Consumer Alert

How to avoid the car rental blues

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If you’re among the many headed away for spring break, pay extra close attention if you’re renting a car. In fact, pay extra close attention whenever you rent a car.

I recently heard from a Duxbury woman who found herself with extra charges from a car rental in Florida that were more than the price of the rental itself. Another reader wrote in about being hit with fees for using a GPS that was neither requested nor installed.

Renting cars can be confusing business, particularly when you go to a popular tourist spot. The busier it is, the more rushed it is, the easier it is to end up signing up for services you don’t want.

The whole process is clunky, so it’s helpful to know what you’re going to do before you get where you’re going. If you want something extra, like a GPS, book it. Car rental agents are rewarded for selling upgrades, so they’ll try to get you to bite.

Check with your credit card company and auto insurer before you leave to find out about your coverage for rental cars. If you’re going to decline the rental company’s insurance, as most people should, be aware of the language they use. Accepting their “collision damage waiver” means you’re signing up for their insurance. If you don’t want it, the operative word is “decline.”

If you’re offered a “free upgrade,” make sure that free means no added charges. Check the rate on your reservation against the rate they are going to charge. If you spot any damage on the car, take a picture with your phone with a time stamp on it and be sure the damage is recorded at the rental agency as happening prior to you using the vehicle.

Be sure to review what is printed at the rental counter before you walk away to make sure the terms are what you agreed to. Some of the people I’ve heard from eventually won back their money after some effort. You shouldn’t have to fight to get back money from erroneous charges.

Enjoy your vacation.

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