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Publication: Travel Tips
Rental car advice

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Tips & Adice for the Seasoned and Armchair Traveler Alike! 

Aug. 14, 2007

Flying these days can be miserable. 

Delays are more frequent than they've been in more than a 
decade, flight cancellations are common, seating is cramped 
and customer service is starting to make government 
bureaucrats look friendly and helpful in comparison. 

And then you've got to rent a car.

This week's edition includes:




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There's a lot to think about when you rent a car. 

Typically, this decision gets a lot less attention from 
travelers than the airborne legs of their journey. But it 
can get complicated - and expensive;  especially with 
gasoline selling for more than $3 a gallon at the pump.

Here are some tips:

* Fuel efficiency

It used to be that the first thing on most car renter's 
lists - especially folks traveling for business on the 
company's dime - was comfort. You figure out how many people 
you'll have, add luggage, and look for something that would 
fit everything comfortably.

Now, more travelers are willing to skimp a bit on comfort to 
get more miles to the gallon. Many businesses are 
scrutinizing this element of their expense accounts more 
carefully, and an employee may be able to score some points 
by saving his or her company some money. 

Pay attention to the miles-per-gallon numbers of the rental 
cars. Some rental companies don't post this info, so you 
should do your research in advance. If you're going to be 
driving a lot, this could save you quite a bit of money. 

* Fill it yourself

Never buy gas from the car rental company. It is almost 
always a bad deal. 

Yes, there are drivers out there who will e-mail me to say 
this option worked out for them, but successes stories are 
the exception to the rule. They depend on pump prices 
dropping before the rental agency bureaucracy can respond. 
Lately, we haven’t had many dramatic downward shifts here.

The flip side of this is making sure you fill the car - 
yourself - back to where the gauge was when you drove off 
the lot. If the agency fills it, they will do so with their 
more expensive gasoline, and you’re credit card charge will 
be bigger than you expected.


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* Exploit your memberships 

OK, if you're the grand wizard of  the Cleveland chapter of 
the Loyal Order of Raccoons, it may not mean much at the 
rental desk.

But if you've got a AAA membership, you'll get a discount. 
So will folks embraced by the AARP.

Many organizations, companies, credit unions, etc., have 
arrangements with car rental agencies to offer special 
discounts to their members. You may be eligible for a 5 to 
15 percent discount and not be aware of it.

The same holds true for the holders of some credit cards. 

You also want to look into joining one of the preferred 
customer programs offered by the big rental agencies. 
Membership, usually doesn't cost much, and it can often give 
you deals on out-of-budget upgrades. The head-of-the-line 
express treatment alone may be worth it for frequent 

* Clip coupons

I long ago stopped feeling embarrassed about handing desk 
clerks coupons. Hey, a buck's a buck.

Just make sure that you read any coupon you plan to use 
carefully for conditions and exceptions. And do it ahead of 
time. If you think it's a little embarrassing to pull out a 
coupon at the rental desk, imagine how you'll feel if you 
find out that coupon isn't valid and you've got to drop down 
a model.

Most upgrade coupons are "based on availability", so if you 
plan to use an upgrade coupon and also have a coupon that 
saves on the rental price, bring them both. If they can’t 
honor the upgrade, they may still give you the price

Also, if you're going to use a coupon or any other kind of 
discount, remember to mention it at the time you book your 

* Beware hidden charges

Taxes, airport charges, drop fees and insurance are just a 
few of the things that can drastically increase the price of 
your rental car. Surcharges can to tack on as much as 30 
percent to the base price. 

Make sure you grill the company on hidden costs so you know 
what your paying for before you hit the road. 

Many companies now post a copy of their rental agreement 
online. That gives you a chance to comb through the fine
print without a long line of increasingly agitated travelers
tapping their toes behind you.

Be especially aware of taxes. They are a great target for 
revenue-hungry local politicians because most renters don't 
vote where they pay to borrow a car.  

Sometimes these taxes manifest themselves under the heading 
of 'airport fees'. In some cities, this cost can be so high 
that it may be beneficial to take a bus or a cab into town 
to rent from a local agency that local politicians aren't so 
quick to tax. Once again, it comes down to spending some
time in front of your computer screen, doing research.

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* Consider waiting a day

If the only use you plan to make of a car on your first day 
at a location is to drive to the hotel and sleep, why not 
take a shuttle or a cab to the hotel, and rent a car the 
next morning? It could save you the cost of a full-day's 

Also, car rental prices tend to drop the further you get 
from an airport and the agencies' captive customer base.

* Explore cyberspace

Shopping the Internet can be the quickest and best way to 
compare many rental car rates. 

Hit the websites of all the major agencies. You should also 
check out a couple of the brand-name consolidators like 
Orbitz (http://www.orbitz.com) or Expedia 
(http://www.expedia.com).  They may have special deals not 
available to solitary keyboard punchers or clue you in to 
companies that you hadn't thought of.

Remember, rental rates can vary between agencies serving 
the same market. There can even be striking differences 
between different locations of the same rental agency in 
the same city, especially if one of its sites is at an 

While you're at it, if you are planning to buy extra items 
such as a damage waiver or insurance, you should also 
comparison shop those rates.

Well, that's it for this week, group. Thanks again for 
reading, and please keep those comments, complaints and 
questions coming in. 

You can send me an e-mail message at: Email Pierce

Until next week, thanks for reading. 

Your Tipmeister, 



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