Discover everything you need to know about extra charges when renting a car. Our comprehensive guide covers all car rental fees and how to avoid them.
If I asked you what your favourite part of renting a car is, you would probably be able to come up with several different answers, depending on who answers the question. But I am sure no one would say it's paying unexpected additional charges on top of their original reservation! Therefore we compiled a list of all possible charges you could encounter during your next car rental.
And the good news is, with some preparation (and reading our blog) you can easily avoid paying for them all! We suggest treating yourself with something nice with the money that you will save by avoiding all of the charges that we will mention below:
Most car rental agencies offer insurance that you can take when you come to collect your rental car and sign all the papers. In most cases, the insurance is optional, and you don't need to take it. An exception would be if you only have a debit card. In that case, you will need to take additional insurance, so it's best to check how much that will be to have a good idea of how much you will need to pay for your rental.
When making the reservation, you can also take the Premium Coverage on top of your normal reservation, which you can do already during the booking process. This way, you don't need to worry about how much the insurance from the rental agency will cost, and you can enjoy your vacation with peace of mind.
When you come to collect your rental car, the car rental agency can offer you an upgrade if they have one available. Of course, such an upgrade will come with an increase in the daily rental price. So before you decide on an upgrade, calculate how much the rent will cost you in total and if you can afford it.
In case the rental agency does not have any cars left in the category that you originally booked, they have to give you an upgraded category of a car, but for the same price as you originally booked.
The first thing you should do when you get the car is thoroughly inspected it for any scratches or bumps before you get it and sign the papers. Take photos of them and show them to the rental agent giving you the car. That way, you can avoid getting charged for something there before you even get the car!
When you will return the car, make sure to check it thoroughly and take pictures of any damage that the car will have at that point. The reason for that is, in case you will be charged by the rental agency later for any damage, you can easily check if the damage really happened when you were renting it or not. It will also make it easier to dispute it with the agency if you will have visual proof of it.
When you receive the car, you will also receive a diagram of the car where the agent should mark any existing scratches and bumps. When you return the car go through the diagram with the agent to confirm what was already there and what is new, and save for yourself a copy of the diagram in case you will have any damage charge later.
No matter how good of a driver you are, accidents can happen to anyone. Of course, car rental agencies also know this, which is why they block a deposit on your credit card when you collect the car. For any damage done to the car, they will deduct a certain amount from your deposit to cover the repairs of this damage. If you wish to protect yourself from these charges, which can be quite high if the car you rented was in a higher category or the damage was extensive, you might want to consider additional insurance before you take the car. It's also recommended to consider this option if you are renting a car in a city where other drivers might not be cautious, and the risk of damaging the car is that much more likely.
Charges for extra days
When making a car reservation, the price is determined every 24 hours you have the car. If you, for example, take the car at 10:00 am and return it another day at 11:00 am, the car rental agency will charge you one whole rental day because the full rental day was completed and a new one started. Therefore, be careful when booking that check if you could return the car a little sooner and avoid paying another full day for just an hour or two of rental. Daily rates can sometimes be very high, especially if you are renting a car during a high-demand season.
Thankfully it's easy to avoid this kind of charge. Just remember the time you set for the car's return when you were making the reservation and stick to it. Better to bring the car back 30 minutes too soon than too late!
If you decide to return your rental car very late at night or early in the morning, there is a possibility that the rental station would normally already be closed by that time. In that case, the rental agency will charge you Out of Hours fee for the convenience of being able to collect the car outside of their regular business hours. This fee can be applied just for pick up or for the drop off as well if you are returning a car at a late hour and the rental station does not have a key box, where you could put the car keys without the agent being present there. When you make a booking, this additional charge will already be calculated in the price for the rental if it applies, so you don't need to worry about any hidden charges.
If you wish to avoid paying such a charge, the only option is to check the station's opening hours where you will be getting the car and ensure that you will be there during their regular hours. For this reason, we always write the opening hours of the rental agency together with other details for every offer you can find on our website, making planning your arrival time a little easier.
Admin or processing charge
This kind of charge will usually only happen if something happens during your rental that the car rental agency will have additional work, such as you get a speeding or toll ticket, the car will be damaged etc. In those cases, you must pay the appropriate fine and the processing fee for the agency to handle all the documentation.
Charges for changing rental times or dates
If you already took the car from the rental agency and then wish to extend the rental period, you may be charged for changing rental times. The agency will calculate the cost for all the additional days, which will usually be at a higher rate than you got the car for initially. The reason is that the daily rates are always higher if you make last-minute changes. If you know that you will need to extend your booking it's therefore advisable to let the agency know as soon as possible as for every day that you wait, the price can increase slightly.
Charges for young and senior drivers and one-way trips
If you are under the age limit, rental agencies usually consider young drivers (under the age of 25) or senior drivers (over the age of 75) you will be charged extra for your car rental as you are considered a statistically risky group. This fee will already be calculated in the cost shown for the offer, which is why it's so important to input your correct age when making the reservation.
If you planned your car rental to take a car at one location and return it to another, you would instead be charged a one-way fee. This fee is meant to cover the cost that the rental agency has with returning the car to the original rental station after you return.
Charge for fuel
The standard fuel policies you will encounter are Full to Full and Same to Same. With the Full to Full policy, it means you will receive a car with a full tank of gas, and you also need to return the car will a full tank. If you do not, the rental agency will do the fuelling for you but will charge you the cost of the fuel as well as an additional processing fee, as they will need to do that instead of you.
With the Same to Same policy, you will get the rental car with a certain amount of fuel, and you need to return it with at least the same amount. Keep in mind that if you return the car with more fuel than you got, you will not get compensated for any of the extra fuel. But we are sure that the rental agency will be grateful, which is something!
When you are renting a car, you are responsible to look after the car, so it does not get damaged, and you are equally liable to pay any kind of fine or toll that you accumulated during your rental. If you, for example, went on a highway with a car, you most likely need to pay some toll. With modern highways, you might not even realise that you went on a highway with such tolls as there are no apparent checkpoints where you would need to pay for something. Regardless, the rental agency receives any tickets that you might have gotten during your reservation, which they process and pay and afterwards charge you for it.
As it can take time for the tolls to get to the rental agency, you can be charged for this even a month or two after you already return the car. If you are sure that you did not damage the vehicle while you had it, this is a possible reason for the charges, but as always, when you are not sure, it's best to contact either the rental agency or the broker, over which you made the reservation to investigate for you.
To avoid this happening, do some research on the most likely routes that you will take during your rental to be prepared for any payable sections of the road and ask the agent at the car station when you come to collect the car as they will be able to give you the most accurate information about possible payable checkpoints that you should look out for.
Rent a Car with Orbit Car Hire
We hope that this guide has been helpful to you and that you feel more prepared to rent a car without encountering any unexpected charges. Remember to always read the terms and conditions carefully before making a reservation and to ask the rental agency if you have any questions. With a little bit of research and preparation, you can avoid paying any unnecessary fees and have a stress-free rental experience. Happy driving!
You can compare car hire for your next trip today. For more car hire tips and tricks, look at our other blogs.