Car rental was invented in the USA by Walter L. Jacobs in 1918, and is now a major global industry.
Specialized companies operate booths conveniently located at airport arrival lounges or railway stations, and some have downtown offices. Independent operators located in downtown areas and often are less expensive than those with offices at airports.
These days you can rent all types of cars (self-drive or chauffeured), as well as vans and trucks.
Car rental requires a little homework – first check on the reputation of the company and how long it has been in business, then compare prices, rules and regulations, and locations.
Always reserve in advance, establish the right size and model for your needs, and settle insurance questions (Many credit cards include rental car insurance, but this may not be enough to cover all types of accidents, and may not be acceptable of by some companies in some countries.
The size of the vehicle becomes important for family vacations with regard to the number of passengers and space for luggage. Avoid SUVS, crossovers, and cabriolets pending on the size of your party.
Also, remember that some rental companies exaggerate the capacity of their cars. A “mid size” rental may be too small for four people with luggage.
Familiarize yourself with all the features of the car before you drive off the lot, and ask about prepaying the fuel. It may become expensive if you have to fill the tank upon returning. Some rental companies allow you to drop off the car downtown if you pick up at the airport, other will pick you up at the airport and drive you their nearby lot.
Rentals come with numerous extra charges, including state or provincial or federal taxes, airport surcharges and sometimes even maintenance charges. Above all, inspect the car, (especially in third world countries) inside and out thoroughly in the presence of a rental company official and have him/her sign a form that the car was in perfect condition when you picked it up. If there are bumps or scratches on the body record them. Rental companies check the car thoroughly when you return it and charge even for small scratches.
Before you drive of check the oil and look at the engine. Make sure the windshield liquid container is full.
Many rental companies offer now extras like GPS (Global Positioning System) for easy navigation, mobile phones, entertainment systems and others.
Comprehensive insurance coverage may be your best bet, even though it is expansive.
If you are listed as the driver, refrain form letting other people drive the car.
Thieves love tourists, more so in eastern and southern European countries that attract foreigners. Keep all your belongings out of sight, better yet, whenever possible, park in supervised lots.
If you are involves in collision, immediately write down the licence number, of the other car, and take a picture of the car and damage. Collision and theft become major problems in foreign countries that insist that you use the local language. Translators may be hired (with notable difficulty and at major expense). Think twice before renting a car in “left drive’ countries if you are not the resident of one.
Now some states in the USA are installing electronic tollbooths, and even though you not see them and pass through, cameras take a picture. Months layer you may receive a notice from the rental company with a small charge for the infraction but a hefty “handling charge” from the company.
Remember that some companies may state their unlimited mileage policy, but it may not apply to the state in which you rent the car. Drive only in the state in which you have rented, if not otherwise stated, you may be liable for extra charges.
Finally, remember that European rental companies refuse your business if you indicate that you will drive in Italy.