Car Rental – Things You Should and Should Not Do

Renting a car may seem simple, but there are so many things that you should take into account. Various things can happen, such as something that might have been left behind or not fully examined when initially checking out your options, which will eventually surface and create inconveniences at some point along the road.

Have you wondered whether it is necessary to add additional insurance they offer? Or if there is something about having to refuel during a trip that makes you more anxious? What should you do if the car will not start in the middle of anywhere? Are you able to drive cross-country with a rental vehicle? What if any of these inconveniences occur while you are already on the road? What should you do then? Many questions come up when you rent a car for the first time.

If you plan a road trip or fly for vacation, renting a vehicle is usually necessary. Renting cars can take a lot of money out of your vacation budget, but there are ways to save and find discounts and deals on car rentals. These simple tips and advice will assist you in finding the best rental agreement without breaking the bank.

Renting a car is much more stressful than simply taking a car or van. It would be best to take the necessary precautions to keep your family safe during your next vacation. By choosing the right rental company with optimal rates per mile, you will be prepared to get where you need to go without having to worry about paying extreme amounts of money once you arrive at your destination.

Car Rental Tips

Whenever you find yourself wanting to join in an adventure, but you are not sure of when or where it will be, you might consider renting a vehicle instead. Here are 17 questions you might have whenever you rent a car to ensure that your trip runs smoothly and is comfortable even if something unexpected were to come up.

My Rental Car Needs Gas?

Returning the rental vehicle with a full tank of gas is convenient, but you do not want to be surprised by an unexpected bill at the end of your trip. If you anticipate doing this, plan accordingly with extra time before returning the car to make sure you can fuel up before handing it in. 

When renting a car for our vacation, we were charged outrageous gas prices. Some unscrupulous car rental companies even gave us receipts, which could have been easily printed at home, to make us look like we had already filled up the tank! What a hassle in addition to being very irritating.

My Rental Car Will Not Start?

If you are in a situation where the rental car will not start, the first thing you should check is if the battery is good or there is enough fuel in your tank, and then ask the rental car company, explain the issue and how urgently you need a replacement car.

They will send someone to tow the damaged car away and replace it with another. If you have to pay for travel/hiring a taxi, find out how they can reimburse you later.

Should I Wash My Rental Car?

In short, no. Renting a car is all part and parcel of doing business these days. However, some rental car companies may ask you to clean up after yourself inside the vehicle – this is particularly true if passengers have left wrappers or crumbs on the floor, which quickly collect dirt!

So whether that means clearing out your cup holder or sweeping up stray candy wrappers on the seat next to you, brush away any collected dirt and dust.

Should I Fix My Rental Car?

If the damage is minor and can be covered by your insurance, then having it repaired yourself will save you money or prevent you from being charged for damage not covered by the insurance.

However, hiccups can happen and can be costly because, say, for instance, your insurance does not cover the repair work expense. After all, the rental company may deny accepting damages done to their vehicle later on down the road because you did not inform them about this before returning it.

My Rental Car Has a Scratch?

If your rental vehicle collides with a guardrail or anything that damages the rental car, you will be penalized for damages. The most critical rental vehicle tip is to check every rental car thoroughly when you receive it, both inside and out. 

Any damages you notice on your rental car should be reported to the company immediately, and you should take photographs just in case. Never think that a scratch or dent is little or unnoticeable. When you surrender your rental car, make sure you obtain a slip stating that everything was in working order.

Can I Smoke in a Rental Car?

Rental companies often check if there are any signs of smoking inside the car once it is returned to them. If there is, they will charge a fee for cleaning up the ash and smoke smell which can cause damage to their inventory.

If it has damaged their property, they will bill you the full cost of fixing their interior.

Can You Vape in a Rental Car?

If you want to avoid a hefty extra fee on top of your regular car rental price, beware of smoking or vaping in your rental car. Many companies are strict about these kinds of behaviors, knowing that non-smokers find the smell intolerable. They will need to take the vehicle out of service for longer periods to clean and deodorize it after finding traces of smoke.

Penalties vary but can be very substantial depending on which company you are renting with, so if you decide to drive off with some passengers traveling in the back seat while enjoying a cigarette, be prepared to pay some expensive additional charges just in case!

Rent a Car Without a Driver’s License?

You may rent a car, but only if the renter can qualify for driving it. Generally, this means that you must have a driver’s license in your possession at the time of rental.

Certain exceptions apply in cases where your license is expired or not applicable within your country of residence, so be sure to contact the service for details on plans B and C!

Rent a Car Without a Physical License?

To rent a car, customers must present both a valid, unexpired government-issued driver’s license that contains their photograph and the legal rental agreement to the manager at checkout. No digital licenses are acceptable that can be viewed on mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets!

Active United States Armed Forces members may be presented with an expired home state license under certain circumstances. Customers who choose to transfer their military license back to their home state must first meet various requirements. They must present an ‘Active Military ID’ as well as a copy of their extension policy.

These policies may vary by state. Customers are encouraged to reapply for licensure with the appropriate department of rental vehicles to ensure they adhere to all regulations and do not run into any further problems with licensing beyond what is necessary for this process.

My Rental Car Has a Flat Tire?

In case your vehicle has a flat tire or damaged wheels, your first call should be to the rental car company’s roadside assistance line or customer service number. The car company is responsible for contributing to the cost of repairs but is not necessarily liable for all of the costs associated with fixing your car if they do not provide it as part of their regular customer service offerings.

My Rental Car Was Hit While Parked

Contact the rental company right away. It is best for those involved in an accident with a rental car to call their insurance companies to ensure both parties did not sustain injuries. The one responsible for the damage will be protected from financial repercussions taken on by either end.

Make sure everyone is alright and speak with each other’s assistance first because this might alleviate some of the burdens later down the line otherwise.

My Rental Car Was Towed

Although it might not be your fault when a car is towed off the road, it is never ideal to go through such an event. To avoid any unnecessary delays in getting your vehicle back to you, we recommend dealing with the rental company first and foremost about the situation.

This way, they can deal with the cause of the car being impounded and hopefully free it up for you as quickly as possible – so do not forget to notify them about such incidents beforehand!

My Rental Car Was Towed by the Police

Police may tow cars or drivers who are deemed to have broken the law. If a driver is pulled over for questioning, the vehicle will be kept somewhere secure until the officer is done with them. If there are any problems with your car, it may be towed by the police to not cause any trouble with traffic flow.

When a car is towed, only the owner may have it released from impound. If you have been stuck having to get an impounded rental car deal with the problem, then let your rental company know as soon as you realize that your car has been towed. By doing that, they should then be able to deal directly with the police about getting the car back into their possession faster.

Do Car Rentals Charge for Cleaning?

A cleaning fee is also known as a car valeting charge, and it is imposed when the car you have rented has been returned in a quite dirty state. It may be surprising for renters to learn that some rental firms will only rent out cars that are washed several times over at their centers before being available to rent out.

Hence, if anyone returns a car in a relatively dirtier state than they had received it, they may get slapped with this fee, such as having too muddy or dusty tires.

Do Car Rentals Charge for Scratch?

A part of the rental agreement involves having to carefully check for damage to the vehicle. The rental company will charge you for out-of-service time and repair costs if the vehicle is returned and says there is damage and it wasn’t reported at pick up.

Notify the agent about any scratches, paint chips, dents, etc., so they can be noted on your rental agreement before you sign off on it.

Can You Rent a Car With a DUI?

A car rental company has the right to refuse individuals with DUIs. The time that it has been between your DUI and when you ask for a rental is also considered.

Most of the time, companies will deny rental cars to anyone who has been convicted on a DUI charge.

My Rental Car Needs an Oil Change?

If your rental car’s driver’s dashboard display indicates your rental vehicle needs an oil change, by all means, take a photograph and send it to the rental company. An amber oil change due warning light or message is not an emergency and although irritating to view on the driver’s display, it won’t have any bearing on the vehicle’s performance. It’s quite safe to drive on.

A red warning oil light on the dashboard is however an emergency. If you have a red oil warning light, move off the highway and turn the engine off as soon as possible. A red oil warning light likely means your rental car’s engine is low on oil.

In the vast majority of cases, topping up the oil level will put the light out and you can continue on your journey. Of course, that’s assuming you are close to civilization and can obtain engine oil.

In any event, the first action is to shut off the motor take a picture of the warning light and notify your rental company before taking any further action.

If you choose to buy and add oil, be sure to get a receipt and take some video evidence of both dipping the oil and adding the oil. This will aid you no end when attempting to recoup your out-of-pocket expenses.

Check out how to dip engine oil level and add oil in this post “OK to add new oil without draining?.”

My Rental Car Broke Down

If noise in your rental car’s engine makes you believe there is a mechanical fault, have the rental company come and inspect the auto at a mutually convenient place. If it turns out that you are right and there is a problem with the car which makes it unfit for the road, ask the rental company to hire you an alternative vehicle for free.

COVID Consideration

  • It is a good idea to enquire about the rental company’s car cleaning procedure.
  • Choose a car rental service that provides contactless rentals to avoid the rental car counter. 
  • Wipe off door handles, steering, shifters, and control panels with disinfectant wipes before getting in.


Renting a car is not always the most simple of tasks. However, if you take the time to think critically about your trip beforehand and map out exactly what you want to get up to while on the journey there, it will not seem nearly as daunting.

By wondering how long it will take, roughly how much you will spend on gas and entertainment along the way, and by saving, not only will you earn extra reward points per mile plus bonuses that can be used towards discounts on both services. All this preparation beforehand will make road tripping less stressful and cheaper.

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John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on I've been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of classic car ownership, from tires to roof aerials and everything in between.

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