Car rental companies make their money by manipulating you into buying things you don’t need. But if you know what to watch out for, you’ll be less likely to be scammed.
1. You probably don’t need the insurance
The insurance is almost never necessary because it usually just duplicates coverage you already have through your existing policy, but they try to trick you into getting it.
2. They try to manipulate you into saying “yes” to the insurance
When you get to the counter, they say something like, “And do you want the full coverage?” or even “You’re fully covering the vehicle, right?”
NO!! If you say yes it will more than double your bill.
Note that each company is different, but “full coverage” usually means buying FOUR policies, so it really adds up. These policies cover damage to the rental car, damage to another car in the event of a crash, medical coverage if you or your passengers are injured, and coverage in case your belongings are stolen (all unlikely events you’re probably already covered for).
3. They try to scare you
They often ask for the name of your car insurance company and one even asked me for my policy number. They’re trying to get your mind thinking about a crash.
The same goes for when they hand you something and ask you to do an “inspection” for dents. They’re not going to charge you for a parking lot dent. It’s just to scare you into getting the insurance.
When they do this to me, I just tell them I’m good and I hand the paper back to them.
4. They use the thesaurus
While many people are duped, many are also aware that they don’t need the insurance. The solution? Use a different word!
This only happened to me once, but at one car rental company, the woman behind the counter tried to tell me she was just selling “coverage” and not insurance. Whatever the heck that means.
5. They sell phantom gas
They ask, “Do you want us to refill the tank for you?” A lot of times they don’t even mention what it costs, but if you ask, they’ll tell you it’s cheaper than the gas station down the street. That’s a lie. Because the gas station down the street doesn’t make you pay for a whole tank even if you only need a quarter.
6. You keep using that word …
Be sure to check how the company defines words like “midsize.” I was furious once to pay more for a “midsize,” which was defined on the website as “similar to a Corolla,” and be told I would get a Chevy Aveo, which is defined by Google (and pretty much everyone) as a subcompact.
I drive a big truck and that was just too small for me to feel safe driving in on Los Angeles freeways so I had to pay more than double just to get a real car. That’s exactly what they want to happen.
And I’m not just telling you all this as a dude who travels a lot. One of my first jobs was working for a car rental company.
Eric Eisenhammer is CEO of Dauntless Communications a political strategy and technology company based in the Western US.
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