is covered no matter who’s driving.

    • Shaggy says:

      Also, just curiously: what illegal activity has the Consumerist advocated? Please be specific.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      It’s not advocating illegal activity, but it is advocating stupidity. If you don’t put all drivers on the contract and someone not the contract wrecks the rental car, it null and voids any kind of insurance. And do not say that if the driver has insurance themselves or on their credit card or whatever means everything is ok-YOU ARE WRONG. If you cannot prove to whatever insurance you have that you were on the contract, they say “Aw, I’m sorry, get bent.”

      Is $10 dollars that big of a deal for that kind of risk? Enterprise and Alamo don’t charge for extra drivers if that person is your spouse, anyway. I’m kind of pissed off that Consumerist would recommend this, as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of ass pain if something were to happen to the rental.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        One thing to consider. Some car insurance policies cover you when you drive a rental car. So not only would it be unnecessary to purchase the insurance from the rental agency, but your other drivers would already be covered under insurance.

  2. TBGBoodler says:

    A friend recently had this experience: when she arrived at the rental counter, the agent tried very hard to upsell her into a upgraded car. which she refused. Turns out, they didn’t have the size she had reserved and had to upgrade her anyway—for free.

    Also… Our membership in and insurance through USAA means we don’t have to pay for the extra driver and the under-25 fee is waived with certain car rental companies. You should check your insurance policy (or membership in an auto club or other group) to see if that applies to you, too.

    • drburk says:

      always ask to see the cards.

      • rekoil says:

        Better than being upgraded *without* being told about it – this happened during a business trip and I didn’t compare the rate on the contract with the reservation; they put me in a car that was $15 more per day than the compact class that was on the reservation. They then told my company’s travel agency that I had requested the upgrade. Much hilarity ensued.

        Never again, Avis at SFO Airport. Never again.

    • sleze69 says:

      Now that gas is so expensive, when I rent cars for personal use, I get mad at them for auto-upgrading me to a gas guzzler if I don’t need the space.

      Also be aware that the rental coverage that goes with your personal coverage as well as your credit card may not work outside the US. In Grand Cayman NONE of that coverage works and they will essentially confiscate your passport until you pay for any damage to the car.

      • hmburgers says:

        +1 on the aggravation over getting a free “upgrade” … I rented a compact a few weeks ago for an 800 mile trip, when I got there they tried to give me a full-size, I told them I didn’t want it, I wanted a compact, or at least an intermediate… turns out the reason they didn’t want to give me the smaller car was because it hadn’t been washed–big deal.

        I got the reverse a few weeks later–I rented a full size because we were going to be carrying 4 people, I was given an intermediate and told it was a full size… even when I went back to the office to point out that on their website a Pontiac G6 was specifically listed as the example of an intermediate and an Impala/G8 was listed as full size, I was still told that the G6 was considered full-size, I asked to at least be charged the intermediate rate which was $5/day less and was told again, G6 is considered full-size, take the car or don’t take any car. I wrote to Avis corporate, they came back with “sorry you weren’t satisfied” and that was it…

        • Verdant Pine Trees says:

          hmburgers, did you email or write the “general” customer service contact, or write the CEO?

          Try writing the CEO a letter and send it CMRR (certified mail with return receipt), and send another paper copy (CMRR not necessary) to the top lawyer for the firm.

          99% of the time, you’ll get the money that regional office swindled you out of.

    • Daniellethm says:

      I love USAA, seriously. I have inexpensive car insurance+ renter’s insurance ($50 for both), and when I rent a car I get all sorts of awesome discounts. On top of that my local hertz has given me a free upgrade (From compact to sedan) on two of the three occasions I’ve been there. I think it’s because I book online, and for what ever reason their system will let me book a car they don’t have.

    • Beef Supreme says:

      With AAA and Hertz #1 Club, I don’t have to pay for extra drivers and I am almost always upgraded for free to the next size, and the last few trips I have even gotten free GPS. #1 Club is free to join, and you can use the kiosk instead of waiting in line to pick up your car.

  3. jason in boston says:

    So basically, read the terms before renting?

    I don’t think this is really news for anyone that travels.

    • runswithscissors says:

      You know, the more clever and sneaky big companies get about having their teams of lawyers bury customer-screwing language written in leagalese deep inside 6000 word contracts, the more blaming customers for not “reading everything before they sign or they get what they deserve” becomes a total cop out and utter bull ship.

      • Sudonum says:

        Except none of this is “new”. Car rental companies have had under 25 and second driver fees for as long as I’ve been renting cars, which is at least 30 years. And I remember years ago arguing with a Hertz agent about the class size of a vehicle they gave me.

        The only new wrinkle I’ve seen in rental car fees is the one where they want a gas receipt from a station within a 10 mile radius of the drop off point, and this was explained to me at the time of rental, not buried deep in the fine print.

        • jason in boston says:

          What I do is just setup a business account. Even for your “home office”. You know exactly how much the car rental will be every single time. It is worth the ease of mind not to have to play the numbers and hope you can get a good deal.

          • Sudonum says:

            I have a consulting business, and am a member of Hertz #1 Club Gold. Even with discounts, Hertz is often more expensive than Dollar or Thrifty.

  4. wcnghj says:

    Be careful with #3 “So maybe just keep your mouth shut on that one.”

    It usually voids insurance…

    • SnowQueen says:

      Better solution: Rent from Avis or Budget, which last time I checked, did not charge an additional driver fee for spouses, domestic partners or co-workers.

      Or join Alamo’s Quicksilver or National’s Emerald Club, both of which allow a spouse, family member residing in the same household, or domestic partner to drive the car without an additional fee. It’s easy to join either program for free (Emerald Club sometimes seems to charge $50 to join, but a quick Google search will turn up free links).

    • sonneillon says:

      only if you get the insurance through the rental company, which is a rip off. If the other person has personal insurance on their car they are covered in the rental car. And in most states the car is insured not the person. And credit cards also offer car insurance coverage too.

      • SChance says:

        NO, they are NOT covered. They are only covered when driving a non-owned vehicle with the owner’s permission. If they’re not on the rental contract, they don’t have the owner’s permission.

        This clause is in insurance contracts so that they don’t have to pay for the unlicensed kid who takes a joyride in Mom’s car and wrecks it, or so that they don’t have to pay liability when someone steals your car and hits somebody else.

        • sonneillon says:

          Depends on the state. Some states the insurance follows the car period. This law pre-empts the contract. Some states do not. My brother and his friends stole his friends moms car and wrecked it. The insurance company balked and was fined by the commissioner of insurance because state law supersedes contract law. Of course this only worked like that because the mom filed a complaint and my brother had a year of probation and his friends did between 1-3 years.

      • wcnghj says:

        All credit card insurance info I have read states something like: “Policy does not cover unauthorized drivers.”

  5. Nathan says:

    “If parents need to rent a car but don’t have their own child safety seat with them, some companies will charge for a car seat… kind of like having to pay for using the seat belts.”

    … What? It’s nothing at all like that. Cars don’t come with child safety seats. They are a limited commodity. If you need one, bring one, or rent one. The fact that it is possible to rent one strikes me as fantastic, so that I don’t have to lug one around.

    • physics2010 says:

      I’m with you on this one. The rental agency should be required to make a car/booster seat available, but at a reasonable cost. If these were provided free it would mean other drivers would be subsidizing the cost, which is not appropriate. Providing the options and state appropriate literature should be the responsibility of the rental agency as car and booster seat laws vary from state to state

      • Pax says:

        A child safety seat, or a booster seat, is a SEPARATE equipment rental. So an additional fee is IMO entirely reasonable.

        You’re a parent, and you need a child safety seat for your toddler or infant? BRING YOUR OWN. You really shouldn’t be trusting your child to something chosen by a stranger, who (a) might not have kids of their own, and (b) is strongly motivated to go with whatever is CHEAPEST, not necessarily SAFEST.

    • shepd says:

      It’d be fantastic if it weren’t $36 and non-refundable, for each day you rent the car.

      For reference, you can buy a new seat at Walmart for $39.99, and unlike the rental fee, in some places they’re not taxed. It’s always cheaper to buy on the second day, and on the first day it can be break even.

      If you can’t bring it back with you, buy one and donate it when you’re done. Or, if you can’t do that, throw it in the car rental agency’s dumpster.

      All things being considered, these things should rent for $5 a day + $50 deposit, tops. Heck, I’d suggest that with the cost of them being that low, offer them for free + deposit and you’ll win over business for everyone with families. The added business should easily let you afford the overwhelming cost of say, $500 for the 10 car seats you might stock for the $500,000 worth of cars you have sitting on your lot.

  6. weave says:

    Good for #6 — if they actually top it off. Too many cars have their gas gauge stay full for quite a while so people turn it in with the needle on full even though it’s not, and the next guy gets screwed.

    • Fair&Balanced says:

      Even if the car says full, Avis/budget charges you for a gallon unless you show them the receipt that you just filled it up.
      That is what they told me, but I had the receipt so they took it off.
      They did charge a few pennies more than the local gas station for that gallon.

    • varro says:

      One car rental company tried to charge me when I filled up the tank at a gas station off the airport – the gauge still read “Full”.

      A chargeback stopped those shenanigans…

  7. Fair&Balanced says:

    I just rented a car from avis/budget at ohare.
    All they do is constantly try to upsell you.
    You basically have to argue with them to match the price you have on your printout.
    It is such a hassle. If there is a car company that does not upsell I will definately go with them.

    I am also sick of how they never have the car you order online. They always give you a different car. I wanted the Ford Escape to give it a try and they said they have none of those (so why do they put that on their website???). They gave me a Dodge Nitro which I did not like. I would have gone with a different company if I knew they really don’t carry the Ford Escape.

    • flakeyblakee says:

      go with National and their Emerald Isle Program. You by pass the counter, pick any car you want in the section. I always rent a compact and end up with a midsize or bigger.

    • weave says:

      I just always get a car through Hertz #1 Gold program. No hassles, and they don’t go over the car looking for common wear-and-tear items to charge you for when you return it either.

      • Sudonum says:

        Ditto, especially if I’m renting for business and can expense the rental. Otherwise I’ll shop around, but if Hertz is close to the same money, I’ll go with them and avoid the hassles.

    • SnowQueen says:

      They all upsell. It’s a big moneymaker for them. The best way to avoid this is to join the rental car company’s “frequent renter” program (which is almost always free). You specify in advance that you don’t want insurance and it is never brought up when you check in. Check-in is also much faster.

    • Randell says:

      No rental company ever says a Ford Escape. They say a car LIKE a Ford Escape. Why can’t they guarantee a specific car? Imagine you guarantee an Escape to you. The guy who was SUPPOSED to bring it back yesterday does not. Do they go buy a new one just for you, or put you in a similar car? This should be rather obvious. If you want a test drive, go to your local Ford dealership and ask if they have a rental unit, and would like to rent an Escape for a few days.

      • Fair&Balanced says:

        They said they don’t even carry the escape.
        I understand if someone did not return it on time, but in my case they lied on their website with a car they never rent.

    • MrsLopsided says:

      Is it National who advertises “any car in the lot”? What happens to next guy who reserved a specific size?

  8. myrna_minkoff says:

    We recently rented a car with Enterprise, topped it off right outside the gates to the airport — and a month later found we had been charged for a quarter tank of gas, since we allegedly didn’t return the car with the tank full. (I would be shocked if we had used even a 1/4 of a gallon of gas.)

    One three-sentence email later, and I had a full refund.

    I got the impression they automatically charge everyone who doesn’t pay for their gas service — whether the tank is empty or not — and just automatically refund if anyone complains.

  9. DanRydell says:

    “some companies will charge for a car seat… kind of like having to pay for using the seat belts.”

    My car came with seatbelts. Apparently you think cars come with car seats?

  10. DanRydell says:

    “One consumer had this wording on her rental contract: “An automatic USD $13.99 refueling service charge will be applied to all rentals under 75 miles.””

    http://www.budget.com/budgetWeb/locationsearch/locationBrowse.ex?location=ROA&mid=local-dflt

    Full text:
    “An automatic USD $13.99 refueling service charge will be applied to all rentals under 75 miles. Renters who return the car with a full tank of gas and provide a receipt showing the purchase of gasoline will have the charge reversed when completing their rental.”

    Obvious reason – the “full” line on gas gauges doesn’t line up exactly with the top of the tank – it could be a couple of gallons off. So with some cars you could drive 75 miles on a full tank and it would still appear to be full.

    This point is stupid.

    • Rena says:

      Maybe they need more precise gauges?

      • Randell says:

        Rental car companies do not make the gauges. How hard is it to provide the receipt for the gas you bought 2 blocks ago?

        • Sudonum says:

          Yeah, I had this happen to me with Thrifty at SFO. The agent told me to refuel at least 10 miles or so from the airport and save the receipt. This was a new one for me as I rent quite a bit for business. he explained that many newer cars use some kind of new fuel level sending unit that can report full while still being as much as 1/4 of a tank low. I never heard that one before. When I returned the car the agent didn’t ask for my receipt, even after I offered to show it to her.

    • CRCError1970 says:

      Or maybe they could just do it the honest way….

      Drive the car to their gas pump… Fill the tank… Then charge you a reasonable market value for *THAT* amount of gas.

      Those that fill up at the airport will pay $0.50 and those that fill up 20 miles back pay $2.50…

      It’s not friggin rocket science… They are just greedy.

  11. DanRydell says:

    “Many agencies will add surcharges of $20 per day or more if you’re under 25, or outright ban you from renting if you’re under 21. Their reasoning for age limits? Younger drivers are said to be more likely to damage a car. Car insurance is useless, apparently. “

    Insurance has deductibles. Do a youtube search to see how immature kids treat rental cars. As always, the stupid ones kill it for everyone else

  12. colorisnteverything says:

    One way to save hassle and sometimes money if you can is rent at a CITY location and not an airport. Take the shuttle to the hotel, have the company pick you up at the hotel and drive you to the downtown location. It’s a bit more work, but I have always rented enterprise and have NEVER had an issue with a city location. However, the airport is all about convenience. If you aren’t in a hurry, wait and pick up in the city – especially if you will be staying in the area for a day or more anyhow!

    • ChunkyBarf says:

      I think I will take this advice on my vacation next month. My plan was to take the train from the airport to my hotel downtown. Now I think I will look for a rental place near the hotel. Good advice.

    • varro says:

      This definitely works for airports well-served by public transportation, like Oakland, both Chicago airports, and Portland.

      For airports like Pittsburgh and Kansas City, which are way out in the boonies, less so.

      • colorisnteverything says:

        This is a very good point. However, as someone who attends academic conferences, a lot times our conference is in the city. There is a free shuttle to/from the airport. The rental car place will come pick you up and it often ends up being faster. Since I am usually already there anyway, it works. And then I can actually spend my free time having fun and maybe driving somewhere I want rather than being stuck in a hotel on a night nothing is planned.

    • sponica says:

      perhaps….but I still remember my 3 day rental from dulles airport costing me soooooo much less than a weeklong rental from a city in CT.

      when you’re used to paying out the ear for a few days in CT, let alone a week, the 80 bucks at Dulles airport is soooooooooo much cheaper

  13. maztec says:

    I will never shop Alamo again after the contract from their website said my spouse could drive without additional cost, the agent behind the desk said she could drive without additional cost, and then when we were getting into the car and my wife (since I was dead tired) took the keys to drive the agent exclaimed, “WAIT! She is driving and you are not? We will have to charge you $15/day more for a second driver. Wait here while I update the paperwork.” Tired and exasperated – it was 1:00 AM, my plane had been held up by bad weather – I turned around and firmly told her no. I pulled out my contract, showed that in the large, bold print it stated that the spouse is included and I don’t have to pay for a second driver. Response? “Oh, the pay requirement is in the small print!” The small print that was so small that it blurred when printed (less than 4 point font). I grabbed my laptop, blew up the original PDF, reviewed it, and yes … in the small print … under the no need for spouse to pay … it said something akin to “all drivers, including spouse, must pay an additional fee.” I was livid as the small print was in direct contradiction to the large print contract terms.

    Solution? I read the remainder of the contract and at 2:00 AM told the lady, “No problem, we will take our risk that you will ban us for life from driving or our insurance will have to cover any damages. When we return the car, I will not rent from Alamo again.” I took the keys, made the necessary signatures, got in the car, and drove off. Six blocks later we swapped drivers.

    Funny thing was Alamo never surveyed me on how my car rental was.

    Fast forward a month. Enterprise car rental. No questions asked, wife automatically included at no extra charge. Thank you Enterprise.

    • ajlei says:

      I would have been livid.

    • DanRydell says:

      Did you save the PDF? I’d be interested in seeing that. I’m not sure how they could get away with putting contradictory statements in the contract.

    • SnowQueen says:

      Enterprise owns Alamo, just FYI.

      And if you had joined Alamo’s Quicksilver program (free) there would have been no charge for your spouse to drive.

  14. Alvis says:

    “kind of like having to pay for using the seat belts.”

    Except cars don’t COME with baby seats – of course you should pay extra if you want to rent one.

  15. swarrior216 says:

    When I read the headline the first thing that popped in my head was Run-DMC – It’s Tricky.

    • ChunkyBarf says:

      At the rental counter there was this girly,
      she acted kind of squirrely.
      Went through her line to rent a car,
      she said you can’t leave early.
      Their service is really sleazy,
      They do nothing to please me.
      It tough to get a car on time,
      it’s really not that easy.
      It’s tricky to rent a car, to rent a car, to rent a car …

  16. rpm773 says:

    Here’s one: Any extra services you pay for are put on the bill before all the state, county and local taxes and surcharges that are applied on the contract.

    So while it may be convenient to pre-pay for the gasoline and bring it back empty, and it may even appear to be cheaper than buying locally, keep in mind that cities like Phoenix slap on charges in excess of 25% of the base cost of the rental.

    Something to keep in mind.

    • anewmachine615 says:

      Depends on where you are. In NH, we were barred from doing that on gas and insurance. It showed up before your tax on the receipt, but your “taxed total” was just the cost for the car + any upgrades to the car itself (class upgrades, GPS, etc.)

  17. ARP says:

    Along with #5, many rental car companies are rebranding typical compact cars as part of their “green” line and charging more. I know Hertz charges a lot more for a Prius than it would for a car that costs much more money.

    • bben says:

      As a Hertz #1 customer, I have gotten several Prius rentals for no extra charge. As I am not picky about the specific car, I get to try out an assortment of new cars every year.

  18. Paladingo says:

    I rented through Enterprise three months ago and wasn’t charged any extra fees for having my spouse listed as another driver.

  19. Randell says:

    #1. Seems fair to me. You holding on to the car longer than contracted for causes others not to get a car they may want. Your extra day, might cause the guy who is renting for a week not to get the car he wants. Bring your car back on time, and there is no issue. I have never heard of an early return clause. You just don’t get to get a weekly rate, and then bring it back early and want the same per day rate charge.

    #2. Never have understood this. Men get in more accidents than women, do they charge more for rental to men? I think ADULT licensed driver should be the criteria.

    #3 Another stupid rule. I think ever possible driver should be told to the company upfront and their license and insurance int he system, but otherwise no upcharge

    #4 Yes they do. Car seats cost money. Why shouldn’t you pay more for that extra item? If not, bring your own, or let the kid go without.

    #5 This is a tricky one. Cars in general are smaller than they were many years ago, but some cars are bigger on the interior than they were. A Honda Civic is now larger (internally) than it was in the early part of the 2000’s. My current Civic is in the same class as a Ford Focus, but at 6’5″, the Focus is impossible for me, the Civic is great.

    #6 Just prove you filled up. Its not that hard.

    • lihtox says:

      Car seats cost money. Why shouldn’t you pay more for that extra item? If not, bring your own, or let the kid go without.

      You realize that last bit would be illegal, right? As far as I know, all states require car seats for all children up to a certain age/weight.

      That said, as a parent of a 3-year-old I am perfectly fine with paying for a car seat rental, so long as the fee is reasonable (e.g. significantly less than purchasing a carseat) and not a surprise. Carseats are damn heavy and a PITA to haul onto and off of airplanes. Also, paying for a carseat means I can more legitimately protest if the carseat is dirty or in otherwise bad condition.

      • Randell says:

        The legality has nothing to do with the rental car companies. Your PITA is not the rental car companies problem. The point is car seats cost money. Why shouldn’t those who wants them pay more? It is not a legitimate complaint about car rental companies.

    • ktetch says:

      ACtually, cars are generally BIGGER than they were 20 years ago. Go look t say, a civic from the 80s, or a Camry. Compare them. Even minivans, look at an early 80s Caravan against a modern one.

  20. crazybeaver says:

    So it it really true that if you take the insurance you can just total the car and walk away? After an argument at an enterprise counter one day anout my need for the insurance, I was just about angry enough to just pay the 11.99 and run my 34k mile Aveo into a telephone pole.

    That would have felt good.

  21. cathh says:

    Some car rentals also charge you an additional surcharge depending on where you live. A few years ago, we reserved a car via Expedia in the West Village in NYC at Dollar rent-a-car. When my husband got there to pick the car up, he was told there was an additional $50 a day surcharge because we lived in Brooklyn– a surcharge that wasn’t mentioned on Expedia. The car rental was expensive enough as it was so there was no way we were going to take that. The Dollar rent-a-car employee must have been used to this happening since she had the address of the nearest car rental memorized– Avis which was slightly more expensive but still cheaper than Dollar rent-a-car with their Brooklyn penalty. Ugh.

  22. NightSteel says:

    I was personally bitten by #2 once. I reserved a car through Hertz, got a great rate, then when I got to the counter, they refused to rent to me at all because I was under 25. I ended up paying twice as much for a sh*tty car through.. someone else, I forget who, but they were the only ones at that airport who *would* rent to someone under 25–with the $20/day fee.

    The thing that bugged me about it was, they never *asked* my age when I reserved the car. If they’d asked, I’d have remembered, oh yeah, some companies charge fees or refuse to rent to people under 25. But they didn’t ask, and then they just left my arse in the wind.

    That ended up being the vacation from Hell anyway, but that’s a very long story..

    • kwjayhawk says:

      happened to me in Hawaii. Rented a car through the cruise line excursion package. Got to the rental and was told since I was not 25 I had to pay an extra $50.

      What was humorous/frustrating is when the service rep asked if this was okay I said well I guess to rent the car I have no choice. She did not seem to be happy.

      I will avoid Thirty not because I was under 25, but because their front rep was a jerk. I’ll try other companies before using them again.

      • kwjayhawk says:

        edit: It was Alamo.

      • XTC46 says:

        Happened to me in LA. I was there for my 21st birthday (I turned 21 like 5 days after i got there) I made the reservation, they DID ask for my birthdate, and I gave it to them, reserved the car, no problem. Get to LA (from Hawaii where I live) at like 5 am, by my self. Show up at Dollar and get a “sorry, we dont rent to anyone under 21.” I was furious. The confusion on my part occured, becasue they DO actually rent to 18 and over…but only from select airport locations and only if you are in a tour group from specific countries. Seriously. I wanted to kill somone.

        So I spent the next 3 hours finding a car rental place who would rent me a car at 20 in a city I hadnt been to since 3rd grade. Dollar was nice enough to give me a list of every car rental place near the airport. I ended up paying about 5 times as much as Dollar would have charged me after the too young tax + mandatory insurance (even though both my credit card and personal auto insurance would have covered it) + Mileage rates.

        Ive been to LA about 10 time since (I am 24 now and was in a long distance relationship with someone there at the time, she has since moved here) and will never rent from dollar, ever. And I travel a lot.

  23. MOtom says:

    use caution when letting another person who did not sign up to drive on the car
    if the unsigned driver gets in a wreck you cannot use the credit card to claim any write downs on the deductible for the wreck because the rental agreement is tied to the credit card of the original car renter

  24. ekincam says:

    And if you go through Budget, reserving a “Ford Fusion or similar” 7 days in advance doesn’t actually mean they’ll have it for you. But they’ll gladly spend 15 minutes trying to convince you to “upgrade” to to a nice SUV because that’s all they had left. I ended up stuck with it as a free “upgrade.” That Jeep 4×4 yielded 16 MPG from NYC to Philadelphia and back rather than the 30 MPG or so if I had the Fusion.

    • anewmachine615 says:

      I’d demand a free tank of gas. That was my general response if anyone complained about the gas mileage difference (generally I’d set it to come back empty, so they didn’t have to refuel at all). Generally it worked out in their favor, and if it didn’t I’d take money off the final bill. I hated giving people anything other than what they reserved anyway – it meant that I couldn’t even try an upsell to a bigger car, which is what my bonus was based on.

    • Randell says:

      Actually, if they do not have the size you requested, you are entitlted to compensation. When I went to Las Vegas in July a few years ago, the rental car company suggested they would give me a convertible as an “upgrade”. I said it was 11 pm and 110 degrees. I am not putting the roof down on the car, I want what I reserved. They did not have the car size I wanted, so they ended up discounting my rate 20%. I considered that fair.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      My favorite was when I was trying to pick up an economy car, and the rental company tried to give me an 8-passenger van. I don’t mind being bumped to the next size up, but that was taking things a little far. Despite the already insane wait, I said there was no way I was taking a van for my family of three. Someone pulled a car out of somewhere, and we were finally on our way.

      I think it was just my turn for a crappy car rental experience, as they’d been pretty pleasant up to that point.

    • TexasMama37 says:

      I once reserved an SUV from Budget for a family vacation. We had 3 children in carseats and knew that they would all fit in the back of the SUV. When we got there they said they were out of SUVs and tried to give us a pickup truck instead. Granted, it was an extended cab truck so the kids still could have ridden in the back BUT it was an open bed truck and it was raining. How were we supposed to keep our luggage dry? I was ready to walk away and just cancel the reservation when they suddenly found a larger sedan what would actually hold all three carseats in the backseat. It was a tight fit but they did fit only because the youngest was still in a rear-facing seat.

  25. jpdanzig says:

    If you’re driving in a Zipcar city, I’ve had excellent experiences with them after Hertz tried to charge me for a gas refill even though I had returned the car with its gas tank refilled and full. Zipcar doesn’t play games with prices or add-ons, they pay for gas, and you get the car you reserve online. You also don’t have to wait on line at a reservations counter — just pick up the Zipcar at a nearby garage. A great alternative to traditional car rental agencies!

  26. MrsLopsided says:

    I always take photos when I pick up & drop off a rental – the exterior and the gas gauge.
    Enterprise rents out with partially full tanks and expects them back with the same level of gas – but of course they round up to the nearest 1/8th at pickup.

  27. ElizabethD says:

    The bad news is, we can’t afford to travel. The good news is, we don’t have to worry about all this stuff (rental car shenanigans, airline fail).

  28. hmburgers says:

    “2. Many agencies will add surcharges of $20 per day or more if you’re under 25, or outright ban you from renting if you’re under 21. Their reasoning for age limits? Younger drivers are said to be more likely to damage a car. Car insurance is useless, apparently.”

    Do a quick YouTube search for “rental car” and you’ll get a VERY clear picture of why they surcharge “young” people on their rentals–the damage they cause is not the kind you file an insurance claim for, it’s the kind that results in a dead transmission 15,000 miles later, and other excessive wear&tear.

    Now, I know you’ll be gouged anyway, but I seriously CRINGE at some of the things I see in these videos… search for “hopping uhaul” too… next time you’re driving that rental truck down the highway you won’t be wondering why it there’s so much play in the steering and it wanders all over the road…

    “6. Driving under 75 miles will cost you
    One consumer had this wording on her rental contract: “An automatic USD $13.99 refueling service charge will be applied to all rentals under 75 miles.”

    Keep your receipt or you’ll have to buy another full tank of gas.”

    You know how many times I’ve gotten in a rental and seen the need just shy of the full line? Yeah, that’s what they’re preventing–the dead beats who will drive 50 miles and return the car 3 gallons lower, but not low enough that the needle can be technically considered off full. It pisses me off because now I have to pay for that gas unless the rental place gives me a break on the price. The bigger fuel scam is pre-paying for gas, because who the hell is going to drive the car back into the rental agency on fumes and risk being stranded? You always end up paying for at least 2-4 gallons of gas you didn’t use–unless you’re me, and then you actually DID run it out of gas on the way back, spend 20 minutes on the round trip walk to the gas station, and only added 1/2-gallon. I pity the poor bastard at the rental agency who had to deal with that car.

    • squirrel says:

      “who the hell is going to drive the car back into the rental agency on fumes and risk being stranded?”

      We do.

      Back when I used to travel a lot for business I would always get a Ford Taurus from the Hertz counter. In 1999-2000 the gas prepay could actually break even if you brought the car back with a near-empty tank. Since I knew exactly how far I could go on a tank on one of those things, I’d make the drive in and usually have a gallon or so left in the tank. This got to be sort of a competition between those of us working remotely where we would see how much we get out of a tank. (What can I say, it was boring work) The winner brought a car in that stalled out pulling into the rental return line. No, they weren’t charged for gas either.

      This wasn’t a short hop return either – Gulfport Mississippi back to New Orleans. Refueling outside of Gulfport on the return trip was not allowed either. No one ever got stranded though, when things got dicey we shut off the A/C and cruised at the most fuel-efficient speed.

  29. WorksatDollarRentaCar says:

    I work at Dollar Rent a Car first off

    1. Fast and loose pricing
    – We don’t have any crazy fee’s like that. The closest we get is someone makes a 3 day rental but keeps it only 2 days. A 3 day rental is a lower rate than a 2 day rental. So the rate goes up by $5 a day.

    2. Age limits often apply
    We charge $25/day for people 21-25 years old. Younger drivers are just a much higher risk to cause damage. A lot of people’s insurance don’t cover rental cars themselves just liability.

    3. More drivers = more money
    We charge $10/day for additional driver.

    4. Car seats come with a price
    We charge $1/day for a child seat. But what kind of parent doesn’t bring a child seat with them. What if we are out of them? It is in illegal in many states for children to ride in the car without a booster/child seat.

    5. Let’s redefine car sizes!
    We offer most customers an option if they would like to upgrade to a bigger car. If they don’t want it though, no biggie . Sometimes though it is actually cheaper to book yourself in economy car than get an upgrade to a full size car when you get there. Instead of doing it in your reservation. Mostly during the week Monday through Thursday.

    6. Driving under 75 miles will cost you
    Never heard of anything like this.

    We are very upfront with all additional costs that were not in the initial reservation. I make the customer initial next to any added costs and explain the charges.

    - I would tell people to carry a print out of their reservation with estimated cost with them to double check before they sign anything.

    - I can give out free upgrades for any reason I like. The people that never get them are the people that tell me that another rental car company gives them free upgrades or asks for a free upgrade. I will go out of my way to insure these people don’t get free upgrades even if it means more work for me. Nice people get free upgrades. We are at the butt end of traveling. So many people are mad as soon as they step through my doors because of the airlines or something else. So when a nice person comes though I normally hook them up.

  30. MrsLopsided says:

    Agent: Alright. We have a blue Ford Escort for you Mr. Seinfeld. Would you
    like insurance?

    Jerry: Yeah, you better give me the insurance, because I am gonna beat the hell
    out of this car.

  31. backinpgh says:

    I’ve rented cars a few times and I’m under 25…the cheapest company so far has been Enterprise, which charged I think $14 extra per day. Some companies wanted as much as $35-40 extra per day, on a car that cost $15 a day to rent! It’s outrageous. Plus if I wanted to add my husband as an auth. driver (he’s also under 25), even though the additional driver was free, he also had to pay the extra $14 a day! I turn 25 this year, can’t wait.

  32. kwjayhawk says:

    happened to me in Hawaii. Rented a car through the cruise line excursion package. Got to the rental and was told since I was not 25 I had to pay an extra $50.

    What was humorous/frustrating is when the service rep asked if this was okay I said well I guess to rent the car I have no choice. She did not seem to be happy.

    I will avoid Alamo not because I was under 25, but because their front rep was a jerk. I’ll try other companies before using them again.

  33. ciara says:

    my fave – 2 years ago i rented from Hertz – they offered to fill up at a discount rate if we paid in advance – claiming whatever we didnt use we would get back (ie pay 50 up front for fuel – and what is needed is what they would keep of the 50 – at the price per gallon rate on the sign) – the price on the sign was competitive – and we were in down town san fran – and not local – so no having to finding a gas stn seemed a good idea.. when we dropped off – it was after hours (as arranged)… and they told us that it was a flat fee – and that there was no basis on what we used — so we used a 1/4 tank of fuel (it had great mpg)… and it cost of 50.00… never will rent from them – even after we complained and they sent coupons.. far as i am concerned they were con artists.

  34. Package Man says:

    “kind of like having to pay for using the seat belts.”

    Uhhh, no not really. It’s called a “value added service”. A car seat is an additional expense for the car rental company unlike a seat belt. Plus, it adds value to the car rental. This movement in society to increasingly want something for nothing when it actually COSTS the retailer is really getting out of hand. Stuff costs money! If you want a retailer to provide you with a service or product you’ll have to pay for it because providing it COSTS THEM MONEY!

    Sure, they could throw it in for nothing, but then they have to build that cost in somewhere else which means raising the price on that something else which people who complain about having to pay for a car seat to begin with will complain about! There seems to be a growing trend in society of anti-profit. I get it all the time in my store. I have a $450 document scanner and people think I should scan papers for them for free. Sorry folks, that document scanner isn’t going to pay for itself!

  35. anewmachine615 says:

    About the extra driver – I recommend adding them (even though it is a bit more money per day). My old company gave discounts for a week (basically you paid for 5 days and got 7 of the extra driver). If you’re on the rental contract, and the other person gets pulled over, they can be arrested for driving without an authorization in their name. If you’re in an accident while the other person is driving, and they’re not on the rental contract, any insurance you bought (which, BTW, you shouldn’t have bought) is void, and a lot of insurance companies won’t cover a car you’re not authorized to drive. Also if the rental company catches you doing this, they can and will blacklist you.

    The car size thing is totally true though. My company was absolutely nuts. They classed a Subaru Legacy as the same as a mid-size SUV (like a Rav4 or the like). No idea why. More than a few people were somewhat unhappy (to put it mildly) when they ordered an SUV and the car-illiterate folks at the distribution center delivered us a midsize sedan because of the stupid code. But even then, I saw the Civic go from “compact” to “midsize,” and a few cars that should’ve been economies in the compact class. I even saw different units of the same model as two different classes – the Ford Fusion, for instance, could be everything from a midsize to a “standard” to a fullsize. It was nuts.

  36. shepd says:

    Car seats are so expensive to rent, that if you are renting the car for 2 or more days, you’re better off to buy a new cheap ‘n nasty one (Do you think the rental agency rents anything more than that anyways) and throw it away when you’re done the rental. They’re the equivalent of renting cars for $5,000 a day.

  37. Green Mountain Boy says:

    I rent cars all the time and I’ve NEVER experienced any of those problems.

  38. NewsMuncher says:

    It’s the 21 year age limit that infuriates me. I could get a military waiver if I went through the MMR office, but then I couldn’t get insurance. I seriously wonder how people who are under 21 and alone can meet obligations in rural places or when Greyhound’s route/schedule won’t cut it.

    • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

      I’m with you. I’m 34 and still won’t do business with the companies that denied me service when I was younger, such as Hertz and Avis. From what I can tell, I’m not losing any money by avoiding those companies. If there was a good reason for them to refuse service then, they should be cheaper than the companies that do serve young folks. They’re actually much pricier, which makes me hate them a little more than I did back when they didn’t want my business.

      From experience:

      If your auto insurance is paying for the rental, national companies may waive the age rule. Have your adjuster arrange the rental AND call the rental office before picking up the car. I recall at least one incident where the adjuster assured me he had warned the rental company about my age, and they sent me packing anyway.

      Renting on your own is more difficult. Local companies may be more flexible than national ones. Myself, I just wound up buying a $300 Honda. The problem with that plan? Nobody wants to sell you insurance. I was eventually able to convince my parents’ agent to give me my own plan, on the grounds that I was offering them more money for the same service they’d have provided if my parents hadn’t been insane.

  39. whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

    The local store where I rent tries to distract you from checking the gas level during the pre-rental walkaround — they shut the door after checking it themselves — and they often mark the gas level only after you sign the contract. I’ve been tricked into refilling the tank a couple of times because I didn’t notice the discrepancy until later in the day. It eventually stops working on repeat customers, but they’re in a hotel so they presumably mostly get fresh blood.

  40. bennshu says:

    the under-25 fee is such BS — last summer Hertz was running a “special promotion” where they would waive the $35 fee for drivers 21-24. not so special, though, as every time i went to their website over the next year they were offering the same promotional rate, which meant they were making ZERO dollars off of under-age drivers! of course, when i actually needed to rent a car again the only offer available was to take a mere$10 off.

    i don’t see how they can justify such a fee by saying that under-25 drivers are more at risk for accidents and should thus pay more because 1) 25 is such an arbitrary number and 2) if they are so willing to waive the fee so why not just get rid of it all together?!