Across the USA by car without overpayments and unpleasant surprises

Across the USA by car without overpayments and unpleasant surprises

The author of a blog about travel life, Alexey Glazunov, talks about the pitfalls that you are likely to stumble upon when booking a car in the USA.

When we were planning our trip to the USA, we didn’t even think about whether it was worth renting a car or not. The experience of traveling around France, Spain and Portugal has shown that there is hardly another method comparable in efficiency and convenience, thanks to which you can see the maximum number of places in a minimum time. Well, this applies to America to an even greater extent – the distances there are huge and it’s unlikely to be possible to get to the far corners of national parks by public transport.

Well, besides, as practice has shown, traveling around the USA by car is a real pleasure! The roads are magnificent, wide and straight, traffic outside the cities is minimal, the drivers are careful, in general, I don’t want to drive.

In general, the car rental scheme in the States is almost the same as in Europe, but still, there are some peculiarities, which we will talk about in this article.

We rented a car in Las Vegas, and at first we planned to just spend a couple of days there, and only then, after the wedding ceremony, to go traveling to the national parks. We didn’t need a car in the city itself, so we didn’t rent it right away, but still, it turned out to be more profitable to rent it at the airport. So this is life hack #1– compare rental points in the same city, even at the same rental office, prices may differ depending on the specific point.

Or it may be that in a neighboring town the prices will be even cheaper and if the issue of saving is acute, then it will be more profitable to drive there and rent a car there.

The second interesting point that pleasantly surprised us was the ability to choose a specific car. We rented a car twice – first a Ford Mustang, and then a crossover, and both times they not only gave us a specific car, but sent us to the parking lot with an offer to choose the appropriate color, and in the second case, even the brand. But perhaps this is not a common practice in the USA and we were just lucky.

Across the USA by car without overpayments and unpleasant surprises

As for choosing a rental company, there are two ways – go through the websites of international and American companies (like Hertz, Dollar, Avis, Budget, Thrifty, Alamo, and so on.),

or, which is much more convenient, use the OneTwoTrip booking service. In this case, in any case, the contract will be concluded with one of the rental companies.

What to pay attention to:

1. Insurance. We recommend taking full coverage without a deductible. Most often, insurance is included in the price, but it is better to clarify this. There will, of course, be a certain overpayment, but it will not be compared with the cost of repairs if something suddenly happens. For example, in Death Valley, while trying to get to Sliding Rocks, we punctured a tire so badly that it was beyond repair and required a complete replacement, but since we had full insurance, we didn’t have to pay anything extra. By the way, read the insurance conditions carefully; most often, insurance coverage does not apply to glass and wheels.

There are two types of insurance – SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance) and LDW (Loss Damage Waiver),

are analogues of our MTPL and CASCO insurance, respectively.

In addition to insurance, which was included in the rental price, we already took out another one at the rental point (Roadsafe) – something like an emergency commissioner, when you can call a special number anywhere in the country and help will come to you. Managers are very actively “selling” it, apparently for them this is an additional sale with good commissions, so be careful, you can definitely do without this service.

2. Mileage. If you plan to drive a lot, then check to ensure that there are no restrictions on mileage (you will have to pay extra over the limit). This is not a very common practice, but nevertheless it happens.

3. Documents. Theoretically, our regular driver’s license (plastic card) should be valid in the USA,

but in many places they require an international certificate (book). Therefore, in order to avoid misunderstandings, we recommend that you apply for one before your trip, especially since it’s inexpensive, they issue an IDP quickly, and now they don’t require a medical certificate for registration.

4. Additional equipment. If you need something special – a car seat, a navigator, wheel chains (you never know),

This should be indicated when booking, otherwise something may not be available. Most often, you will need to pay extra for this on the spot.

5. Age and experience. If you are a young driver, or have recently received a license, then the rental cost for you may be higher.

6. Payment and deposit.In addition to the money you pay when booking, at the time of completing documents at the office, a certain amount will be additionally frozen on your bank card. In many companies, the card must belong to the person registered as the driver (by default, this is one person, for the 2nd, 3rd, etc. you need to pay extra). Cash is most often not accepted as a deposit. The deposit will be unfrozen a few days after the vehicle is returned and damages may be deducted (if not covered by insurance),

as well as possible fines for parking, speeding, etc.

7. Return.Some companies allow you to drop off your car at another office or even another city (with an additional charge). In some cases, this may make sense, for example, if you plan to pick up the car in Los Angeles and drop it off in San Francisco and don’t want to drive it back.

8. Gasoline. Each company may have its own fuel policy – somewhere they give a car with a full tank, but you need to return it with an empty one. Somewhere you can choose empty or full and pay for fuel on the spot – most often it will not be much, but more expensive. It’s cheaper to refuel yourself. By the way, keep in mind that the price of gasoline may vary significantly in different states or regions. So, we didn’t refuel before going to Death Valley, where there are very few gas stations, and firstly, we were nervous that we would be stuck in the middle of the desert, and secondly, when we finally got to the gas station, we had to fill up with expensive gasoline.

Across the USA by car without overpayments and unpleasant surprises

If you rent a car at the airport, then at the exit check how to get to your rental office. Most often there is a shuttle from the airport that makes stops at different companies.

Another little trick – the default booking time on car rental sites is 12:00. Many people forget to change it, so there may be a crowd at this time, it is better to choose some other time.

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