The Ultimate Car Rental Checklist For Your Next Rental

December 21, 2020

You’ve decided to rent a car, that’s great! We’ve prepared a detailed car rental checklist of all the important things to keep in mind during your rental period. That way, you can focus on making the most of your trip!

For maximum convenience, consider saving the infographic below.

This car rental checklist is divided into four sections:

Let’s dive into our insightful car rental checklist!

Rental Moose Rental Car Checklist. Use this handy check list when you rent a car, infographic.

Before you collect your rental car

Booking your rental car may be overwhelming. Afterall, there are thousands of different rental stations to choose from, various suppliers, and types of rental cars.

You can learn more about the booking process in this blog post.

This section of our car rental checklist is useful prior to making your booking.

Make sure you meet the driving requirements

First, double-check that you meet all of the driving requirements. They are specified by the rental company.

These requirements vary depending on the company and the rental location. Make sure you check the ones relevant to the country you’re visiting.

Most rental companies require the renter (as well as any additional authorized drivers) to have a driving license that’s held for at least 1 year. Drivers younger than 21 may not be able to rent a car at all. 

The requirements can be found in the rental company’s terms and conditions.

Check the local traffic laws

Double-check the speed limits and other traffic regulations in the country you’re going to. If you are a young driver, make sure you are eligible to drive at your destination.

Make sure you know who has the right of way at a junction, for example. Save the phone numbers for local emergency services.

Don’t forget to check which side of the road you’ll be driving on. Otherwise, you might get surprised at pick-up.

Review the rental company’s terms and conditions

I cannot stress this enough, it is crucial to read through the rental company’s terms and conditions before even finalizing your booking.

Pay extra attention to the fine print. The T&Cs are lengthy and boring to read through, though you will find important details regarding your rental car booking within this document.

Still not convinced? Check out this blog post to see why you should always read the terms and conditions when renting a car.

Don’t forget your International Driving Permit (if necessary)

Whether or not you need an International Driving Permit depends on the country’s regulation, as well as the rental company itself.

If an IDP is necessary, you will have to obtain it before leaving your country of residence. Click here to learn all you need to know about IDPs.

Some companies can require an International Driving Permit, even if it is not obligatory in that country.

Make sure to check the terms and conditions before leaving on your trip.

Valid credit card with enough funds for the security deposit

When picking up your rental car, you will be asked for a valid credit card in the name of the renter.

If you booked a car via Rentalmoose, remember that you have only paid a fee to reserve the vehicle and will have to cover the rest at the rental desk.

Keep in mind that you will need enough funds for the security deposit as well. The amount varies depending on the company, refer to their T&Cs for more details.

Additional drivers

Don’t forget that only you can drive the rental car. Unless you have additional drivers noted in the rental agreement, don’t let anyone drive your rental car. Doing so is a serious breach of the rental agreement.

Every additional driver has to be mentioned in the agreement and approved by the car rental company.

Rentalmoose tip: Additional drivers are subject to a daily additional driver fee.

Note: Additional drivers have to meet the same driving requirements as the renter. Don’t forget to get an IDP if necessary. Make sure you have enough driving experience to be eligible to drive a rental car.

A rental car that’s driven by an unauthorized driver is considered a serious breach of the rental agreement. In effect, all of your insurance will become invalid in case of any damage. You will be responsible for covering 100% of the damage costs.


Make sure you know what kind of protection package is included in your car rental booking.

If you want to opt for additional coverage, you can do so before setting off on your trip. You can also purchase insurance from a third-party company.

Remember that adding insurance at the rental desk will be more expensive than purchasing the same package in advance. Refer to the rental company’s T&Cs for more details.

Remember that rental cars in the US and Canada often don’t come with a Collision Damage Waiver!

Learn all you need to know about rental car insurance in this blog post.

Prepare your voucher

Lastly, get the voucher for your rental car ready.

If you’ve booked your rental car with Rentalmoose, you can find the voucher in your inbox together with the booking confirmation, or under the My Account section on our website (click at the top right corner to log in).

Download the voucher on your phone (make sure you can access it when offline), or print it out.

You will be asked to present it at the rental desk during pick-up.

It looks like you’re ready to go! Save your car rental checklist and get to your destination 🙂

At pick-up

Once you arrive at your destination, it’s time to head to the rental desk and pick up your rental car!

You can check out this blog post to learn more about the pick-up process.

This section of our car rental checklist is useful during pick-up.

Arrive on time

Are you running late?

Be sure to contact the rental desk and let them know if you can’t make it on time.

If you don’t notify the car rental company in advance, you risk being charged a no-show fee and losing your booking.

Note that a surcharge may be applied for late pick-up. If the delay will extend to the out-of-office hours, another charge may be added to your bill.

Present all the necessary documents

During the pick-up process, you will be asked to present all of the necessary documents.

Make sure you have your:

  • driver’s license
  • credit card
  • photo ID/passport
  • voucher
  • IDP (if necessary)

Once again, ensure that you have enough funds on your credit card to cover the security deposit.

Additional Extras?

Right before receiving your rental agreement along with the keys to your shiny rental car, you have the chance to add any additional services.

Some of the extras, depending on the rental company, can include:

  • premium coverage of elements of the car that are not covered by the basic insurance
  • ski racks
  • child seats
  • additional driver added to your booking

Keep in mind that all these services and items are subject to availability, it is best to book them in advance.

Planning to cross country borders?

Don’t forget to inform the rental company.

Otherwise, your insurance may become invalid. A cross-border fee may be applied.

Roadside assistance

Ask the rental desk staff what kind of roadside assistance (if any) is included in your rental package.

You may want to add roadside assistance, as breakdowns can happen and they are often impossible to predict.

The last thing you want is to be stranded on your holiday.

Write down the contact number to call in case of a breakdown, too.

Read the rental agreement & terms and conditions

If you haven’t already, be sure to thoroughly read through both the rental agreement, as well as the terms and conditions.

Don’t feel rushed and take your time to make sure you don’t miss any details.

If you’ve read the documents already, have another look as a recap.

Make sure that the rental quote matches the offer you saw online.

Point out any mishaps immediately.

Inspect the condition of the rental car

Checking the condition of the rental car before driving off is an absolute must. 

Rentalmoose strongly recommends taking check-in photos of the condition of the car both inside and out. If you booked your car with Rentalmoose, you will receive a reminder to take check-in photos.

Rentalmoose insider tip: It’s best to take check-in photos with your smartphone. They are tagged with the current time, date, and location and can serve as evidence in case of unfair damage charges.

Pay attention to any existing damage and make sure it is noted in the check-out form. Don’t forget to check the tire wear, too. Photograph the car’s current odometer reading to avoid disputes over mileage.

Any damage found at drop-off that’s not documented on the check-out form will be considered to be inflicted during the rental period. In this case, the renter is subject to pay for the repair costs, as well as an administrative fee to the rental company.

Check if the car’s safety and comfort features work

Get familiar with the rental car and its features.

Make sure that all of the lights are in order, check if the A/C works, the powered mirrors, and all of the gauges.

Make sure that there aren’t any warning lights when the engine is on.

Check the fuel gauge, the rental car should come with a full tank of gas. Double-check if your car is powered by diesel or gasoline.

Contact the rental desk staff if anything is out of the ordinary before you leave.

Once you’re sure that everything is in order, you can begin your adventure. Have fun!

Before drop-off

As your rental agreement is coming to an end, get ready to return your rental car at the desired location.

This section of our car rental checklist is useful right before dropping off your car.

Ensure the rental car is clean

Most car rental companies will allow reasonable wear and tear during the rental period.

However, it is rarely specified what that means.

Imagine the rental car was lent to you by a friend and ask yourself whether you’d give it back in its current condition. If not, you may want to visit a car wash before drop-off.

If the car is too dirty at drop-off, you may be charged a cleaning fee. Note that there will be a service fee added on top of the charge. It’s going to be cheaper if you clean the car yourself prior to drop-off.

You can add a paid cleaning service at pick-up, that way you can return the car dirty. Generally, the upfront cleaning service is cheaper than the cleaning fee.

Check the rental desk’s opening hours

If you’re returning the car outside of the rental company’s business hours, you may be subject to an additional fee.

Fill up the gas tank

Your rental car will come with a full-to-full gas tank policy unless you’ve pre-purchased another package that allows you to return the car with less gas.

Try to find the time to fill up the tank before drop-off.

Take the receipt with you, just in case.

If you return a car with less fuel, the rental company will refuel it and charge you for it.

A service fee will be added to your bill on top of the refueling fee. Once again, it’s cheaper to do it yourself.

If you know you won’t have the time to refuel the car before returning it, consider purchasing a full tank of fuel at pick-up. That way, you won’t have to worry about the fuel level when dropping off the rental car.

Check the return procedure (self-service return)

If you’ve chosen a self-service drop-off, make sure you are aware where to drop the keys off.

Where will you leave the car? Is it a safe environment (look below for details)? If you’ve added optional equipment, where should you drop it off?

Your rental agreement will have details for the self-service return process.

At drop-off

Arrive on time

Check the rental agreement to see the drop-off time. Make sure you arrive on time, similarly to the pick-up.

Inform the car rental company if you’re running late, or if you want to extend the rental period for another day or two.

Generally, car rental companies offer a grace period for late drop-off. It is up to the company how long it lasts, and it is mentioned in the T&Cs.

The grace period for late drop-off is usually 29 minutes.

Document the rental car’s condition

Once the car is returned, take another set of photos documenting the condition of the rental car inside and out.

Take a picture of the mileage, too.

If you’ve booked your rental car via Rentalmoose, you will receive a reminder to take check-out photos of the car’s condition. The check-in and check-out pictures will be stored with us in case of any disputes.

If there are any disputes regarding the damage, you can use the check-in and check-out photos as evidence, along with the check-in and check-out forms with any existing damage written down.

Check the car for your belongings

Once you’re ready to leave, check the rental car thoroughly for any belongings that you may have forgotten to take. Have a look inside of the glovebox, in the center console, under the seats, in the trunk, and in any other compartment in the car.

If you rented any additional equipment, such as a GPS satnav, return it to the rental desk.

If you’ve selected self-service drop-off, enquire about the return process for additional equipment in advance.

Consult your rental agreement for details.

Ensure the rental car is left in a safe environment

This is crucial if you’re dropping the car off outside of the desk’s business hours. In the terms and conditions, it is stated that the renter is responsible for the rental car until it is inspected by the staff the next business day.

In practice, this means that you have to leave the rental car in a safe environment (ideally a car park monitored by CCTV cameras) when dropping it off outside of business hours.

It is your responsibility as the renter.

Return the car keys and check the final bill

Lastly, don’t forget to drop off the key(s) to the rental car along with any additional equipment.

In some countries, you may be asked to return the car’s documents too, while in others the documents should be left in the glove compartment. Consult the rental agreement for details.

When receiving the final bill or invoice, make sure that the price matches the one you were quoted.

Consider that additional charges may be added to your final bill, click here to find out about the most common extra fees when renting a car. Inform the rental desk staff if there are any mishaps.

It may seem like a lot of points to remember, though I can assure you that the rental process will be smooth and simple if you follow the steps listed in our car rental checklist.

Don’t forget to get your next rental car from Rentalmoose, and check out our blog section for curated travel guides to explore your destination.

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