Vacations are typically spent traveling to a new destination, one in which you don’t have experience driving or in which you don’t have familiarity with state laws. Even more importantly, you’re driving a car that is not your own. When renting a car while on vacation, your first thought might concern how many passengers you will have or if you will share the driving with someone else. Then, you might take into account the refueling options and the return times to avoid penalty fees. However, you should also consider the factors of weather, safety, insurance and how the car fits you as a driver. These topics directly contribute to your driving experience and, when ignored, could transform your vacation from rejuvenating to stressful. So, as you plan your next travel or vacation, keep in mind the following tips for choosing a rental car:
- Consult Your Insurance Agent.
Many car rental companies provide insurance packages. In turn, many insurance companies include rental cars in their packages. Prior to booking your rental car, check with your auto insurance agent to see if collision coverage includes crashes when driving a rental car. Additionally, be sure to list all possible drivers on the rental agreement.
- Review Basic State Driving Laws.
Driving activities that are legal in your state might not be legal in the state to which you are travelling, such as using a cell phone while driving. Others include reporting a crash, turning right on a red light and even headlight use. You can access local driving laws on states’ Department of Motor Vehicle websites.
- Rent a Car You Know You Can Drive.
Double check that the company has the vehicle you want. Rental companies often offer small vehicles, such as compact sedans, at lower rates. Many of these vehicles might not include four-wheel drive or a navigation system, car features to which many drivers are accustomed. You will need to make the decision if the bargain price is worth the reduced features, especially when it comes to safety.
- Consider the Weather.
Are you traveling to a city known for its rainy conditions or early nightfall? Or are you traveling during the winter season? If it’s the latter, don’t be too enticed by the cheapest rental model. You should invest in a car that can handle snowy or icy conditions. Moreover, think less of style and more of practicality if you have a choice of color. Cars that are brighter and lighter in color, such as white or gold, are easier to spot in the dark and during heavy rainfall.
- Check Your Rental Vehicle before You Drive.
Before you drive your rental car off the lot, do a 360-degree inspection of the vehicle. It’s also a good idea to take photos of the vehicle before your first trip. Make note of any preexisting dents, scratches or issues with the vehicle and share this with your rental agent to include in the paperwork. If you notice significant damage it might be best to request a different vehicle:
- Fit the Car to the Driver.
Just as you adjust your own vehicle for maximum comfort and visibility, you must do the same for your rental car. Even just a few inches in seat-height difference can make a significant change in your visibility. First, properly adjust your side and rearview mirrors to minimize blind spots. Second, adjust your seat for good foot positioning on your brake and gas pedals. You never want to have to reach for the pedals with your toes, as this can result in leg fatigue and slowed reaction times. Finally, position your seat so that you have at least 10 inches between your chest and the steering wheel. This space cushion reduces the risk of serious injury in the event of a collision or airbag deployment. If you want to learn more about creating a safer fit in your car, our free CarFit events and resources can help.
For more tips on how to stay safe on the road, consider taking a driving refresher course, such as the AARP Smart Driver™ course, available online or in a classroom setting near you, in both English and Spanish. In some states, you may even be eligible for a multiyear insurance discount upon completion of the course.* AARP membership is not required to take the course. For more information, please visit www.aarp.org/drive or call 1-877-846-3299.
*The insurance premium discount is not available in all states for the online or the classroom versions of the course. Please consult your insurance agent for further details.