TOP TEN TIPS FOR INTERNATIONAL CAR RENTAL
Renting a car when you’re travelling internationally can give you the freedom of going where you want when you want but it can be a little more complicated than at home. Here are some tips to make it easier
1. BOOK AND PAY BEFORE YOU GO. It is best to book and pay for your car rentals before leaving Australia especially for Europe or, at the very least, book on line before renting in North America. Lock in your rate in Australian dollars and also avoid overseas transaction fees on your credit card. Don’t just turn up at a car rental desk and expect either to get a good rate or in fact any car at all no matter how much you are willing to pay, especially during July/August high season.
2. TYPE OF CAR: Don’t waste time choosing specific cars as you will only be guaranteed a similar model. In the US, the cars are automatic and generally larger than in Australia. In Europe, the cars are smaller and more-often-than-not manual transmission. If you must have automatic transmission, you’ll pay a premium and must book early as supplies are limited. Use soft luggage to fit more bags into a smaller boot. You’ll be glad of a smaller car in the generally narrower streets across Europe.
3. RENTAL RATES: In the US, car rentals are based on flat pricing per week. In other words, if you rent a car for five, six, or seven days, you’ll generally get the same weekly rate. It’s also worth checking whether adding an extra weekend day to a week-day rental (even if you’ll return it earlier than the weekend) can trick the system into offering lower leisure-traveller rates. In Europe, each company and country each has its own price breaks but the daily rates go down the longer you rent the car.
4. DIESEL VERSES PETROL. Diesel is cheaper and more fuel efficient than petrol worldwide, however diesel cars are generally more expensive to rent. If you plan to drive long distances a diesel rental will likely be more affordable. The prepay fuel option is generally offered at competitive prices and reduces the last-minute stress of finding a petrol station at the end of your rental. For the best value, return the car with a close-to-empty tank.
5. GPS. Using maps as well as GPS will make driving immeasurably easier. There are three options: Use an online mapping app, such as Google Maps, on your iDevice. Use Wi-Fi to download and save the maps you need. You can then use GPS to locate your position in the car without Wi-Fi. Your phone’s battery will run down fast so bring a car charger.Use an offline mapping app, such as Tom Tom, Garmin, OffMaps or Navfree, which you download and save with Wifi before using offline in the car. Rent a GPS device from a car rental company. This is the most expensive option.
6. PICK UP: It is easier to pick up cars at airports, which are removed from the heavy traffic of large cities. They also are open longer hours and have the largest selection. Choose companies offering numerous locations and 24-hour roadside assistance. In Europe, beware city and town rental agencies closing on Saturday afternoons, Sundays, and at lunch time.
7. ONE WAY: One-way rentals can be expensive. Consider doing a loop trip to avoid covering the same ground twice. Chat with a local car rental specialist before booking as the charges vary with countries and companies. One-way rental between countries is possible but the fees, which may differ between suppliers, tend to be very expensive. The farther the distance between start and end points, the higher the fee generally.
In the US, many city pairs and states have unusual free one-way combinations. Alamo offers free one-way rentals in the California, Nevada, Arizona triangle. GlobalCARS often has specials on free one-way rentals from Seattle to California. Find where it is cheaper to start a rental in a region. For the West Coast, it is cheaper to rent in California than Washington and Oregon. On the East Coast, Boston and Miami are cheaper than New York. If you want to drive a car across the United States, consider breaking the rental into two, for instance, drive from Los Angeles to Denver then get a new car to continue on to New York.
In Europe, there is a huge variation in one-way fees between countries and companies. Within mainland UK (England, Scotland and Wales) Avis and Hertz have no one-way surcharge while Europcar charges 40 pounds. In France, Avis has no one-way surcharge but Hertz charges 150 Euro. These are general prices which can vary depending on car models.INSURANCE: Most fully prepaid car rentals cover the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Third Party
8. Insurance. You can get rates exclusive of insurance but you’ll pay a lot more at the counter upon pick-up. Check your credit card coverage and personal travel insurance to ascertain whether either covers the excess charges and thus the full cost of any claim. If they don’t, pay to reduce the excess, even though it will be expensive. Your personal travel insurance should cover personal injury and personal effects. If major damage occurs to your rental car, call roadside assist. If another car is involved, call the police, show your driver’s licence and insurance, fill out an accident/police report, and notify your insurance as soon as possible.
9. WHAT’S IN A BRAND NAME: Enterprise Holdings may not be well known in Australia but it is the largest car rental company in the world. It is bigger than Hertz and Avis combined and buys over one million cars in the USA alone each year. Their fleet is youngest on average and JD Power (the US version of “People’s Choice”) ranks the Enterprise brands of Enterprise, Alamo and National as the top one, two and three for customer service.
10. LEASING: Three French car companies (Citroen, Renault and Peugeot) offer leasing of brand new cars as an alternative to rental. These cars can be picked up in a number of European destinations, not just France. If you are driving longer than six weeks, it can be an economical option. Other advantages include: you get a brand new car of your choice with built-in GPS and there are no one-way drop-off charges. You can also visit Eastern European countries such as Poland, Serbia, and Bosnia, which are sometimes off-limits with rental cars. There is no tax, zero excess insurance, a guaranteed buy back and the prices get particularly attractive the longer the duration with a 175-day limit. All immediate family members can also drive at no extra cost.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Australian-based wholesalers: APTMS/World Drive Holidays (www.worlddriveholidays.com.au), (www.compasscarrental.com.au) and GlobalCARS (www.globalCARS.com.au) are international car rental and leasing experts who offer professional advice as well as early-bird discounts. GlobalCARS also rents motorhomes in 26 countries (http://globalmotorhomes.com.au). Compass Car Rentals rents motorhomes in the US and World Drive rents them in Europe. APTMS are also the Australian representatives for Eagle Rider motorcycle rentals and tours globally.
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