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Rental Cars: A Traveler’s Guide

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It’s Travel Tip Tuesday! This week I’m addressing my least favorite travel detail: rental cars. I do not like to drive, I’m not a fan of road trips, and I’d rather just be able to walk everywhere we go, but sometimes that’s just not practical! Often times, I’ve found especially on islands, a car is the best way to get around. So here is my ultimate guide to renting a car when you travel. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Insurance
Call your car insurance company and ask if they will cover you in a rental car when you travel in your own country and/or internationally. Our car insurance will cover us no matter where we drive or what vehicle we rent within the 50 United States. If you have incredible car insurance, they might cover you abroad. If that’s the case, don’t feel pressured to buy extra insurance. If your insurance will not cover you in either of those instances, buy the car insurance that your car rental company offers.

2. Manual or Automatic?
Can you drive a manual transmission (aka: stick shift)? Can you teach me? If you can drive one, you’ll get to save yourself some money when renting a car, especially abroad! If not, make sure you’re renting an automatic transmission vehicle. Insured or not, you don’t want to learn how to drive a stick shift in a foreign land, possibly on the opposite side of the road, when you’re jet lagged!

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Stick Shift (or Manual)
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Three pedals to keep up with!
You’ll be needing some hand-foot-eye coordination for that. Please excuse the dirt. These pictures are from my dad’s farm truck!

3. Fill It Up
Typically, you will be required to fill up the tank on your rental car before you return it. In some cases, you’ll only have to fill it back to where the gauge was when you picked it up, if it wasn’t full. Make sure you know for sure! In most cases, it’s best to fill it up yourself. In one rare case, it was actually 50 cents per gallon cheaper to prepay for a full tank and let the rental company fill it up on my return. However, I learned quickly that it was kind of stressful trying to make it back as close to an empty tank as possible without running out! I think it would have been better to pay a few dollars more and bring it back full!

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Not quite full!
4. Height
This is one I usually don’t think about until it’s too late. On both Kauai and Guam, we found ourselves praying we could get out of a couple of popular, beach-side parking lots without ripping up our undercarriage! We didn’t think about it when we were looking to rent an economical car, but boy did I wish we’d sprung for an SUV that would sit a little higher up off the ground. The holes, ruts, and boulders we had to navigate in some of those parking areas were no joke, my friends.

5. Taxes and Fees
Airlines have started to include taxes and (most) fees in their pricing, but that is not yet the case for rental cars. What looks like a great deal may have you disappointed when you notice how much the total is with the extras included. Don’t forget that the first price you see if not the final. Sometimes the total price per day is included in smaller font below the base price.

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$11.20?! Oh, wait…
6. Take the Map
If you’re offered a map with your rental car, take it. Even if you have a GPS on your phone or you think it’ll be easy to find your way, take the map just in case. Not sure how to read a map? You will when you learn “How to Read a Map.”

7. Buckle Up!
No matter what vehicle you choose or how much you end up paying for it, please drive safely and buckle up. Elfette thinks it’s a great idea!

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Ready for her road trip!
Do you rent a car when you travel? Are you a little nervous about it? Tell me all about it below!

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