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Renting Cars For Less

It's that time of the year when Americans are hitting the road for summer travel. So, if you're planning on renting a car, how can you get a good deal? Here are some tips from SmartMoney Magazine's Vera Gibbons:

Legwork

The first trick when renting a car is to actually hit the road. Gibbons suggests physically going to the car rental company and wheeling and dealing with the person behind the counter.

If you have to call, instead of dialing the 800 number, Gibbons suggests phoning the location you're renting from directly.

Flexibility

Be as flexible as possible. Gibbons says you can save as much as 25 percent if you rent the car from an off-airport site.

Skip the Gas

When you go to pick up your car, Gibbons suggests skipping the prepaid gas option. This is the option that lets you return the car without filling up the tank. While it may make your life easier, it's far from a deal. Unless you bring back the car with an empty tank, you're wasting money. Rental car companies never refund you for the gas you didn't use.

Avoid Insurance

Gibbons says most drivers who have their own auto policies do not need to invest in the extra insurance. However, if you do need the extra coverage, she suggests reading the policy carefully. Chances are, there are some loopholes: "Many of these car rental companies will in fact void the waiver all together if the car was left unlocked when the car was actually damaged or stolen," says Gibbons.

Check the Time

Ask the agent what time the car must be returned. Often, if it's more than one hour late you will be charged for a partial or full day.

Driving Away

It's happened to most of us. You pull out in a rental car and can't figure out how to work the windshield wipers, lights, signals, or air conditioning. So, before you start fussing around in oncoming traffic, take these steps to ensure a smooth ride:

Start the Car

Let the car warm up for a few minutes in the rental car parking lot. This will help you make sure the car is running well and isn't making any strange noises.

Turn on the AC

While you're waiting for the car to heat up, turn on the air conditioning. This will allow your car to cool down while you're getting your bearings, looking over your map, and adjusting the radio.

Adjust Mirrors

You don't want to wait until you get on the road to adjust your mirrors. Don't forget about your side mirrors as well as the rear view.

Windows

Figure out how to open and close the windows. You don't want to pull up to a tollbooth not knowing how to roll them down.

Windsheild Wipers

Where are the windshield wipers? Find the controlsbefore it starts raining on you!

Lights

Figure out how to turn on both the low and high beams.

IndependentTraveler.com

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