A Millennial’s Ultimate Guide To Renting A Car

Max Pixel

First time renting a car? We understand the struggle. At first glance, renting a car can seem like a lengthy and expensive process, and you’re not totally wrong to think that. There are so many options, you might be overwhelmed and unable to sift through the junk to find the best deals. That’s where we come in. Here is the low-down on how to rent a car without losing your mind (and unnecessary money).

Step 1: Consider your own eligibility.

If you’re under the age of 25, you may not be able to rent a car in your state. Check your state requirements, as well as the requirements on the car rental site. Thankfully, companies like Zipcar allow anyone aged 21 and older to rent a car. In fact, you can even rent a car through Zipcar if you’re 18 to 21 and affiliated with a university (meaning you’re still enrolled).


Step 2: Determine how long you’ll need the car.

If you’re going somewhere unfamiliar for the weekend and need a car for the whole trip, your next step is to consider the most budget-friendly options through sites like Booking Buddy, Kayak and HotWire. But if you’re going back to your hometown, for example, where you could borrow your mother’s car for errands while you’re there, you’ll want to consider renting a car only for the amount of time you’re traveling to your destination.

Let’s say I’m going from New York City to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, which is about three and a half hours away, for the weekend, and I know that I can use my family’s car while there. Instead of looking at rental car services that only provide daily rates, I’ll consult more flexible rental car services like Zipcar and Enterprise, which allow customers to rent cars by the hour. I’d rather rent a car for four hours, drop it off at the rental car company’s Williamsport location, and then reserve another car for my return trip.

Step 3: Beware of the “extras.”

Once you’ve confirmed your eligibility and decided how long you’ll need your rental car for, you’ll want to choose your rental car service. Make sure that your decision accounts for the “extras” that come with the service. For example, services like Kayak allow you to compare prices with multiple rental car companies and offer low prices, but may tempt you to buy separate insurance and demand that you fill up the gas when you return the car. Other companies, like Zipcar, include a gas card you can use free of charge and include insurance in your fee, but you have to pay a monthly cost to use the service. Consider what sort of extras you’d like from your rental car service and make sure what you choose fits your needs.


Step 4: Before you drive away…

  • Make sure to inspect the car and take photos of its condition before driving off to your destination. Even if you bought insurance, you want to make sure that any imperfections that were there before you picked up the car aren’t blamed on you when you return it.
  • Know your rights as a renter before you sign anything. That means you’ll know exactly what to do, who to call and what you will and will not be blamed for if your car breaks down on the side of the road.
  • Do one last budget rundown before scheduling the rental. Consider the daily or hourly fee, taxes, insurance, gas and any other costs the rental car service may charge you for.

Getting from Point A to Point B should be easy enough, but sometimes it’s just not. We believe in the power of rental cars, and that choosing to take one for the weekend shouldn’t cost you an arm or a leg. Consider your options before jumping in, and definitely take the time to learn what you’ll be responsible for in any situation. Renting a car is a piece of cake if you know the basics, so get driving!