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Whether someone is going on vacation, is having a car repaired, or just needs an extra vehicle for a couple of days, a car rental may be a good option. The first thing a person needs when thinking about a car rental is a credit card. Most agencies require a credit - not a debit - card for a car rental. The card is generally used to reserve the rental and to guarantee the agency against loss or damage to the car.
With credit card in hand, the driver can start looking at rental options. Most major car rental agencies have Web sites, and comparisons are also available from travel search engines such as Orbitz or Expedia. However, the driver may also want to visit the rental company's Web site, just to see if they are offering any Internet-only specials.
Car rental agencies rent by the day, weekend or week. They usually have three different rate tiers for their rentals. Weekend rates may be much cheaper, or could be more expensive, depending on the agency's location. One fee a driver will always want to check is the mileage fee. Some companies offer unlimited miles, while some have a mileage allowance and charge for every mile over the allowance.
A driver should also consider what size car he needs. Car rental agencies usually have economy and midsize cars available any time, but some advance notice may be required for a specialty vehicle like a van or SUV. A single driver or couple with no children will probably be able to rent an economy size car and be comfortable. Couples with children will want something bigger, naturally.
Most car rental agencies will provide free roadside assistance as part of their contract and will replace the car for free if it becomes undrivable. However, the driver should always ask about this in advance. Some agencies also charge to allow additional drivers, whereas some car rental companies allow additional drivers free of charge if the person is the primary renter's spouse, or is over age 25. Many agencies will not rent to anyone under 25, however.
Damage insurance is another consideration. If the driver pays a per-day fee, he can get insurance that will cover any damage to the rental car. It's a nice feature, but can add up to US$20 per day to the rental.
A driver who is renting the car with a credit card can call the customer service line and check to see if the card provides insurance. Many credit card companies do provide such coverage, and if this is the case, the driver can forgo the car rental company's insurance. The same is true if one's regular auto insurance covers damage to a rental. The insurance offered by the car rental company is best for those who do not have other forms of coverage.
When driving a rental, the driver should make certain the rental agreement and all paperwork are in the car at all times. He should also inspect the car with an agent before taking the car, to make sure that any damage to the car is recorded and will not be charged to the driver's insurance.
Car rental rates vary widely, depending on day of the week, duration of the rental, location of the rental office and a host of other factors. On average, in the U.S., a person can expect to pay between US$20-$28 for an economy class car, and the rates go up from there.