Additional fees at a car rental company – how to avoid them?

This topic has been around for as long as rental companies have existed. The problem stems from a simple fact: no customer reads the contract (and its annexes).

They are too long and too complicated. It is impossible for anyone to read the full content of the contract before renting a car. That's how it was and that's how it will be, but can anything be done about it? I think so!

How do car rental companies cheat and rob customers?

The answer is simple: they don't rob! When preparing to write this part of the text, I first searched the Internet for negative opinions about car rental companies. I wanted to learn about the problems that tourists face and the interpretation of these issues by the tourists themselves. I have read and analyzed a lot of negative comments. Moreover, I have experienced several situations that seemed unfair to me and affected me financially. Ultimately, after digging deeper into the matter, it turned out that it was the result of my ignorance and my actions (e.g. traffic offenses with a rented car).

It's better to prevent
In fact, I am writing this text so that everyone who rents a car can avoid the mistakes I described. It's better not to spoil your holiday and not experience unnecessary stress. Especially since you don't have to take any complicated actions. Everything can be done easily and clearly. You just need to know how and that's all!

Rental companies are not our enemies. It is in the rental company's interest that the customer leaves satisfied and willingly rents a car again and again... Rental companies make their living from renting cars, not from robbing tourists for a few euros. The rule is simple as everywhere: a satisfied customer will recommend your service to others, and others to others, etc. Discouraging customers from using your own services is not in the interest of any rental company. But let's move on to discussing specific problems

Customer-rental problems

For a better understanding of the matter, I have divided the most common unpleasant situations into three areas: before the rental, during the rental and after returning the car.

Before renting a car

Some problems start before you rent a car and appear when you pick up the car. The most common problem is that the credit card limit is too small (insufficient to make a deposit).
Negative comments online say that the rental company demanded additional money when renting and did not want to release the car without an additional payment. Let's take a closer look at the matter.

Some people who rent a car online mainly look at the rental price shown in the offer and do not check the other rental conditions. On offer comparison websites you can often find very cheap offers that seem to be a unique opportunity (e.g. the cost of EUR 30 for 7 days of rental, i.e. practically for free) and in fact it is a bargain, but only for people who have a credit card with a large limit . Often, such attractive offers hide a catch that can be checked in the rental conditions. The catch is a very high deposit (often around EUR 1500 - 2000), which the rental company will want to place on the customer's credit card.
If you book a car from such an offer, when picking up the car you will be asked for a credit card to make a deposit. At this point, another surprise may appear. Let's assume you have a credit card with a limit of EUR 2000 and the rental company wants to place a deposit of EUR 1500. Everything seems fine, but when you pick it up, the rental agent says you don't have the right limit. Why?
The reason may be the way credit cards work. Credit card payments are processed with a delay of often up to 60 days. If you use your credit card and have paid with it in the last 60 days, you may have already forgotten about it, but a payment that has not yet been charged to your card blocks and reduces the payment limit available on it. It may turn out that yes, you have a card with a limit of EUR 2000, but the currently available limit is, for example, EUR 1350 and making a deposit will not be possible. And then what?
Some rental companies allow you to make a deposit on several cards (if you have more than one), but there is one condition. The owner of these cards must be the driver. You cannot place part of the deposit on your husband's card and part on your wife's card.
Okay, what if there are no other cards and only the one with no limit? Then the rental company will offer you a solution that most often solves the problem, but most customers (wrongly) describe it as an attempt to extort additional fees.
You will be offered to purchase additional insurance. Additional insurance significantly reduces the required deposit, which can drop, for example, EUR 1500 to EUR 100 (sometimes even drops to zero). You can easily set up such a reduced deposit with your credit card and the problem disappears.
However, the question remains: did the rental company extort money from the customer by acting in this way? Of course not! In my guides, I immediately recommend looking for offers with additional insurance. The rental price is then higher, but the deposit and credit card requirements are much lower or even disappear altogether (and our financial responsibility also decreases).
In the described case, the customer and the rental company simply reached a version of the offer with additional insurance, but they did it only at the rental window, and not in the offer comparison website. If the customer had immediately selected the appropriate offer in the search engine, there would have been no problem when picking up the car, and the final price would have been lower. Additional insurance purchased at the rental counter is usually more expensive than when purchased immediately in a package.

On loan

Various things can happen to us during the rental and it is worth knowing how to behave and what not to do during the rental. You should know that using a car contrary to the rules results in the loss of insurance rights. What exactly is this about in practice?

The cars we rent are intended for driving on traditional, paved public roads (this is what insurance covers). Driving a rental car on dirt roads is considered illegal use and is excluded from insurance. So if you have to cover a section of the road on such a road, you should do it carefully enough to avoid any damage. The exception are situations in which you rent a car with this intention (i.e. with the intention of off-road driving) and this intention is included in the rental conditions. This situation often occurs, for example, in Iceland, where many roads are dirt or gravel. Rental companies also allow you to rent a car to drive on such roads, but the rental is then covered by additional insurance.

The topic here is simple: driving under the influence of any intoxicants will result in loss of insurance. You are fully responsible for any damage that occurs from your own funds.

Burglaries and attempted thefts
A situation that could happen. If you notice any damage that may indicate an attempt to break into your car, you must report it to the police. The test is necessary to benefit from insurance. So you report the matter to the police, wait for the police to arrive and receive an incident report from the police. If such unpleasantness happens to you, be sure to take care of it. The rental company will require it.

Collisions and other road accidents
The procedure is the same as in the case of a burglary attempt. You must report a road accident to the police and obtain a report from the police.

If you are afraid that the rental company may want to look for damage to the car for which it will want to charge a fee, just take a few photos of the car when picking up the car and take the same photos after returning the car. I have rented cars many times and in many countries. I've never had a rental company try to do something like this, but I always take a few photos anyway.

Traffic offenses
Sometimes, when leaving, we happen to exceed the speed limit or enter a zone for which we are not authorized. If we are caught by the road patrol, they write us a ticket and nothing happens. However, if we are caught by a speed camera or city monitoring, we will receive a ticket by mail with some delay. Of course, we, not the rental company, pay for the fine. However, this involves another additional fee, which is charged after returning the car (I have extensive experience in this matter).
The police or other service that registers your offense (e.g. speeding on a speed camera, violating a restricted traffic zone on city monitoring, improper parking, etc.) issues a fine to the car owner (based on the registration number). The owner, i.e. the car rental company, receives a fine and is obliged to pay it or point out to the police the perpetrator who was driving the vehicle at that time. Of course, the rental company provides the police with your data and the police sends you a fine, but for activities related to providing your data to the police, the rental company will charge you a fee (usually around EUR 50). For each fine you will have to pay two amounts: the main amount of the fine and a fee for the rental company for providing the data to the police.
The rental company will charge this fee from the deposit or directly from your card, and you will have to pay the fine yourself. For speeding on a motorway in Spain, which was recorded by a speed camera (speed 124 km/h with a speed limit of 120 km/h), a ticket landed in my mailbox just three weeks after the incident. By the way, with Spanish fines, if I paid them within two weeks of receiving the notification, I would get a 50% discount (this information was on the fine). I received a fine of EUR 4 for exceeding the speed limit by 100 km/h, so I quickly paid EUR 50 and that closed the case (the payment is made by transfer to the indicated account, converted according to the current exchange rate into the local currency). The second EUR 50 was taken from my card by the rental company as a fee for handling the fine, i.e. for providing my data to the Spanish police.

After returning the car

The rental company can and sometimes does charge various fees even after you return the car. There may be several reasons, and fees may arise even long after we return the car. How is this possible? Here are some main reasons.

Fuel policy
When it comes to fuel, most rental companies follow a simple rule: we get the car with a full tank and return it with a full tank. If the nearest station is 20 km or even further from the rental company and we can't refuel just before returning the car, then... it doesn't matter. After fully refueling, the fuel gauge in the car usually does not even blink for the first 50 km, so the gas station does not have to be right next to the rental place.
However, it may happen that for some reason you return the car without refueling it before returning it. Then, before handing the car over to the next user, the rental company will fill the car up for you and charge your card for the fuel filled, plus the amount of the refueling service. From my experience, the rental company charges EUR 2 for each liter of fuel (the actual fuel price is EUR 1,2) and an additional fee for the refueling service itself is from EUR 20 to EUR 50.
This fee will be charged from your card deposit or directly from your card. Therefore, it is worth remembering to return the car with a full tank.

Dirty car
Sometimes, after returning the car, rental companies charge a fee for washing and cleaning the interior of the car. This has never happened to me, but once I was sure it would. I rented a car for 16 days. During this time, we traveled extensively around Portugal, enjoying the charms of this beautiful country. After more than two weeks of use, the outside of the car was very dusty, and the sidewalks and trunk showed clear signs of use (sand from the beach in the trunk, pebbles, remains of earth, particles of mud from walks in the mountains, etc.). Despite all this, the rental company did not collect any money.
However, I imagine that if, for example, a dog travels on the back seat and gets it muddy with its paws, or there are traces of ice on the upholstery that fell on a child, melted and soaked into the upholstery, there will be a fee. The cost of such cleaning depends on the degree and type of dirt (usually several dozen EUR).

Late return of the car
Minor delays (a dozen or so - several dozen minutes) usually do not result in any consequences. Car rental companies are quite flexible in this respect, but if you are late by more than an hour, they may charge an additional fee. The amount of the fee depends, of course, on the scale of the delay, but is usually not less than several dozen EUR.
On this occasion, however, I would like to point out that when booking a car, it is worth specifying the return time, which gives you a large margin of safety. A car is rented for 11 hours, so it often doesn't matter whether you declare the car to be returned at 00:16 or 00:XNUMX p.m. The rental cost remains the same. So you can enter a much later time. Then you simply return the car before the scheduled time.

Road and motorway tolls
Some countries (e.g. Portugal) have automatic toll collection systems for toll road sections. There are no gates or any toll collection points. There are cameras installed above the road that read registration numbers from cars and automatically charge the vehicle owners assigned to them. The rental company then charges your tolls and then takes them from your deposit or card.

Deposit return
Why don't rental companies release the deposit immediately after returning the car? After reading everything I wrote above, you can now answer this question yourself. Before releasing the deposit, rental companies wait a few days to see if there are any additional fees: fines, road tolls, etc. Nowadays, everything is happening faster than a few years ago, so rental companies release the deposit much faster than before. On my last rentals, deposits were released after 3 to 7 days.

Car rental guide

If you are looking for a simple way to rent a car cheaply and safely, be sure to read this entry: Car rental without a credit card and without a deposit – [CLICK]. I think it will make things easier and clearer for you!

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