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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Getting the Best Deal on Rental Cars

LAS CRUCES--Travelers often need to rent cars. The Federal Trade Commission offers tips on how to choose the right rental car and save money, said a consumer education specialist with New Mexico State University.


"First, decide where you will pick up and drop off the car," said Susan Wright with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "Find out if there are special fees to use these locations. Ask about expiration dates that could affect an advertised special."

Travelers who plan to rent cars for more than four days should check weekly rates. A lower rate my be available for renting for a week, she said. Always inquire about mandatory additions to the quoted price, such as taxes, mileage rates, fuel charges and airport surcharges.

"Car rental companies often have special types of insurance they may try to sell you in the rental package," Wright said. "A collision damage waiver will only cover damage to the car. Personal accident insurance pays all or part of the costs if you're injured in the car. Personal effects' coverage takes care of damaged luggage."

Cost of insurance coverage will vary from city to city and is sometimes optional, she said. People should contact the rental agency and ask for the exact charges for the city in which they will be renting the car. "Also, check your own auto insurance and homeowners' policies," Wright advised. "You may already be covered for some of or all of these contingencies."

Consumers should be aware that many car rental companies charge a fee to cover costs if the car is not returned according to the rental contract, she said. The fee is refunded when the car is returned on time and in good condition. Most companies make this special charge on a major credit card. People who don't have credit cards may not be able to rent a car even if they pay up-front in cash.

"Before signing a contract or agreement, read it thoroughly," Wright said. "Make sure you understand all the terms. Ask questions about anything that's unclear to you. This may save you time and money."