Important! Always Read Your Rental Car Agreement Carefully

For most people, renting a car is as simple as signing a contract, swiping a credit card, grabbing the keys and hopping in. Seems pretty straight forward, right? Well, it’s in your best interest to not let it be!  Thousands of people every year return their rental car only to be dinged with extra charges, random fees or an expensive coverage they did not know about. Rental car agencies make a fortune by not telling you everything you’re responsible for and then cashing in when you find out the expensive way.  So don’t let that happen to you; instead, take a few minutes to read your rental agreement before getting in the car and driving off. Here are a few reasons it’s imperative to read the rental agreement of the car you are renting.

Insurance Policies

The insurance policy of a rental car changes from company to company, but it’s absolutely essential that you understand how it works. Most people eschew the company-offered insurance, and for good reason: it’s often a total rip off. But even if you pass on the rental program’s insurance, you still need to understand their policies.

Most insurance companies allow your personal auto insurance to cover your rental car, but you still need to check your rental agreement. Many auto rental programs will let your insurance cover damages but then charge you for the days that the car is out of commission. For instance, if you get in a fender bender, your insurance may cover the damage, but if the car isn’t fixed for 10 days, you’ll get charged for renting the car for 10 days (and your insurer is unlikely to pay for this).

Furthermore, if you do elect for the company-offered insurance, make sure you understand what is covered. Many car rentals don’t insure natural disaster damage, so that’s something to be wary about depending on where you are driving the car.

Extra Drivers

Many rental programs charge a fee for extra drivers, but they don’t always tell you about it. If you knew the additional price, you might consider dropping one or two people from the driver list. In addition, if you do not list extra drivers and are caught with an unlisted driver, you can be charged an exorbitant fee, similar to that of driving an uninsured car.

Late Fees

While some car rental programs are lenient with tardiness, others are completely unforgiving. Many companies employ the tactic of charging you another day’s price if you so much as go a minute over your allotted time. In other words, if you return your rental car 10 minutes late, you may be charged for another 24 hours rather than for another 10 minutes. This is one policy you definitely need to know ahead of time.

This is obviously not all that you should be aware of when renting a car. You should also be well-versed in gas refill and exterior damage policies. But, for the reasons laid out above, one thing should be clear: take the extra five minutes and read your rental agreement before you hop in and take off. You won’t regret it if you do, but you might regret it if you don’t!


Jimmy Paulson writes frequently on travel tips and vacationing abroad. Those preparing to procure a rental vehicle may want to consider rental car insurance from

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