Car Rental Fees

Car Rentals

Security Deposit

Car rental companies usually require a deposit of a couple hundred dollars to protect themselves against possible damages. This deposit amount depends on the vehicle and other criteria. Upon returning the car its checked for damage. If damage is found, funds are deducted from the deposit to cover the repairs and the loss of value.

The best protection for both parties is to review the vehicle condition before signing the rental contract. This is standard practice in most cases but is often rushed. And if there are any alleged damages it becomes a blame game.

Make sure to note or take pictures of any dents, scratches, stains, cracks, or anything the car company could claim was your fault.  Does the car smell from smoke? If so, make sure to get their acknowledgement that they agree with you.

Furthermore, pay attention to how the vehicle drives when leaving the lot, closely monitor the gauges and test some of the functions and features, especially if they’re features you paid for such as satellite radio.

Car Rental Cautions

To avoid scams, pitfalls, or any other unintended consequences, it’s safest to rent from reputable companies with widespread presence and better yet, stick with a company with whom you have a reward program and/or trust from past experiences. The potential issues below are magnified if renting internationally; be prepared to do more up front due diligence.

Initial Offer

The initial price presented on a car rental is often for basic, low end, smaller option with a lot of miles on it. Similar to buying that discounted printer for $20 only to spend $120 on printer cartridges a year later, Car rental companies have similar tactics to get your money. Be aware of additional fees that quickly add up to multiplies of the perceived initial cost. 


Your decision on how to pay for fuel is usually an additional fee. They’ll offer a few options with the most convenient being the most expensive. If you choose to refill on your own, be careful not to exceed that amount. This is easier said than done and rental car companies know that most people will slightly exceed the original gas level.


You’ll likely be offered a slew of options from personal accident insurance, collision damage waiver, and supplemental liability protection. Do your homework up front to determine if your existing auto insurance covers some or all of these. A credit card company may also cover this.

This becomes a risk/reward decision but can cost $20-$40/day. If you don’t choose to add their insurance, the rental company might increase the security deposit. 

Renting internationally introduces a whole new set of uncertainties and risks. Before you travel verify that your insurance from the US will work at your destination. If not, this is like a blank check and likely at least a few hundred dollars.


As discussed earlier, this is a challenge to take the time and notice all the small existing defects especially in cold weather. But that decision can make or break any claims against you. 

Late Fees

Rightfully so this can be costly since the car companies may have the vehicle slated for another customer reservation. If you realize you’re going to return the vehicle later than committed, call the car company and often they will work with you to avoid fees.

Unlimited Mileage

In casual conversation, customer service may ask where you’re going. They’re possibly trying to find out if you’re going out of state and in some cases this inflates the rates.


You may decide to get an electronic toll pass but there can be hidden with charges that exceed the regular toll amount. If you’re planning frequent trips, these are very convenient but that convenience comes at a cost, just ask to make sure you’re not overpaying.  

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Other Car Rental Tips

Record the Mileage. Check the gas level and ensure it matches at a minimum what is indicated in the contract. Any discrepancies should be reported sooner than later. Take a picture of it with your phone before you leave the lot. If you have to refill the tank before returning this can help avoid putting in too much gas.

Get what you paid for

You paid for the vehicle and service to go smoothly and professionally. From late connecting vans, poor vehicle performance, unprofessional customer service, these are all valid complaints which you could ask for reduced fees, credits, or reward points. 

Get rewarded

If you plan to rent frequently, much like the airlines, enroll in their reward program. Their can be perks than range from cost savings, upgrades, and convenience. 

Get more for your money

Don’t hesitate to ask for a free upgrade to a larger vehicle or something you’d prefer otherwise. All they can say in ‘no’. They will probably offer you an upgrade for just a few dollars more instead of free. Be aware that fuel could cost more. 

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