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How to Rent a Car : Articles About USA
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How to Rent a Car
Reservations and Legal Documents
Before you leave home you will need to make sure that you have a driverís license in your home country. Without that, donít even try to rent or drive a car in the U.S. You will also need an International Driverís Permit (IDP). The IDP is not a license to drive a car in the U.S. It is only a legal translation of your existing foreign license. You will need to contact the government organization that issued your driverís license for information about how to obtain an IDP in your home country. When you pick up your rental car, you must show both your driverís license and an IDP.
After you have an IDP, the next step is to make a reservation. Most travel agents can do this, or you can make a reservation online. A good online service for reservations is Expedia.com. This site will allow you to compare the prices of different cars and rental companies. Most rental companies charge a base value that allows you to put unlimited miles on the car. When choosing a car, youíll need to consider the number of passengers, the amount of luggage, the fuel economy of different cars, and the rental cost. You should also keep in mind whether or not you will need a four-wheel drive vehicle. If you visit the U.S. in the winter and you plan to be in mountainous areas, a four-wheel drive vehicle is a wise choice.
Donít forget that you will need a major credit card in order to reserve and pay for the rental.
Costs of Insurance
Most rental companies list the base value of the rental car, not the full cost. It often happens that renters get a price shock when they go to pick up a car and then see that the actual cost is higher than the reservation cost.
Every rental company, at the time you pick up the car, will offer you a confusing array of insurance plans. Making sure that your car is fully insured is essential. Accidents and medical care are expensive in the U.S., and Americans are quick to file law suits. If you donít have insurance, you will be fully responsible for all damages.
The rental company will offer you the following types of insurance, all of which are optional:
1. Loss Damage Waiver (LDW): This is not insurance; it simply removes your responsibility if your rental car is stolen or damaged. It applies only to the rental car and nothing else. Before you pay for this, check with your credit card company and your personal car insurance to find out if they already provide this coverage. Most credit card companies will provide LDW coverage if you use the credit card to rent the car. If neither your credit card company nor insurance company provides this coverage, it is highly recommended that you accept it from the rental company.
2. Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI): This covers any other property you might damage with your rental car. It also covers the injuries and death of other people besides you and your passengers who might be involved in an accident with your rental car. It is a very good idea to have this insurance. Usually the insurance will pay up to one million dollars.
3. Personal Protection Plan (PPP): If you accept this insurance you will be covering medical, ambulance and death expenses for yourself and your passengers. In addition, these plans usually cover valuable items that are stolen from the car or damaged in an accident. If you already have health insurance that covers you overseas, you probably wonít need this insurance.
Other Hidden Costs
In addition to insurance, most rental companies can charge other fees for special situations. For example, if the primary driver (renter) is under age 25, you can expect to pay more. And if you want to assign another person as a secondary driver, then youíll pay an additional fee. The rental company will offer you a pre-paid fuel option, which means that they will fill the gas tank for you when you return the car. However, this is usually far more expensive than filling it up on your own just before you return the car. Another additional cost might be applied if you need a child safety seat. All states in the U.S. require child safety seats for kids under age six. If you donít bring your own, youíll need to rent one at the time you rent the car. Remember that safety seats are not always available at the time of rental. And donít forget to include in your budget the cost of sales tax.
Maps or GPS?
There is no question that using a GPS system in a rental car can be very helpful, especially if you will be traveling alone in unknown territory. Most rental companies offer this equipment for an additional fee of about $10 to $15 per day. But if you are trying to save money, a good map might be the better option. Before GPS systems, people used maps to get around and they managed to get from point A to point B without much difficulty. Now that almost everyone has a cell phone, you can always call for help if you get really lost.
Before You Drive
Remember to do one important thing before you leave the parking lot. Walk around your car and look carefully for any dents, scratches or other damage on the car. If there is any damage and you fail to report it before you drive, you could be held liable for this damage when you return the car. If there is a problem, contact the rental agent. It will be important for you to always drive with the rental contract in the car and always travel with your driverís license and IDP. If you are in an accident, wait for the police and contact the rental company immediately.
Returning the Car
Most rental companies will allow you to return a car to a different location, usually without any additional cost. For example, you can pick up the car at JFK airport in New York and return it at the Baltimore airport. Before you return the car, youíll need to fill up the gas tank. Once thatís done, just pull into the location and wait for the agent. He or she will check the mileage, the fuel level, and look for damage on the car. If everything is in good order, he will give you a receipt of your full charges. Once you verify the costs youíll be free to leave. Most rental companies offer a free shuttle bus that can take you to the airport.
Author: Glenn McMahan
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