MoneyConsumerDon't Waste Your Money


Beware of rental car hidden fees this summer

Posted at 1:27 PM, May 31, 2011

Airlines aren't the only companies tacking on extra fees these days. Car rental companies are too.

Extras, plus taxes can actually push the rental rate up 30 to 40 percent, according to our partners at Consumer Reports Magazine. That means your $50 rental can really cost you $70.

But there are ways to reduce those hidden add on.

Beware of added options

Paying for a rental car is just the start. A child safety seat costs extra. So does satellite radio, emergency roadside assistance, even the privilege of using "easy passes" to pay tolls.

Consumer Reports checked the fees at the nine big rental companies, including Enterprise, Hertz, Avis and Dollar.

"Car rental companies don't make it easy to find the charges on their websites. But they certainly do a great job of loading on the fees when you return the car," said Consumer Reports' Lisa Lee Freeman.

Extra Fees for little things

  • For instance, to add a driver costs another $13 to $30 per day. If the second driver is under 25, the fee can jump to more than $100 per day.
  • Lose the key, and that can cost  $375.
  • And be careful about picking up the car in one place and dropping it off in another.

"The lowest drop-off charge we found was $50," said Freeman. "But believe it or not, in some cases Avis charges as much as $1,000 to drop off a car in another location."

And at Avis if you return a car even 30 minutes late, you'll be charged for nearly a full day.

With any car rental, be sure to fill up before you drop off to avoid paying extra-high prices for gas. Then you'll avoid another possible fee for refueling. At Budget it's $14.

Do you need extra collision insurance?

Before you leave home, be sure to check your auto-insurance policy and credit-card protection so you'll know whether you need to sign up for car-rental insurance. It can cost as much as the rental car itself.

And Consumer Reports says it's always a good idea to pay with a credit card. That way you can dispute inaccurate charges.

Finally, if possible, look into renting off-airport (such as Downtown), to avoid airport taxes, which can add another $15 a day.

That way you don't waste your money.


Don't  Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.


Don't Waste Your Money

Have a problem?
Send me an email, at or message me on Facebook.