Traveling almost always involves both good and bad surprises, and the ones that come up when you’re at the counter to pick up your rental car almost always fall into the second category. The clearer pricing information found on the Internet has somewhat helped to ease the sting of surprise rental car expenses, as you’re more likely to learn about "hidden" fees well in advance. However, if you’re not careful, you could still find yourself surprised by the fine print.
Age restrictions really aren’t a problem for anybody between the ages of 25 and 70, but if you happen to fall outside of that age range, your chances of successfully renting a car are a lot more complicated. Most rental car companies now will rent to drivers 21 and older, but typically charge $25 or more per day for doing so. Some states require rental agencies to rent to anybody 18 or older, but in one of those states—New York—the surcharge for under-25 drivers can be more than $100 per day.
Upper age restrictions aren’t typically an issue in the United States and Canada, but in many other countries, being 70 or older could cause you problems when trying to rent a car. These companies generally have such limits primarily due to local insurance policies. Some of the places where drivers aged 70 and up might run into trouble are listed below; the list is by no means exhaustive, and age restriction policies typically vary by company.
Another surprise you may run into at the rental car counter is that most rental agencies will check your driving record—via Department of Motor Vehicle databases—at least some of the time. Most of the time you won't even know the check's taking place. Check the policy and disclaimer statement on the car rental company's website for more information on this practice.
Most car rental companies have a place somewhere on their website where they list some of the reasons a person might be denied a rental car. Reasons for rejecting a customer can include DUI, driving without a license, DWI, having a suspended license, or having been in two or more accidents in the last three years. If you have been convicted in the last three years of any driving violations, you can check to see if your record could prevent you from renting a car simply by calling a service called TML (1-800-388-9099). Driver background checks cost $9.95, but some states, including Pennsylvania and California, do not allow it.
Additional Driver Charges
You might be surprised to know that most rental car companies charge $8 to $12 per day for extra drivers, and those extra drivers are subjected to the same approval process that the primary driver of the vehicle has to go through. However, some rental companies—including Avis, Budget, and Enterprise—waive this fee for spouses or domestic partners. Alamo and Hertz do this as well if you join their frequent renter programs.
Damage and Fuel Charges
Another thing to watch out for is damage to the vehicle; make sure to note and immediately bring to the rental company’s attention any damage to the vehicle, both inside and out, whether cosmetic or otherwise. Not doing so could result in you being charged for damage not caused by you. Also don’t forget to fill up the vehicle before you return it; most rental companies will not only charge you for the cost of the fill-up, but will also charge you a fee for not doing so.
Don't let an unexpected surprise ruin your rental experience. Use the Car Rental Express comparison reservation tool to fully research all of your rental needs.