Sunday, January 29, 2017

4 Easy Steps To Avoid Car Rental Fuel Charges

The mysterious charge that appears on your credit card after you return the rental car for missing fuel is annoying and virtually impossible to dispute and have reversed. It’s your word against the car rental companies. We outline the issue with examples in this article - After Rental Fuel Charges - A Common Complaint.
Fear not though. There is a way to protect yourself.
Follow the 4 steps outlined below and rest easy in the knowledge that you have an iron clad paper trail that a car rental company can't argue with. At the bottom is a simple infographic outlining each of the steps. Save it to your phone or tablet to use as a reference next time you rent a car.
1. Take photos when you pick up the car
Before you even leave the car park after getting the keys to the car, take a photo with your phone or camera (which will record the date and time that the photo was taken) of the fuel gauge and the miles/km on the tachometer. This is evidence of your starting point.  
2. Fill up immediately after collecting the car
This step is annoying but it is key and here’s why. Filling up when the car looks full sounds ridiculous but remember, the car rental company will check when you return that the car is full “to the brim” regardless of what the fuel gauge says so why shouldn’t you hold them to the same standard. Here is what you do.
At the nearest gas station, take another photo of the fuel gauge and the miles/km on the tachometer. This gives you evidence of how far you drove from when you picked up the car (remember the photo above) and when you filled up. Ideally it should be only a few miles/km. When you fill it up make sure you fill it “to the brim” – don’t just rely on the first click. Take an extra 30 seconds to slowly get it full right to the top. You might find that the car will take a few litres or a couple of gallons to fill – great evidence for you that the car wasn’t completely full when you picked it up. An extra dollar spent here could be invaluable to you later - consider it a cheap insurance policy. Make sure you keep the receipt as evidence of how much fuel you had to put in. This will also show the address of the gas station you used and the date and time that you filled up.
3. Fill up just before you return the car
As close to the location where you are dropping off the car as you can you need to fill up the car and make sure it’s to the brim, not just the first click. Take yet another photo of the fuel gauge after you fill up and the miles/km on the tachometer as this will provide evidence of how far you drove after the final fill up to the drop off location. Again, make sure you keep the receipt for the same reasons outlined above.
4. Just before you hand over the keys at the rental location
Take one last photo of the fuel gauge showing full and the miles/km on the tachometer. Also make sure that the receipt you are given by the return agent at the car rental location shows that the car was returned full and that the miles/km recorded when you returned the car is correct.
4-Easy-Steps-to-Avoid-Car-Rental-Fuel-Charges-INFOGRAPHIC_20160221-023214_1.png

Finding Cheap Rental Cars

Need tips on how to find cheap rental cars? The 19 tips below and our recommended search website will help you find your best deal so you can hit the road and start exploring.
19 tips for finding cheap rental cars
There is nothing more I love than a good road trip, especially when traveling with our kids. Road trips make family travel more practical and cost effective.
The freedom of seeing a new destination with your own vehicle is our favorite way to travel.
It brings you greater flexibility and helps you reach those off the tourist trail places. It’s also more comfortable and easier to carry your luggage.
When you travel overseas or interstate and don’t have your own vehicle, once you’vebooked your flights and chosen your accommodation, the next thing to look for is a cheap rental car deal.
When searching online for cheap rental cars, there are a few strategies and tips to be aware of so you end up booking your best deal.

19 ways to save money on rental cars

1. Book in advance

When you book online in advance you will almost always get a better deal than at the counter. And it’s easier and quicker. The last thing you want to do after a long flight is deal with rental car companies at the airport and negotiate a deal.
Be sure to take all your documents with you as proof of hire and your rates to avoid any hassles (scan and save in your email account).

2. Check prices frequently

Just like when you search for flights it pays to check prices frequently as they do change –different days can have different rates. If you use an aggregator site that searches all the major rental car companies at once it’s fairly quick and painless.
And compared to flights, the great thing about renting a car is that reservations often times can be cancelled and re-booked without fees, and in most cases your credit card doesn’t get charged until you pick-up the car.
So if you do book early with no cancellation penalties and the price drops before you pick up your car you can always cancel and re-book. Sometimes car companies will drop their prices just before a weekend if they have excess stock.

3. Adjust Pick-Up and Drop-Off Times

When searching for cheap rental cars online, the pick-up and drop-off times are typically in half hour increments. Try tweaking these times and see if it affects your rates.
Sometimes tacking on an extra day to that weekly rental, or even adding a couple of hours to extend it over a weekend, can actually lower your rate. This strategy takes advantage of lower prices aimed at leisure travelers who are more likely to travel on weekends. Weekend rates are great, but weekly rates can be the best of all.

4. Book the smallest vehicle you’ll need

Think carefully about what type of vehicle you need. Sure it might be tempting to go for the big SUV or the fancy sports car, but always think fuel consumption and the practicalities of your car.
Being comfortable is important so you enjoy your road trip. Don’t go small and cheap if you are crammed in like sardines.
Book the lowest class vehicle you’ll comfortably need, and chances are you might get a free upgrade at the counter, which often happens to us! Just make sure you can afford the increased fuel costs of an upgraded bigger car!

5. Avoid the airport

Off-airport locations are typically cheaper than airport locations (they tack on fees). Look in nearby neighborhood locations to save money. Just make sure the downtown branch is not on the outskirts of the city limits meaning a long and costly taxi ride.
This strategy is best applied in cities that have efficient and affordable public transport to get you to the dealer without hassle.
You can’t beat an ‘on-airport’ pick-up for convenience, but an ‘off-airport’ pick-up with a shuttle bus can be much cheaper!

6. Save on a days rental

If you don’t need your rental car immediately, take the complimentary shuttle to your accommodation and book a car for the next day. You’ll save a day’s rental and should pay less being an off-airport location. And do the same at the end of your trip.

7. Be wary of one-way drop off fees

Obvious I know, but one-way drop off fees can be huge and make it difficult to find cheap rental cars. Where possible plan your trip so that you return your rental car to its original location.

8. Check for unlimited mileage options

Make sure your rental includes the unlimited mileage option and you can take your car where you need to go. The last thing you want to worry about is getting stung for any excess miles.
Click inside to learn how to save money on rental cars

9. Check the fuel policy options

Some rental car companies will require you to return the car with the same amount of fuel it had in the tank at pick-up. Others operate a fuel policy where you, the renter, must purchase the first tank of fuel and may drop the car off empty – in which case, there may be no refund for unused fuel.
Where the car hire company charges for fuel, the cost may be higher than it would be at a local petrol station.

10. Age requirements

In most locations, the minimum rental age is 21 years. Additional fees can apply with certain car rental companies for drivers aged under 25 years or over 65 years. They are defined as more at “risk” drivers.
If you’re not yet over 25 years but are traveling with a companion who is, have them be the designated driver to save on this cost.

11. Additional driver fee

Extra fees typically apply for additional drivers. However in some states and countriesspouses are mandated additional drivers by law. But you MUST add the additional driver’s name to the contract to make any necessary insurance claims valid.
Again, if you can get by with having only one designated driver you’ll typically save $15 per day. Of course, NEVER run the risk of driver fatigue, a few extra bucks is nothing when it comes to your safety and that of others on the road!

12. Additional state taxes and fees

Be aware of additional state taxes and fees that may apply if you cross state borders or enter another country. And don’t lie about where you are taking the vehicle, because if you have an issue you probably won’t be covered by insurance!

13. Decline the GPS (Navigation system)

If the car navigation system is an extra add on, skip it and use the Google maps app on your phone to save $10-$15 per day. I did that on my last car rental from Sydney without any issues.

14. Save on Insurance

If you use a certain credit card to pay for your rental car, you may not need to pick up the insurance, as the credit card company does that for you. Ask your card carrier before you travel, and you MUST use that card to book the rental. 
Also, check with your current auto insurance company to see whether a rental car abroad would be covered under your current policy. Again, call your insurance provider to see if extra insurance is even necessary. NEVER just assume you’re covered!
But there’s no reason to pay for coverage that you already have!

15. Don’t use your debit card

Book using your credit card. Not only for added consumer protection and rewards points if it’s a rewards card, but rental companies tend to hold a larger deposit for use of debit cards and the hold on your deposit may take days to be returned.

16. Bring your own child safety seat

If you’re traveling with a little one, is it practical for you to bring your own child safety seat to save yourself some coin?

17. Ask about specials

Do you qualify for senior citizen, AAA, credit card and frequent flier program discounts or add-on offers? These discounts can all add up and help you with finding cheap rental cars

18. Inspect your car before driving away

Do a thorough inspection of your rental car before driving out of the lot. If you find any damage fill in the documentation (get a copy) and take pictures with your phone so you have a time & date stamp. You don’t want to be held liable for damage from a previous driver.

19. Check your credit card statement

Once you have completed your rental, double check your credit card statement to ensure any extra charges or fees weren’t added that you didn’t ask for or receive. This can and does happen.

How to search for cheap rental cars

If you are like me and don’t have much free time, the last thing you want to do is spend days looking for a deal. But searching for cheap rental cars doesn’t have to be a pain in the butt.
The quickest way to compare rental companies is to use an aggregator site that searches all the major car brands at once and checks which supplier offers the best prices for your chosen dates and location.
We always start with RentalCars.com when searching for cheap rental cars, it’s a site we have booked through several times over the years when traveling from Australia to the USA, and whilst living in North Carolina for four years.
This site has saved us time and money in the past for finding cheap rental cars and we continue to use them.
In case you don’t know, they’re the world’s biggest car rental booking service (part of the Priceline Group) and in one quick search you can compare all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, Europcar, Enterprise, Thrifty, and Dollar.
To be clear, we are an affiliate of this site and earn a small commission if you choose to book through them (at no additional cost to you). These commissions help keep the lights on at yTravel Blog so we can continue to bring you awesome travel tips and resources!
How to search for cheap rental cars
RentalCars.com are in 160 countries and their website is easy to use and book through in over 40 languages and multiple currencies.
Why else do we search on RentalCars.com?
  • No credit card fees
  • You can cancel or amend your booking online quickly and easily
  • 24/7 phone support
  • 1.5 million customer reviews
  • They offer Theft Protection and Collision Damage Waiver
So if you are flying to your next destination and you need a rental car, I hope these tips come in handy and also save you TIME and MONEY that you can use for pursuing other travel activities!

Chicago Airport Tax on Local Rentals (Finally) Ruled Unconstitutional

We all know the aphorism that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. Consumers deal with the constant burden of taxes on every vehicle rental, even on award days. Some governments are more creative than others when it comes to generating new taxes. The master class in creative taxation takes the Fee Detective to Chicago, Illinois!
One who suggests the City of Chicago adores taxes would be a specialist in profound understatement. AutoSlash struggles to help renters at Chicagoland airports find great rates; one tax alone is $8 per day for all rental cars. Chicago's just about the only city where AutoSlash can currently make a paid reservation where the burden from "Fees and Taxes" ($14.74) is more than twice the cost of the car itself ($7, after a $5 per-day coupon) for a weekend rental.

See, Chicago? This 211% effective tax rate is why you can't have inexpensive things.

Even a "free" award rental day costs $12.49 in Chicago!

What's currently newsworthy about Chicago taxing rental cars?
One of Chicago's taxes was recently deemed to violate the Illinois Constitution! Yet the determination that this tax was illegal still won't decrease the tax burden on any Chicago car rental … Confused? Well, Chicago had gotten really creative!
The city had successfully expanded the tax base by assessing a 9% tax on rental car transactions outside of Chicago. Fortunately for consumers in the Chicago area, Enterprise and Hertz joined forces to sue the City over this extra-territorial tax.
The City of Chicago's reasoning? Here's the Cliff Notes version for non-lawyers:
If a renter entered a contract for a car outside of Chicago and was also returning the caroutside of Chicago, the car was clearly intended for use in Chicago, therefore we're making the non-Chicago businesses charge a 9% Chicago tax (in addition to any taxes charged by the city where the rental actually takes place).
You've got questions. We've got answers. 
(And we're easier to find than a RadioShack.)
Did a legislative body decide this was a good idea? Yes, the City of Chicago intentionally implemented (and defended) this revenue measure.
Did an appellate court judge decide that this plan seemed legal and logical? Yes; that's how the case got to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Did this case really take six years to resolve? Yes. While justice may be blind, justice can also be as slow as a 1985 Yugo on a steep uphill grade.
Why did the City of Chicago continue the fight? The city saw approximately 21 million reasons (annually) for defending the unconstitutional tax.
This tax on suburban Chicago rentals is no more - and that's a good start - but we still see a proliferation of taxes and fees that are poorly construed and applied. Even today, we're seeing a similar situation off the premises of the Denver International Airport, where Avis, Budget, and Hertz locations within 20 miles of the airport are charging airport fees on all rentals, even for those renters who are never going to enter the airport grounds.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Car Rental Fuel Charges - A Common Complaint

Have you ever returned your rental car and then a week or two later found a mysterious charge on your credit card from the car rental company? This is one of the most common complaints, the charges that appear after the customer returned the car and everything seemed fine.

Post rental charges can be for a number of things including:

Damage caused to the car during the rental period.
Toll road usage charges.
Extraordinary cleaning.
Late return.
Missing fuel.

Missing fuel is by far the most common charge (closely followed by damage charges) and one that is appearing more and more often. Most companies offer options when you pick up the car to pre pay for a full tank of fuel allowing you to return it empty without having to worry about filling up just before you drop off the car. In countries like Spain and Portugal some companies actually enforce this as their standard policy, often charging the full tank at a much higher price than you would pay at a petrol station, a way for them to offer low up front prices but then make up the difference when you pick up the car.

Related Post – Car Rental and Car Hire Fuel Policies Explained

There are however 2 common options that apply to the vast majority of car rentals around the world.

1.       Full to Full – The car is full of fuel when you pick it up and it is your responsibility to ensure that it is completely full when you return it.

2.       Like for Like – The car may not be full when you pick it up but it is your responsibility to take note of the level and return it at the same level or higher than when you picked it up, usually to the nearest 1/8th of a tank.

Car rental companies have become maniacal in recent years when it comes to making sure that the car is absolutely full when you return it. Most companies will ‘dip the tank’ on return and even a few litres or a single gallon can end up costing you a significant amount of additional money that you may not have expected. Filling up to the “first click” doesn’t cut it.

The issue for customers is the amount that they are charged. Car rental companies will not only charge you for the missing fuel (usually at a higher price per litre/gallon than you would pay yourself at the gas/petrol station – have a look at this post on Avis’s Facebook page by an upset customer from March 17th for example) but they will usually tack on an additional charge for the “service”. That charge can range from $10 on the low end to around $50. That means that 1 gallon of fuel could end up costing you close to $60.

These charges are notoriously difficult to dispute and have reversed. It’s your word against theirs and they already have your money. And after all, let’s call a spade a spade here, it is a great way for the rental car companies to make additional revenue and one that they take full advantage of.

There has been heated debate recently in South Africa about these charges (although they are common in many other countries as well including the US). It all began with a complaint against First Car Rental from a customer who swore that they had filled up to the first click just before dropping off the car. Then they were charged for 13 litres (almost 3.5 gallons) after they returned the car 3 miles/5km from the station where they filled up.

The incident including the customers argument and the response from First Car Rental justifying the charge is clearly outlined in this article from Independent Online in South Africa - Rental Car's Missing Fuel Mystery.

The comments exploded with similar complaints about a number of companies in South Africa including Avis, Budget, Thrifty, Tempest and Europcar (same company operating under 2 brands). Some customers had managed to get refunds but many had not.

We recently had a user post a review about exactly this issue happening to them with Thrifty in Durban over Christmas – they even had the fuel receipt and still couldn’t get Thrifty to provide a refund!

One month later Independent Online posted a follow up story after raising the issue with Marc Corcoran, President of the South African Vehicle Renting & Leasing Association. Marc highlighted human error as one cause of erroneous charges as well as isolated incidents of fraud where fuel was stolen presumably by staff members after clients had returned the keys. In these cases disciplinary action and criminal procedures were applied.

How to cover yourself against erroneous fuel charges
There is a way to protect yourself against these charges. We have outlined 4 Easy Steps To Avoid Car Hire Fuel Charges that you can take during your car rental to completely cover yourself in case one of these charges is applied to your credit card after you return the car. Included is a simple Infographic that you can save and refer to when you need to. By following these steps you might even have an argument that the car rental company owes you money instead of the other way around.

Have you had a problem with charges after you returned the rental car in the past? What was the issue and did you manage to get it resolved after the fact? We would like to hear your stories.

Guide to Renting & Driving in Spain

Renting a car makes rural Spain accessible to the traveler. Having your own car affords you far more flexibility and freedom as you travel throughout the countryside of northern and western Spain or between cities. Within the major cities, you may find the metro or bus system sufficient and, arguably, more convenient. Travelers may find the best way to travel in Spain is a combination of public transportation and rental car.

Car rentals are affordable and will be similar to rates in the United States on average however they vary wildly based on the season. In off season, you can often rent a small car for a week for less than $100 USD in resort areas. Summer and school holidays are a very different story with prices often increasing by around 200% and more - generally, cost will be lower the earlier you book a car. Most major rental companies have a presence at airports and city centers. You can also choose to rent from one of many smaller companies and may find this even more affordable. The added expense of gasoline, insurance, and tolls should be factored in. It will be required that you purchase liability insurance and advisable to also add on additional insurance. Expect your rental car to be a manual transmission. If you need to rent an automatic transmission car, plan on making a reservation far ahead of when you actually need the car.

Gran Via at sunset in Madrid, Spain
Gran Via at sunset in Madrid, Spain

Although anyone over 18 with a license is able to drive in Spain, you  may find companies will only rent to those over 21. While a US driver’s license is valid in Spain, it is advisable to pay the small fee and get an International Driver’s Permit. This option is available from the American Automobile Association and is an excellent idea as you travel throughout Europe and elsewhere.

Gasoline costs will be considerably higher when traveling in Spain then in the United States. Gas stations are readily available, and most accept credit cards. Be sure you know what kind of gas your rental car requires!

The roads in Spain are well maintained. Expect heavy traffic around cities and try to avoid rush hours. Large trucks will share the road with small cars and likely slow everyone down. You may find paying a toll and using the autopistas worth the extra money as they are less crowded.

Berdun village in Huesca Aragon, Pyrenees, Spain
Berdun village in Huesca Aragon, Pyrenees, Spain

To have the most enjoyable driving experience while in Spain: Drive defensively. Everyone in the car must wear a seatbelt. Be aware of the speed limit and follow it. Pass on the left and only when it is legal. Keep children under 12 in the backseat. Don’t use your cell phone unless you have a totally hands free option. Be safe and smart!

Renting under the age of 25

The situation for young drivers isn't as restrictive as it was even a few years ago when most major car rental companies didn't allow anyone under 25 to rent. These days drivers age 21 to 24 are permitted to rent at most locations operated by Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, National, Sixt and Thrifty subject to additional fees, requirements and restrictions.

In most cases these drivers are required to pay a daily surcharge that can vary by company and location. Additionally, restrictions generally apply to the categories of cars that young drivers are permitted to rent. Typically high passenger vehicles and luxury cars are off limits, however, some companies and locations will allow these vehicles to be rented for an additional fee.

Drivers ages 18 to 21 are generally unable to rent from most companies and locations. In the United States, New York and Michigan state laws require agencies to rent to drivers ages 18 and older. However, hefty fees and restrictions apply. There are other countries and companies that allow younger drivers but again there are usually additional costs and restrictions involved.

Exception to the over 21 rule may apply under certain circumstances. For example, U.S. Government or military personnel under 21 are allowed to rent in certain locations and under certain circumstances. Members of the military and government employees aged 18 and above who are traveling on official business can rent from some agencies in certain locations at special government/military rates, rules and restrictions apply.

To ensure you find the best rate and rental conditions be sure to compare the car rental companies at your rental destination. Pay close attention to any additional fees, surcharges and restrictions associated with drivers under 25 and remember that if the young driver is also an additional driver to the primary renter, both additional driver AND young driver fees will apply in most cases.

The rules and charges vary from one country and company to another. Use the Compare tools available on Carmozzy to compare different companies side by side to see what charges and conditions are most suitable for your circumstances.

We work very hard at Carmozzy to keep the information that we provide current and accurate however, always remember that rates and conditions can change at any time without notice so it is imperative that you read and understand completely the terms that apply to your rental before completing your booking.

4 Easy Steps To Avoid Car Rental Fuel Charges

The mysterious charge that appears on your credit card after you return the rental car for missing fuel is annoying and virtually impossible to dispute and have reversed. It’s your word against the car rental companies. We outline the issue with examples in this article - After Rental Fuel Charges - A Common Complaint.

Fear not though. There is a way to protect yourself.

Follow the 4 steps outlined below and rest easy in the knowledge that you have an iron clad paper trail that a car rental company can't argue with. At the bottom is a simple infographic outlining each of the steps. Save it to your phone or tablet to use as a reference next time you rent a car.

RELATED ARTICLE - Car Rental and Car Hire Fuel Policies Explained

1. Take photos when you pick up the car

Before you even leave the car park after getting the keys to the car, take a photo with your phone or camera (which will record the date and time that the photo was taken) of the fuel gauge and the miles/km on the tachometer. This is evidence of your starting point.

2. Fill up immediately after collecting the car

This step is annoying but it is key and here’s why. Filling up when the car looks full sounds ridiculous but remember, the car rental company will check when you return that the car is full “to the brim” regardless of what the fuel gauge says so why shouldn’t you hold them to the same standard. Here is what you do.

At the nearest gas station, take another photo of the fuel gauge and the miles/km on the tachometer. This gives you evidence of how far you drove from when you picked up the car (remember the photo above) and when you filled up. Ideally it should be only a few miles/km. When you fill it up make sure you fill it “to the brim” – don’t just rely on the first click. Take an extra 30 seconds to slowly get it full right to the top. You might find that the car will take a few litres or a couple of gallons to fill – great evidence for you that the car wasn’t completely full when you picked it up. An extra dollar spent here could be invaluable to you later - consider it a cheap insurance policy. Make sure you keep the receipt as evidence of how much fuel you had to put in. This will also show the address of the gas station you used and the date and time that you filled up.

3. Fill up just before you return the car

As close to the location where you are dropping off the car as you can you need to fill up the car and make sure it’s to the brim, not just the first click. Take yet another photo of the fuel gauge after you fill up and the miles/km on the tachometer as this will provide evidence of how far you drove after the final fill up to the drop off location. Again, make sure you keep the receipt for the same reasons outlined above.

4. Just before you hand over the keys at the rental location

Take one last photo of the fuel gauge showing full and the miles/km on the tachometer. Also make sure that the receipt you are given by the return agent at the car rental location shows that the car was returned full and that the miles/km recorded when you returned the car is correct.

How to Avoid Being Charged for Pre-Existing Damage to Your Rental Car

Rental car companies will inspect cars carefully upon return; do yourself a favor and perform your own inspection before driving off the lot. A little extra time and effort at the beginning of your trip will save you undue charges later on.

Walk all the way around your rental car and inspect the exterior. Take note of even small dents and scratches. If possible, check the roof. Inside the car, look for rips or tears in the upholstery and fabric. Check the ceiling and back seats. Scratches, dents, and damages to glass or bumpers are the most common claims.

Being given a car with damage like this is not uncommon.
Document any damage in writing on an official form or rental agreement from the rental company. Be sure to get an employee to verify and sign the forms. Both the rental company and you should have a copy of any forms that indicate pre-existing damage. It is very important that you have something in writing signed by an employee. In a perfect world, an employee would accompany you to your rental car and assist you with the inspection. In reality, you may have to track someone down.

For further assurance that you will not be falsely charged for pre-existing damage, take photos of your rental car with your phone or digital camera. Email photos to yourself, creating a timeline should you need it. You can also take a quick video as you circle the car.

When returning your car, take photos or video again. Email these to yourself as evidence of your car’s condition upon return.

While the initial inspection along with follow-up photos may seem like a waste of time, documenting pre-existing damage can save you money in the long run. Drive safely, understand your rental agreement, and protect yourself with plenty of documentation.