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Renting a Car? Best Tips for Your First-Time Car Rental Experience

April 15, 2019
3 mins
A woman driving her car glances and smiles at her un-pictured passenger

If you're renting a car, even for the day, there's a lot to consider before you sign on the dotted line. Do you have existing insurance? If so, you don't want to pay extra. Another concern is the type of vehicle you rent. Do you know the fine print when you drop off a vehicle and leave the keys?

Here are a few ways to maximize your first car rental experience (beep, beep).

To Insure or Not to Insure

Not sure if you need insurance for your rental?

With a rental, if you have insurance you’re covered for collision damage. You don’t need a collision damage waiver (CDW). For major damage, refer to your insurance or a credit card provider with insurance. You will have to pay upfront and then file a claim with your insurance.

If you don’t want to pay for any mishaps, pay for the CDW. You can drop the keys off and walk away. And, if there’s an accident, you don’t have to pay for administrative fees, diminished value, loss of use, or towing charges.

Picking Out Your Rental

Not sure whether to pick a small car or an SUV? Thinking about a hybrid?

Here are a few pointers:

  • If you’re travelling with family or a lot of luggage, pick a bigger vehicle like an SUV.
  • Save money with a smaller vehicle.
  • Ask for features you need, i.e, a bike rack, ski rack, GPS or car seat.
  • For environmentally-friendly vehicles, ask for a hybrid to save on gas.
  • Staying in heavily-populated cities? Only get the rental when travelling outside the city. You can rideshare or get an Uber. And, you won’t have to pay for or find parking.
  • When booking the rental, get a confirmation number and the agent’s name. Give them your flight number and arrival time. Confirm where to pick up the vehicle.
  • Inspect the rental for damage. Confirm all lights work. Locate the gas tank.
  • Write down the make and model and plate number. It’s easy to forget where you parked in crowded lots.
  • When returning a rental, inspect it for damage. Fill the tank back up. Gather all your belongings (check under seats, in the glove compartment and trunk). Have an agent inspect it to get your deposit back.

Reading the Fine Print

Read the terms and conditions before renting your vehicle.

Questions you might ask include:

  • Are there penalties for no-shows?
  • How long is the reservation held if your flight’s delayed?
  • If your teen drives, are they covered? What about your spouse?
  • What are the charges for one-way drop-offs?
  • Is gas included? What are all the surcharges?
  • Can they provide you with total costs including taxes, gas, insurance, and all fees?
  • What is the return policy? Is there a grace period for returns? What is the late fee?

Getting a Discount or Deal

Before you purchase a rental, you might find a deal online.

Here are a few tips:

  • Shop Around: Compare prices with rental agencies like Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty or Enterprise. Local car rental companies may also offer discounts.
  • Book a Package: When making hotel and airline reservations, include the car rental. Total costs might be cheaper if you book through Expedia, Orbitz or Kayak.
  • Ask for a Discount: Most rental companies honour AAA and offer military and senior discounts. Check your frequent flyer program and credit card provider for travel reward perks.
  • Find a Coupon: Type the rental company name in your search engine and add “coupon”. You might find 10-20% off on Groupon, or RetailMeNot.

Looking for the Best Car Insurance Rate?

Renting a car is a breeze when you read the fine print on rental forms and get the best discounts on your rental. And, when you’re ready to shop for insurance, check with With, you can compare quotes from over 30 insurance providers. Compare quotes today!


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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