I find it imperative to pass on fair warning to all of you about renting cars. I have had my fair share of car rental agency reps trying to con me over the years. Just when I thought I had every situation under control and knew all the scams, they got me, again. Here are some tips to avoid you being taken advantage of or paying more than you should/need to:
- Insurance: If you have car insurance at home, bring the insurance card with you. No car rental agency can mandate you to buy their insurance whether you have proof of insurance or not, but, most often, you need some basic info about your insurance company, anyway. The premier Disney Chase card covers insurance as long as you pay for the car with that card, which is the route I always take. I was conned on this particular situation 8 years ago, which was before Disney introduced the Premier card. The rep told me it was now state law that we have to buy the insurance. Yeah, guess what? It wasn't.
- Email: Print a copy of the email of the car you booked showing the price and bring it with you. This will help you get the car you are supposed to receive and know the amount you are supposed to pay. Sometimes, it could be slightly more due to taxes or other fees, but I've never seen that happen. I have had an agency try to give me a moderate car when I booked and paid for a full size. I argued, showed them the differences between the classes, etc. I, ultimately, paid for the upgrade and then fought for the money after by contacting the general manager. I received all of my money back.
Contract: Read what you are signing. Whether or not you paid in advance, review every line item that has an amount and question what you don't recognize. Don't just take their word for it. I had paid for a car in advance, saw an amount as a miscellaneous line item and I questioned it right away. He told me it's a charge for roadside assistance, but I will only be charged if I use it. I received reassurance from 2 different employees in two different locations that it would drop off if I did not use roadside assistance after I, emphatically, explained it would not be used or needed, because I have AAA. That's the recent con I experienced. They charged my card once I returned the car. I did not use roadside assistance or AAA. The car was fine. It did not take them long to refund my money when I referenced their cameras and how they would see me questioning the amount.
- Gas: Don't buy the gas option. They pass it off as savings on gas and time. Yes, it would save minimal time and "supposedly" save money per gallon, but you would have to roll in on fumes in order to save money. Example: If the tank holds 20 gallons, you pay them 20 gallons of gas in advance in order to not have to stop before returning the car. If you have one gallon left in the car, you still paid for 20 gallons. If you have 10 gallons left, you paid double the amount per gallon of gas to fill the remaining 10 gallons. Just another way for them to con you out of more money.
- Video/Pictures: Take a video of the entire car before entering the car. Walk around the car and film every inch.
- Tolls: If you don't pay for the tolls in advance, be sure the pass in the car is switched to "off" upon entering the car and be sure the GPS/Navigation is not set to "avoid all tolls". The car rental agencies will preset to avoid tolls figuring you'll pay in advance for tolls and then they pocket all of the toll money that wasn't used, because you followed the GPS/Navigation directions and avoided all of the tolls. If you don't pay them for the tolls in advance, be sure you have plenty of change for the areas of the highways that have exits with no attendants. Don't go through the "bill you later" line. You will be charged a lot of extra money by the car rental agency for going through that line. If you are paying for your own tolls, get a receipt for every toll you pay for. When going through an unattended toll and throwing coin in, write down the time and date. Receipts and documentation are your evidence you paid for the tolls in case they try to say you used the pass in the car, which is why it's important to make sure you turn their pass off or make sure it's off upon first entering the car. I, also, take a picture or video of this process. FYI, there is an unattended toll and no acceptance of coin in the Orlando area going on route 417. Avoid 417 if you did not pay for tolls in advance. Pay very close to all signs. There are ways around it. I changed my GPS on my phone to avoid tolls just to get by that section. It only added 10 minutes to my travel time. In Florida, be careful of the tolls. Not much warning and they look like exits. You must "almost" exit to the right in order to pay the toll and continue on.
- GPS/Navigation: If they offer GPS/Navigation, turn it down even if you do want it. You will pay extra for it, as you know, but once you turn it down, most of them then say "Well, the car comes with GPS/Navigation so we're throwing it in for free then". If the car does not have it and you do want it, simply state you change your mind and you want the GPS. BTW, if they offer Navigation, that is actually built into the car. They will try to get you to pay extra for it, but if you say you don't want it, it's built into the car and is available for you to use, anyway, for free.
- Cancellation Policies: Some agencies don't have cancellation charges if you booked and paid in advance, but some do. Be sure to check before paying! If your plans are absolutely 100% etched in stone and you can save a few dollars, go for it. Unfortunately, I thought my plans were 100% etched in stone recently so I did exactly that, but needed to change at the last minute. I was not taking away any days from the reservation. I wanted to add days! The price doubled the week for the 1 additional day. The cancellation fee was $50. That cancellation fee is no incentive for me to pay in advance to save $5-$10 EVER again!!
- Daily Rate: Some agencies charge right to the hour. For instance, most charge based on 24 hours. If you bring it back early, it's no big deal. I booked a really good deal with one particular agency, but if I changed it by 1 hour, even if it's in their favor, they wanted to charge the higher rate, because the rate I paid was for that time frame only. Weird, I know. So, be sure of your time of arrival and departure, because if you pick the car up too early or too late with select rental car agencies, they will charge you even if you're not adding time! Simply subtracting time goes against the "contract" you agreed with them.
What I've learned is that sometimes, the lowest amount is not always best, because those are the companies that conned me. All of them scam everyone in some way to make a buck, but the worst ones, have historically been, the least expensive who won the price war during a certain period of time against other companies. I now avoid certain companies, because of the scamming and charging money under false pretenses. Unfortunately, it appears I may run out of companies soon, because these companies are owned by other car rental agencies. The primary owner sets the tone for all of the companies. We all have to be sure to do our due diligence to protect ourselves. So, if you're staying on Disney property, I recommend using their free transportation. It will save you the money for the rental, the hassle of the rental and the parking fees at Disney! If you need a car, here are some companies that I have not had problems with: Enterprise, National, Alamo and Sixt.