PHOENIX — The holidays are close and if your travel involves a flight, it likely also means renting a car. So, how do you get the best car price? And how do you protect yourself against charges for damage you didn’t cause?
First, that low price.
I’ve found some of the best prices on Hotwire and Costco Travel, if you’re a member. And I like them each for different reasons.
We checked prices for a week in Chicago around Christmas.
At Costco, we found a $527 all-inclusive price for an intermediate car.
The best part about Costco- you only pay at pickup and can cancel anytime for free.
If you’re a risk taker, at $435 for the same type of car, Hotwire saves you nearly $100. But to get that price, you pay upfront and cannot cancel.
For cancelation protection, the price jumps to $573, making Costco the better deal in this search.
Also, consider renting outside of airports and avoiding the high taxes.
Get a lift to a different rental site just three miles from Chicago O’Hare, and Costco’s price drops from $527 to $447.
Now that you have the best price, don’t lose money on the other end.
Some travelers tell me when they return the cars, they’re being charged for damage they didn’t cause.
Seth let me know he “rented a car that had some damage initially.”
He says he told the attendant before taking it and was told, “the issue had already been claimed and we were not responsible.”
But when returning the car, he says, “now the company wants $800 to fix a problem I didn’t create.”
Seth did a smart thing. He took pictures of the car before driving it off the lot. You can see damage on the bumper. And he says the pics show the date they were taken.
Examine your rental thoroughly before taking it. If you see any damage, take pictures and write it down somewhere on the contract.
Do that even if you’re told it won’t be an issue.
It must have worked for Seth.
Finally, he says, the company “dropped their false charges against me.”
Another big question-should you buy rental car insurance or will yours cover it?
If you have car insurance, it should carry over to rental cars. But, if you have a liability-only policy, it covers damage and injuries you cause, not rental car damage.
For that, you need a comprehensive, and collision policy.
Check that out before you rent.
Also, if you use a credit card to book the car, some cards offer rental car protection.
The Federal Trade Commission has more ways to protect yourself when renting a car.
Nerdwallet has more tips on how to save money on rental cars.