10 Unexpected Rental Car Charges and Tips to Avoid Them

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The world of rental cars nowadays is fraught with additional charges and added extras which can end up turning what seemed like a good deal into one where the costs quickly spiral out of control. But if you understand some of the most common charges, you are in a much better position to avoid or mitigate against them. This article is here to give you all this information in one place in an easy-to-digest guide. By the end, you should feel a lot more confident about the most common rental car charges out there, as well as how to beat them.
10 Unexpected Rental Car Charges and Tips to Avoid Them


Many car rental deals may seem incredibly cheap to start off with, but it is the insurance which increases costs significantly. Most rental car agencies offer some cover as standard such as collision damage waiver and theft protection, but unless you buy additional cover, you may find that a certain amount is blocked off on your credit card to pay for the excess if you happen to get into an accident when you are out on the road.

Of course, it is entirely your choice whether you want to pay the extra to get insurance over the counter. But you need to make clear exactly what you are receiving for your money. Your other option is to look for cover yourself. There are many agencies which offer rental car insurance at a lower rate, but you need to ensure that you are buying from a reputable supplier. Double check whether you are getting quoted a price for the entire trip or on a day-by-day basis. If you want peace of mind that you are not going to get stuck with a huge bill, proper insurance is a worthwhile investment.

Damage Costs

If the agency finds damages on the car which were not there before the rental period, you are liable to get charged for them. Of course, it is worth checking what sort of condition the car is in before you drive it away. Over the counter, they should give you a form which lists any damages currently on the car. But you should give the vehicle an inspection of your own to check that nothing has been missed. If you find anything on this initial check, you should point it out to staff to be added. Take some pictures for your own records, ensuring that the lighting is adequate enough to see everything properly.

When you return the car, you should check it again and take some more pictures before you hand it back. If there are staff present, you can ask them to inspect the vehicle to ensure that no unexpected charges will be coming your way. If you do get into a dispute, things are much more likely to go your way if you have all the right evidence.

Upgrade Charges

Sometimes, when you go to pick up your rental car, you will find that you are offered a better one than the model you initially chose online. However, these improvements may not be offered to you free of charge. The upgrade charge may come as a daily rate or a flat cost which is charged across the duration of your rental. Don’t feel pressured into accepting an upgrade if you don’t want one. You probably already based your booking on your budget and the features you wanted. Unless something has changed, you may not need the upgrade. Besides, renting a more expensive car is likely to come with a higher security deposit, increased excess, and the insurance costs may also be greater. Do your sums before making a decision.

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Extra Day Charges

When you rent a car, it is usually charged at a daily rate. So, if you book a car for a day and collect it at 1pm, you will need to return it by the same time the following day. If you exceed this 24-hour period, there is every chance that you will be charged for another entire day – even if you are only a little bit late. Obviously, your first course of action should be to take careful note of the dates and times of the booking. Also, you should ask the car rental company for some more information of what their late fee policy is. If you find that circumstances out of your control mean that you are going to end up returning the car late, you should always get in touch with the agency at the earliest possible opportunity. If they know in advance and there are no further rentals booked, you may well find that they are more lenient with you and will not instigate charges.

Booking Changes

Perhaps you had initially decided to have the car for a couple of days but have now chosen to extend your trip. Unfortunately, you may find that you are charged at a higher rate than you had initially paid. First of all, prices tend to go up when you don’t book a long time in advance. But there is also usually a discount applied when you rent the car for longer. On the other side of the coin, you may find that shortening your booking also ends up costing you more. The only thing that you can do about these booking change costs is to make the alterations at the earliest possible opportunity. Try speaking to the agency directly on the phone and they may be willing to make an exception for you. After all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Administration Fees

One of the most frustrating costs which you can encounter when you are renting a car is the price of administration. These can cover various activities including dealing with damage, processing speeding charges, refueling, cleaning the car etc. Bear in mind that these charges are going to be added in addition to any fine that you must cover. Obviously, these costs are going to vary depending on the agency that you have chosen to go with and the size of the fee that you have to pay.

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Your first action should be to read the small print on your contract to get a better idea what sort of fees you are liable to pay. If you see something that you are unhappy with before booking, you can always switch to another agency. Check out the reputation of the agency for a better idea of how well they treat their customers, the likelihood that you will be charged any fees, and how they handle disputes.

Some admin fees can be avoided simply by being conscientious, so make sure that you return the car in a clean condition and with a full tank of gas if that is what you agreed upon. Drive conservatively during the rental period and you are less likely to cause any damage to the car or get speeding fines. If you feel like you have been charged unfairly for any reason, contact the company as soon as possible to get your reasons in order and any evidence that you have to provide.

Young or Senior Charges

Many car rental agencies charge an additional fee if you are a younger or older driver. As a rule of thumb, this will be if you are under 25 years old or over 65, but this obviously varies from company to company. There isn’t much that you can do about these charges except for fully reading the terms and conditions to find out whether or not you will be charged more. You may be able to find an agency which has different age restrictions to ensure that you don’t qualify as a young or old driver.

Toll and One-Way Trip Charges

These are two separate charges which we have decided to group together. Let’s start with toll roads. You are responsible for any tolls which you encounter along the way, and these are straightforward if you encounter physical barriers. However, there is an increasing number of electronic tolls out there. If you don’t pay within the time frame, you can find yourself getting hit with a fine plus any additional admin fees etc. To avoid these charges, you can plan out your route in advance to see if you are going to be driving on any of these roads. If you can’t avoid them, you should set a reminder to pay within the allotted time.

Another charge which you may encounter is a one-way trip fee. This could be applied if you want to return the car to another point than the one you started at. If you book online, this should all be calculated in advance. If you choose one of the bigger rental car agencies with a lot of vehicles, this is less likely to be an issue. So, it is always worth comparing costs before booking to see if this is a charge which can be avoided.

Fuel Costs

When you rent a car, there will be a fuel policy which you are also signing up to. This should be made clear to you by the customer service agent and it will be written on the policy. Many rental agreements are ‘full to full’ which means that you get the car with a full tank of gas and will need to return it full as well. If the company finds it with less fuel, they will charge you a fee to top it back up, plus the cost of the petrol, which could also be more expensive. Alternatively, you may pay for the tank of fuel in advance and return it empty, but many people think that this is not the most economical choice.

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The best way of avoiding any additional fuel costs is simply by sticking to what you initially agreed. Be wary if the company offers to fill the tank back up for you as the fuel price may be higher and you could be charged a fee. If you want to be especially prepared, you could check where the cheapest gas station is nearby to the drop-off point. This way, you know exactly where you need to go before leaving the car and you are not stuck driving around and around in circles searching for the nearest gas station – which may also be more expensive too!

Optional Extras

There are various optional extras which rental car companies offer to increase the amount that you have to pay. A GPS system is probably the most common and can up your bill by several dollars a day. To beat this charge, you could bring along your own GPS if you have one or get a stand to use your smartphone. Alternatively, you could choose a car which already has a GPS system built into the dashboard, so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own, or it getting lost or stolen.

Another common optional extra is a car seat for your child, which will also run up your bill a fair amount. Again, bringing your own along is probably the most obvious way of avoiding being hit with this charge. Bear in mind that some airlines will allow you to check a car seat for free, which is nice to know if you are picking the car up directly from the airport. A further possible charge is for a luggage rack. If you can be economical with your packing or choose a vehicle with more interior storage space, this will help you to get around this one.


Originally posted 2023-11-23 08:40:30.

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