Your car rental agreement spells out all the terms and conditions of your car rental. I think it's important to be aware of everything on your contract; after all, you've signed it!
I certainly don't expect everyone to read the whole rental car contract while they're
standing in line at the rental counter (that would really drive the people behind you crazy) but I think that you should be aware of what is on it.
Contracts and their terminology will, of course, vary from company to company, but there are some standard categories and items which will be specified and which you need to be aware of and familiar with. I've listed the most common items on a car rental agreement and some information about each item.
Don't forget to always keep your car rental contract with you, while you are in your rental vehicle. It shows that you are in possession of the vehicle legally. Technically, if you are stopped by the police while in a the vehicle and do not have the contract on you, it can be considered theft and the vehicle impounded until you could show proof of possession via your agreement. (It's a lot easier to keep it in the car!!)
Car Rental Agreement Basics
Rental Contract Number
This number identifies your rental. You will need this number if you need to call the location to modify your rental information or extend the length of your rental. It is sometimes listed as an RA # or RA Document # and is usually located at the very top(left or right-hand side) of your car rental agreement.
Vehicle or Car Number
The car number or vehicle number is the serial number of the car and designates the specific vehicle that is rented on the rental agreement. This number should be on the key chain as well as on your contract.
This figure indicates the number of miles on the vehicle at the time of pickup. The car rental company will record the mileage again, when you return your rental. If you were limited to a certain number of miles per day or per rental, the difference in these figures will be used to determine the amount, if any, you would be required to pay for over mileage. Over mileage fees vary by company and sometimes by car type.
Fuel Indicator/Gas Indicator
This section will indicate the level of fuel in the gas tank at the time of your pick up. Whatever that level is, you will be expected to return your rental car with the same amount of gas, as shown. Make sure to check to see if the figure on your car rental agreement stated for Gas In or Fuel in is the same as what shows on your actual gas gauge! It can be difficult to dispute at the end of the rental.
Rental Location,Pick up Date, Pick up Time
This information shows the date and time that you pick up your rental car and the code or specifics for the rental station where the vehicle was picked up.
Return Location,Return Date,Return Time
This information shows the pre-determined return date and time as well as the rental station where you have agreed to return the rental car. If you are planning a one-way rental, make sure that the correct return location is listed on your contract.
Inspection Report or Vehicle Conditons (This may be a separate sheet or form attached to your car rental agreement)
This report will document any dings, scratches and damage, that may already be present on the rental car. The vehicle will be inspected upon return and any new dings, scratches or damages will be attributed to you.
You may also notice on your contract, a stipulation that you will agree to pay, if applicable, a fee for cleaning the car’s interior, upon return, for excessive stains, dirt or soilage attributable to your use. (if you smoked in a non-smoking vehicle, or had a pet in the vehicle that shed excessively, etc). You should always try and return the rental car in the same state as you received it, to avoid a cleaning fee.
If at all possible, I strongly recommend going over this report to make sure there are no damages that you see on the vehicle that are not listed on the report. If you see any discrepencies, call the rental company right away. You don't want to get charged for damage that was already there.
What one of my friends does, is take several pictures of his rental vehicle from different angles. That way he has proof of the condition of the vehicle when he picked it up, which gives him an advantage if he finds a charge on his final bill for damage which he knows did not occur during his rental. You may dispute any discrepency in your final bill.
Terms of Rental or Vehicle Regulations
There is often a statement that lists the terms of your rental with regard to the vehicle, permissible cargo, the use of the rental vehicle and additional drivers. For example:
• the rented vehicle won't be used to carry people or things for hire
• only passengers may be in the interior of the vehicle
• the number of passengers is limited to the number of seat belts in the vehicle
• no towing is allowed
• the vehicle will not be used for racing or in a competition
• the vehicle may not be used for an illegal purpose
• not to operate the vehicle in a negligent manner
• not to permit the vehicle to be driven by anyone (other than the renter) without the written permission of the car rental company
• not to carry passengers, property or materials in excessof the rated weight-carrying capacity of the vehicle
You will be required to list all the drivers that will be driving your rental car. Only those drivers listed on your contract are authorized to drive your rental vehicle. Additional drivers may be required to sign the car rental agreement or an additional driver form and there may be an additional fee. There are some exceptions to this policy.
Read more about Additional Drivers
Optional Purchases/Extra Equipment
This part of the car rental agreement would list any additional options that you may have selected. These include, upgrades, personal protection options, LDW/CDW, special equipment, fuel options, etc.
Read more about:
This portion of your contract will list all charges associated with your rental. These may include the base rate of the vehicle, applicable airport fees, taxes, surcharges, other government imposed fees, and charges for any additional options or special equipment that you chose to purchase. It will also include the charges for any fees that the company charges specific to your rental.For example, many companies now charge a fuel service charge if you drive the rental less than 75 miles, even if you fill the tank. It is usually between $12 and $15. They will waive this fee if you show your gas receipt.
This section of your car rental agreement, may also include a mention of extra fees and fines. Basically, the renter is responsible for all charges, fines, penalties, court costs and recovery expenses for parking, traffic, toll and other violations, including storage liens and charges, relating to your use of the rental car. Most companies also charge an adminstrative fee, if, for example, you recieved and failed to pay a parking ticket, while using the rental car.
You will also see information about the terms of your charges due. Your signature on the rental car agreement allows the car rental company to charge your credit card with any possible extras at the end of the rental, such as late return of the vehicle or damage to the vehicle (if you declined the optional loss damage waiver or collision damage waiver offered by the rental car company).
Note that whoever uses their credit card to charge the rental at the time of pickup is considered the renter and primary driver, (whether they ever drive it, or not...) anyone else who drives the rental car is considered an additional driver.
By signing your car rental agreement or rental contract you agree to comply with all terms and conditions listed. It will be assumed that you are familiar with the items on your car rental agreement and have agreed with all items reported and all terms and conditions that are listed.
Take the time early on in your rental period to go over your agreement and be sure to call the car rental company right away if you have any questions or concerns.