If your first drive will be from an airport to a hotel for the night, why not take a shuttle van to the hotel instead? Doing this may save you the price of a day’s rental. Even if you must drive the same day your flight lands, you may not have to get the car at the airport. By picking it up downtown, you can often avoid hefty airport surcharges, taxes and concession fees all while getting a much better rental experience.
If you have personal auto insurance or charge the rental to a major credit card, you will probably be covered at least for collision damage (in some form to be determined) — so you shouldn’t have to purchase the car rental company’s collision or loss damage waiver (CDW or LDW) insurance. It’s always a good habit to ask your insurance agent or credit card issuer for deductible and coverage details.
Before you drive away from the pickup station, inspect the car carefully for body damage. Check for scratches, dings or tears. If the car rental agent is circling your car with a pad making notes of scratches and blemishes, make sure you are on the same page. Don’t be afraid to take pictures with your camera or smartphone should you feel the need to. Be sure the lights and turn signals are working properly, and check the mileage odometer as well as the gas gauge. Report any defects at once during the checkout process.
Familiarize yourself with the workings of the car before you leave the lot and ask questions. Check which side your gas tank is on, and learn how to use the headlights, windshield wipers and turn signal. It may seem obvious, but you’ll also want to memorize the make, model and color of your car — that way you won’t lose it the first time you park in a crowded lot!