Corporate consolidation and price wars have diminished the customer experience with most car rentals, so it’s great to see a company like Hertz devoting attention to family needs. How many of us have waited on interminable rental car lines while our kids topple the luggage and lean on the rental agent’s counter and whine? Those days may soon be over.
Tech Makes Car Rentals Quicker All Around
Families booking a rental car with Hertz and many of the other major brands can expect:
- A mobile text/email service that confirms your reservation and car location prior to arrival. For loyalty program members, your family can skip the line and head straight to the car so you can get on the road.
- Interactive airport kiosks that facilitate the rental process, so you can rent a car, with or without a reservation, through a booking kiosk or a live, face-to-face video chat with an agent.
- Receipts by email for the final bill can ease the drop-off process but if you need one for work, wait and get a paper copy. Trust us on this one.
Technology & Service Make Getting There Easier Too
The majors offer technology-enabled assistance for everything from navigation to soundtracks to social sharing, usually at additional fees. If you’re not Google Navigator fans, consider adding a pre-installed in-car GPS system.
The Hertz NeverLost system features more than 6 million points of interest for your co-pilot to review, including popular chains, local family-friendly sights as well as weather forecasts. Before departure you can visit their website, do some research, and get started planning each day’s stops.
Have you decided on a compact, midsize or SUV? If you find yourself doing lots of miles in the planning stage, save money by reserving a hybrid Prius or fuel-efficient car like the Toyota Camry, or an electric Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt if available.
On any road trip, the unexpected can happen… car breakdowns are not inevitable. Having many rental car locations is something the big companies can afford but the cheapest ones cannot. Be sure to find out if your rental car company will provide pick-up and drop off service while your car is being fixed, or have an immediate replacement. Many will loan you another car seat if you left yours at home; some rental minivans actually have built-in safety seats.
Rental Cars for Overseas & European Road Trips
Families visiting Europe for three weeks or longer should investigate the Lease-buy-Back options offered by Renault and other European can companies. They have several advantages — they are open to drivers over 18 (many rental companies charge a fee for youth insurance); allow you to drive through 40 countries (many rental cars cannot cross borders without special fees and permits); and they’re cheaper. With Renault, for example, families can choose a brand new car, pick it up from a variety of locations, sightsee with unlimited mileage; then return the car when done.
Hertz’ Family Collection is designed for those fortunate enough to be traveling abroad or visiting relatives on short stays. It is currently available in seven European countries: UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain, France and Italy with a selection of larger vehicles. At AutoEurope, families can choose between Lamborghinis and camper vans, with dozens of choices inbetween. They have excellent rates with the largest fleets in France, Italy and Germany among their 8,000 rental car locations worldwide. Avis too has a large fleet in several European countries and offers a seven-day rental for the price of five days. We can’t wait to see what they do with their new baby overseas — Zipcar were pioneers in the US car sharing market.
Meanwhile, Hertz On Demand is a car sharing service available in Europe for those who want 24/7 vehicle access without the commitment and cost of a full time rental contract. Like Zipcar with a passport, it’s available to families or young adults (ages 18+) who want to make a quick trip in the US, UK, France, Spain and Germany. In both the US and the UK there are no membership fees to sign up, and you have access to the most energy-efficient hybrids, EPA SmartWay-certified, and electric vehicles.
Avoid Common Mistakes Made by Rental Car Customers
According to the UK-based online broker 121 Car Hire, which represents 15,000 rental locations across 115 countries, these are the most common mistakes made by renters.
- Excess insurance may not be necessary. Car rental companies’ insurance policies are often more expensive than booking in advance with a third party. Collision damage waiver cover can be obtained online, with your travel insurance policy, and with credit cards if you need it.
- Check the car before and after renting. Car rental providers should review the vehicle’s condition with you on arrival and again on return so you can avoid unexpected charges.
- Carry documentation and the credit card you booked with. Read the small print and make sure you take all the required documents when you go to collect the vehicle.
- Be clear on your fuel policy and remember who’s filling up on return. Remember that fuel policies and prices differ at every company, so check every time.
- Budget for locally payable costs. Items such as GPS navigation systems and car seats that you book ahead will be charged on return, so be prepared to pay a daily rate for these.
How to Save on Rental Cars – Tips courtesy of Hertz
Here are some useful tips that can save you money on your next family car rental:
- How big a car do you need? Determine ahead of time what size vehicle and extras you may need for your rental car, and do the math to make sure the costs fit within your budget. This may be the vacation to rent a 4-door Porsche Panamera for the family; the majors have special “collections” available at select locations. If not, set your price goals, compare prices online, review offers with your airline tickets and inquire at your credit card companies.
- Read the fine print on rental contracts. Is there a penalty for no-shows? How much are you charged if the car is returned late? Is there a fee for additional drivers and do their names have to be listed in the contract?
- Time your rental right. Determine how long you need a rental; sometimes a weekly rate can provide savings vs. shorter rentals. Also, consider pick-up dates for the car -– sometimes weekday rates can provide cost savings.
- Booking ahead can save you money. Often when you a renting a vehicle, it is best to plan ahead because so people make reservations close to the time they need their car. By planning ahead, you can do your homework to find and lock-in the best rates, pre-pay and save even more, well in advance of your trip.
- Shop for deals online and save. Look online for special deals or promotions. In addition to looking at travel sites like Hotwire.com or Priceline.com, look at the car rental company’s site for any special deals they may be hosting. Also, check the company’s social media sites like Twitter and Facebook for special deals, since more and more these companies are using them to connect with customers.
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