Summer is the season for road trips. While the coronavirus pandemic is still a long way off, there are people who want to get out and destinations that encourage travel by starting to open some attractions.
“Maybe you live in the city and get around in a small car and don’t have another. If you’re going on a long trip, you’ll want to rent an Impala or something big,” says Jon Linkov, deputy director of the automotive division of Consumer Reports.
Or, “You’re going camping, so you need to rent a van,” he says. A van may be too expensive and complicated to own as a personal vehicle, but for a week or two with your luggage crammed into the cargo box instead of stealing passenger space, it might be just what you need.
Or maybe you’d like to test drive a car or truck from the rental fleet. You may be considering buying one or just curious.
The arguments for and against a lease
More people seem to agree with this. The car rental business is up 20-25% from its low point during the COVID-19 epidemic, mainly in places far from airports.
Companies are not renting to people who fly in. Establishments located in residential areas generally cater to those who simply want to rent a car.
If you plan to rotate drivers, keep in mind that you, your spouse, or your domestic partner may pay more for each additional driver. Renting has other factors to consider:
According to vehicle manufacturers’ specifications, an Impala is about two and a half feet longer than a Fusion, larger inside, and with more trunk space. The auto industry and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) call it big.
Expect the same variation in size if you rent an SUV. Don’t expect a car roomier than yours only to find out it isn’t. Check the numbers.
And remember that what you ask for when booking the vehicle is not guaranteed. The ads say, “or similar.” You and the rental company might disagree on what it looks like.
Changes in the rate. Although you can negotiate, the rental agent will be happy to rent you a larger car for more money. Or they might pressure you to buy damage insurance.
Normally, your insurance or the credit card you use to rent the car covers rental damage. Check first to be sure. After an accident, it’s too late.
Toll roads. Look in advance at the possible tolls on your route. If you have an electronic toll device at home — one like the E-ZPass, which usually mounts to your windshield and allows you to pass through a toll booth without having to stop to pay — it might be accepted on the road you’re going to go around.
Highways and toll bridges in parts of 18 states now accept E-ZPass. Among the benefits of this era of keeping your distance is not having to pay cash at each toll booth and not having to cross paths with a person.
If you opt to have the rental agency provide the device, it will likely cost more than you expect. Rental car transponders, charge the user the highest undiscounted toll, plus a $5.95 fee for each rental day.