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Car Rental Hidden Costs

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Discover some car rental hidden costs before renting.

Discover some car rental hidden costs before renting.

Unfortunately, like many things, rental cars can have hidden costs – making your trip more expensive than you bargained for. You shouldn’t expect to pay just the price you are quoted for a rental. By the end of your trip, you’ll rack up a few extra “car rental hidden costs.” There is good news, though – if you are aware of these car rental hidden costs, you can avoid sticker shock and unnecessary charges.

Let’s start with the obvious ones. These aren’t really hidden charges, but they are worth keeping in mind.

  • Sales tax. We know that you know this, but sales tax will be added on to your car rental rates.
  • Gas. If you don’t fill the gas tank before returning the rental, the rental car company will most likely charge a huge premium to do it themselves.
  • Insurance. Buying insurance through the rental company is optional, and you’re likely already covered through your personal auto policy or credit card. Double check to make sure you don’t pay for this if you don’t need it.

Beyond those charges, which most of us already know about, there are several other charges which can catch you off guard.

  • Authorization hold. Hopefully your rental agency will warn you of this one, but many rental companies will “hold” an extra few hundred dollars on your credit or debit card on top of the rental fee price, then credit the money back to you when you hand over the keys. Some hotels also do this – the idea is to secure funds for damage you may cause while driving the car. This is particularly annoying since you may not have planned for that extra $200 in your account to suddenly be unavailable, especially while travelling.
  • Charges for damage. It’s important to note any and all damage to the rental car before driving off the rental car lot. You could be charged for even the smallest dents or scratches if they aren’t on record as pre-existing. Save yourself any hassle by doing a thorough inspection.
  • Cancellation fees. If you make a rental car reservation and then cancel it, you’ll likely be charged a fee – often around $10. Even worse, if you don’t cancel and don’t show up, expect to pay around $50.
  • Return car at a different location. If you plan to rent a car at one location, and return it to a different location, often you will incur extra charges.
  • Higher costs for airport rentals. This should generally be reflected in your daily rate, but rental car companies usually have to pay a concession fee to the airport in order to operate near it. These fees are usually passed along to the customer, and most are willing to pay it in exchange for the convenience associated with an airport pickup. It might be worth looking into daily rates for companies in town, especially if you plan to rent the car for a long period of time.
  • Under 25 Penalty. It wasn’t long ago that you couldn’t even rent a car if you were under 25 years old, but now most companies allow anyone over 21 to rent a car, but will slap a big fee on the bill.
  • Extra Driver. If you plan to have anyone besides yourself driving the car, you’ll have to pay a fee. This one’s not worth fibbing about, because if you get into an accident when a non-authorized driver is driving, you might not be covered under insurance. Shop around because some companies will waive this fee, especially if the other driver is the primary driver’s spouse.