If you're thinking about hiring a car, because you need a vehicle for a brief period of time, or because you're going on holiday, you need to be careful about who you rent from. Wherever possible you should rent from big agencies, who might not always have the best rates, but at least won't deliberately try to con you.
But sometimes you have no option. If you have to rent a car from an agency that doesn't have a worldwide reputation, you might want to learn about some of the con tricks that car hire agencies use, so that you don't fall for them...
In recent years, car hire companies have been attaching global positioning gadgets to cars, which help them track vehicles that have been stolen or lost. However, some unscrupulous agencies are also using these to track customer's whereabouts and at times even their speed.
These companies then pile extra charges onto bills for breaking the speed limit or taking the car outside of a defined area, which they justify by saying doing so increases the wear and tear on a vehicle. Such fees are illegal in most countries, including in the United States where this is most likely to happen.
The Refundable Deposit
This con happens most often to holiday makers in Spain. The way it works is that you book your rental car online, and think that everything is ready to go. When you get to the rental company, however, they tell you that they have been so busy that they haven't had time to process your payment.
This will not be a problem, however, since you can just give them your credit card right now and they'll process it and you'll be ready to go. As they're processing your payment, they inform you that there is a refundable deposit that they will put on your credit card at the same time, to prevent delaying you further. Most customers have heard nothing of a deposit before this point, but as leaving a deposit for a rental car seems logical, they don't question it.
What the unscrupulous employee is doing at that moment is charging the deposit straight to your card. You don't realise until you get home that the money is gone. Never use a company that asks you for a straight out deposit. Reputable companies use your credit card information as a deposit, knowing that they can claim the money from your card if they don't receive the car back.
Generally, renting a car is pretty simple. Right up until you reach the issue of insurance. This is when companies start pushing you into spending more money on complicated insurance plans. Some even tell you that it is a requirement. What the companies aren't telling you necessarily is the truth. Make sure that you know what the insurance requirements are for a given country before you go. On top of that, check your credit card company.
Many credit card companies already include car insurance, though most don't include liability insurance. It's possible that you don't need to buy any insurance from the rental company at all. And even if you do need to buy it from them, it's highly unlikely that you need the expensive plan that they're telling you you must have.
Check the contents of the insurance contract you sign with a company incredibly carefully. It's not unusual for companies to charge you for one kind of insurance, but to actually contract you for another. This means that you aren't covered for the things that you think you are.