Despite the current economic climate, car rental in South Africa is booming, and that’s perfectly understandable. A rental car means you don’t need to rely on public transport, or on driving your own vehicle hundreds of miles. But renting a car can get pretty pricey, especially if you’re not careful about avoiding certain mistakes. What are these mistakes? Read on and find out the ten things you shouldn’t do when looking to rent a car.
1. DON’T Forget to Check the Status of the Car!
You’re in a rush, you want to get in your car and drive away, but don’t ignore the papers that the rental company gives you that detail any damage that the car already has. Make sure that you double check actual damage with the damage listed on the paperwork (and don’t forget to check inside the car as well). Once you drive away you will be responsible for any damage the vehicle has that’s not listed on that paper…
2. DON’T Forget to Check YOUR Insurance First!
Here’s a common mistake… It’s easy to buy insurance from your car hire company, but in many cases you won’t need to (and won’t need to pay the extra cash). Check out your own car insurance policy first to see if it covers rental vehicles, and if you’re renting with your credit card, check with your credit card company, since they will often also cover insurance. It will take you a few minutes to check, and you could save yourself plenty of money.
3. DON’T Be Afraid to Ask for Upgrades When You Rent a Car!
There’s no harm in asking, and if you’ve opted for one of the more popular vehicles when making your reservation there’s always the chance that the rental company is running low on these. If this is the case, they’ll often offer very affordable or even free upgrades to more luxurious cars. Though don’t forget to factor in potentially higher fuel costs for bigger vehicles.
4. DON’T Add Drivers If it’s Not Necessary!
Rental car companies like to make their cash by charging for extra services, and one of these charges is applied to extra drivers. Want to add your spouse onto the rental contract? Then you’ll pay more per day for the privilege. Want to add someone under the age of 25? Then you’ll pay premium prices due to the added risk associated with younger drivers. The lesson here is not to declare anyone as the driver of the vehicle except yourself unless it’s really necessary…
5. DON’T Pre Pay for Petrol!
Okay, sometimes it’s necessary, but on the whole avoid paying the extra fee that will allow you to bring the car back with an empty fuel tank. Unless you’re leaving extremely early in the morning (when filling up the car might be inconvenient), just resign yourself to tanking your own petrol before returning the car. You’ll save money this way, and chances are that the fuel tank won’t be completely empty when you give the car back anyway.
6. DON’T Forget to Read the Fine Print!
It’s important that you read your rent a car contract so that you know exactly what you’re getting into. But there are two things in particular that you should be looking for. The first of these is are you allowed to take the car over the border (many companies do NOT allow this, or charge an extra fee if you want to do so). The second is whether you’re allowed to take the car off road. Again, this is often forbidden, and off road can cover a lot of things (such as the dirt track leading to the cabin you’ve rented…). Check first to see what you can and can’t do.
7. DON’T Rent a Car at the Airport!
Okay, sometimes you have no choice, but if you can avoid renting at the airport, since you’ll generally be charged an extra airport rental fee. You’ll find that many car hire companies have desks close to the airport (but not actually inside), and you’ll get cheaper prices there…
8. DON’T Drop and Run!
Most rental companies these days allow you to simply return the car, park it, leave the keys inside and leave, no human interaction necessary. It might be convenient to do things this way, but try to avoid it when possible. Why? Because the number one complaint about car rental companies is extra charges for damage that the client didn’t cause. Whenever you can try to get an agent to walk around the car with you on return so that you don’t get the bill for a scratch that you didn’t make…
9. DON’T Forget to Check for a Petrol Station!
As you’re driving your rental car away for the first time, keep an eye out for a decently priced petrol station close to the rental company. This will make your life a lot easier when it comes to returning the car. If you’re running late on the way back the last thing you want is to be circling around looking for fuel, and stations close to airports and big car rental hubs tend to have higher prices…
10. DON’T Forget to Check for Discounts!
Finally, getting a discount on your car rental price is always a bonus, and discounts can come from the most unexpected places. Your credit card company, AA, your frequent flier programme or tyre replacement service, even some car insurance companies can offer discounts on rental cars from certain companies. It’s always worthwhile to check out the websites of these places to see if you can save yourself a few Rands.
Need to rent a car for your next vacation? Avoid these ten mistakes and you’ll be saving yourself time and money!
Main subject: Rent a car
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