Rent the car, check the fees

Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a cross-country road trip, a rental car may be in your future. Comparing prices online can save you a bundle, but make sure you compare the total cost — not just the advertised rate. Added fees can increase the base price dramatically.

Pay attention to fees before you reserve your rental car to avoid surprises when you’re at the rental counter or paying your bill. Common fees include:

  • Taxes. The rental company will add required state, city, or county taxes — and their own sales tax rates — to the price of your car.
  • Early or late return fees. Did you know that companies may charge a fee if you return the car more than 24 hours early? And while you may not be charged a fee if your return is late by less than 30 minutes, you still may have to pay a full day’s charge for optional items, like navigation systems and liability coverage options.
  • Airport surcharges. Renting a car at the airport, even when the rental company shuttles you to its off-site lot, can increase the rental rate.
  • Fuel charges. If you don’t return the car with a full tank of gas, most companies will charge you their price for it — which usually costs more than if you fill the tank at a local station.
  • Out-of-state charges. Check to see if the company lets you drive outside the state where you rented the car. Then ask if any charges apply.
  • Equipment-rental fees. Adding items like a navigation system, car seat, or ski racks will cost you.
  • Additional drivers. There may be a charge for adding other drivers to your contract.
  • Drop-off fees. There may be a steep fee for dropping off the car at a location other than where you picked it up.
  • Tolls. Most rental companies offer ways to pay tolls automatically, but that convenience comes at a cost. What you pay depends on both where you drive and the rental company you use. That’s because different companies offer different plans. As you compare companies, think about whether you’ll be using toll roads, bridges or tunnels.

October 15, 2019

by Colleen Tressler
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC