Terms and conditions for rental cars often seem overwhelming: they can be extremely lengthy and confusing to read through. Afterall, we are used to agreeing to terms and conditions of all sorts without ever going through them.
You should always carefully read through the terms and conditions before signing your rental agreement. In fact, it’s best to take a look at them before you even finalize your booking. Otherwise, you could end up having your trip ruined by unexpected fees mentioned deep in the fine print.
Below you will find the main reasons to always study the rental car terms and conditions, as well as the important information that can be found within the document.
1. Terms and conditions vary depending on the location
On top of the general terms and conditions that remain the same for all rental stations, every rental company has a separate set of location-specific terms and conditions. These terms vary by different countries.
To avoid any misunderstandings during your rental period, Rentalmoose recommends reading through both general and region-specific terms and conditions before booking your car.
For example, when picking up a Europcar rental car in Australia, the driver is required to notify the company if planning to travel between states. Click here to check out the full terms and conditions for Europcar Australia, or here to see our curated travel guides and road trip itineraries in Australia.
What’s more, location-specific terms and conditions can also affect any extra fees associated with the rental, the minimum age of the driver, cross-border fees and policies, or whether the renter needs an International Driving Permit to rent a car.
Make sure to take a look at the regional terms and conditions before booking your rental car.
2. Check the cost of extra services
Rental car companies have various additional fees that can be added on top of your bill, even long after the rental period is over. To ensure you avoid any unnecessary fees, it’s best to take a detailed look at the terms and conditions.
All of the extra car rental fees are mentioned in the rental company’s terms and conditions. Once again, be sure to take a look at the region-specific T&Cs as well, as the tariffs can vary depending on the country.
Some of the extra fees listed within the T&Cs can include:
- out-of-hours fees
- late drop-off fees
- One-way rental fee
- Additional equipment fee (child seat, ski racks, etc.)
- Young/senior driver fee
- Cross-border fees
- no-show fee if you don’t pick the rental car up at all.
Don’t forget to return the car with a full tank of gas, or you will be charged with a refueling fee!
Make sure to check out our blog post where you can learn all about the most common extra rental car fees and how you can avoid them.
3. See the tax rates and potential additional charges
Extra services aren’t the only additional charges mentioned in the terms and conditions of the rental company. Suppliers list their tariffs for regional tax rates and additional charges specific to particular rental stations, such as airports.
Rentalmoose insider tip: A surcharge for pick-up or drop-off at an airport or another premium location is often referred to as a premium location surcharge, or PLS in short, in the terms and conditions.
It’s important to have a look at those rates, especially if your rental car quote doesn’t include taxes already.
For example, Europcar rental cars booked in Australia are subject to GST, while the fleet in Europe is subject to VAT. Keep in mind that the pricing shown by Europcar is inclusive of tax unless stated otherwise.
4. See the driver requirements
If you’re younger than 25, booking a rental car can turn out to be slightly more difficult. Most rental car companies won’t sign an agreement with a driver younger than 21.
If you’ve had your driving license for less than a year, you won’t be able to rent a car either. In this case, the driver’s age does not matter.
If the driver is between 21 and 25 years old, they may not have access to the entire fleet, and can expect an additional “young driver fee” on top of their bill.
The driver requirements are often regulated in the location-specific T&Cs. For example, an 18-year-old can rent a car in the state of New York via Alamo, though they will have to pay an extra $64.50 per day. Click here to see Alamo’s age requirements in the US.
The driver requirement policies vary depending on the rental car company and the rental location, you can find them in the T&Cs. Be sure to read through them to find out all the details for your destination.
Rentalmoose insider tip: On top of the supplier’s driver requirements, the rental company will have a list of collection requirements necessary to pick up the rental car. Continue reading to find out about them.
5. Double-check the collection conditions
Even if the renter meets all of the supplier’s driver requirements, there can still be unpleasant surprises at the rental desk.
Some car rental companies can require an International Driving Permit when picking up the car, even if it is not legally required in the country you’re going to.
Remember that an IDP is only valid alongside your original driving license, as it only serves as a translation of the document.
Be sure to double-check the collection conditions, as an International Driving Permit can only be obtained in your home country.
6. Check the payment options and deposit rates
The rental company’s collection conditions include the available payment options and the tariffs of the security deposit.
The deposit is usually around 200-250EUR on top of the total rental estimate. Once again, the amount varies depending on the car category, rental location, and the car rental company.
The period of time until the money is returned to you is stated within the company’s T&Cs, too. Usually, the deposit is released within a month of the end of the rental period.
Make sure to check out this blog post to learn all you need to know about security deposits when renting a car.
The available payment options are also listed in the T&Cs. Keep in mind that some companies will only accept credit cards, whilst others might require a credit/debit card from a major credit card company. Check the terms and conditions before booking for more details.
What’s more, the security deposit might increase if you choose to pay by debit card rather than a credit card. For example, Europcar Australia will increase your deposit by an additional 300AUD if you choose to use a debit card.
Have you booked with a low tier car rental company? If you have your own insurance, the security deposit might skyrocket to over 3000EUR.
7. Learn about the insurance
Rental car insurance is still a confusing topic for many renters. Similarly to the rental car age requirements, the insurance policies vary depending on the supplier and the rental destination.
In general, the company’s T&Cs will mention what the mandatory policy insurance covers. For example, Europcar’s general T&Cs state that every Europcar rental car is insured against bodily injury and/or property damage that the renter can inflict on third parties. Similar policies apply to essentially all car rental companies.
The conditions regarding every type of cover supplied by the rental company are thoroughly explained within the T&Cs, too. For example, a Collision Damage Waiver won’t cover damage made to the tires or windshield. What’s more, you can learn about the extra protection offered by the supplier.
Rentalmoose insider tip: Rental car companies will void any and all protection in case of a serious breach of the rental agreement, as mentioned in the T&Cs. What classifies as a serious breach? Serious offenses, such as driving under the influence, are considered serious breaches.
8. Find out your responsibilities during the rental period
The rental company supplies the renters with an array of responsibilities that they need to follow during the entire rental period. The responsibilities can vary slightly depending on the supplier, that’s why it’s best to read through the T&Cs before finalizing your booking.
Most of the responsibilities listed in the T&Cs are rather obvious. Europcar, for example, mentions the requirement to take reasonable care of the vehicle during the rental period. It is also stated that the renter mustn’t leave the vehicle unlocked, or drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
However, there are some renter responsibilities listed in the terms and conditions that can easily be forgotten about. Don’t forget that it is your responsibility to ensure that the car is parked in a safe space.
If you fail to provide evidence that the rental car was parked in a safe environment, your coverage may become invalid in case of theft or an accident.
In some scenarios, the renter is responsible for the rental car even after dropping off the keys. Here’s how.
If you drop your rental car off outside of the office hours, you are still responsible for it until it is inspected by the supplier the next morning. Once again, the renter must ensure that the rental car is left in a safe environment.
Ideally, drop the car off at a car park monitored by CCTV cameras, just in case.
9. Check the grace period
Let’s say your rental period is coming to an end, but you’re stuck in rush-hour traffic on the way to the rental station. Good news, as the rental company won’t necessarily charge an extra fee straight away!
Car rental companies provide the renter with a grace period when dropping the rental car off. Although it usually lasts 30 minutes from the drop-off time stated in the rental agreement, the grace period can vary depending on the company.
For example, Enterprise offers a 29-minute grace period when dropping the car off. If you pass the grace period, you will be charged in accordance with the tariff found in your rental agreement.
10. Avoid fees after the rental period is over
When dropping off the rental car, you can be charged a refueling fee if the car’s gas tank isn’t full, or a surcharge for damage spotted during the inspection of the vehicle. Once again, the tariffs and rates vary from company to company and are stated in the T&Cs.
On some occasions, you can still be charged by the car rental company long after you’ve returned from your vacation. If you’ve been caught speeding by a traffic camera, you will be charged for the offense along with an administrative fee.
The same goes for unpaid parking tickets or any traffic offenses that have happened during your rental period. The fees are listed in the T&Cs.
Find out more about common car rental fees in this blog post.
These are just some of the reasons why it’s always worth to take a look at the rental car terms and conditions before booking your next rental car. What are you waiting for? Book your next rental car via Rentalmoose!
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