Many professionals need to rent vehicles while traveling for business, and while the process may seem straightforward, you need to know several things first. We’ve created a short primer of advice for renting cars. Keep these tips in mind the next time you need to rent a car in case of the unfortunate possibility of an accident.

  • Mind your insurance: Make sure before you reserve a rental that your automobile insurance extends to rental cars. If your insurance does not already include rental coverage, you’ll need to add it to your policy before you rent a car. Without insurance coverage, you could be responsible for any damage to the rental vehicle in case of a collision.
  • Check your road service provider: If you’re an AAA member or pay for the services of another road service provider, check before you leave whether or not they cover rental cars in your destination region. Roadside assistance is a valuable asset, so you want to know before you leave if you can depend on your service provider where you’re going.
  • Bring emergency supplies: While it may be difficult to pack an entire roadside emergency kit into your carry-on (the TSA will likely frown upon bringing road flares onto a plane), you can still bring a camera with flash and a flashlight. These tools will be helpful if you have to pick up your rental car at night, or if you’re involved in an accident and need to photograph the scene.
  • Ask about your rental car: When you reach your destination and the rental car desk, ask about your rental before you accept it. If the representative can’t tell you when the vehicle was serviced last, this is a red flag. They should also be able to provide you with emergency contact information in case of an accident.
  • Inspect your rental car: Before you get behind the wheel, use your camera to snap photos of the car’s exterior, and be careful to document any obvious damage before you set off. Check the tires for inflation and tread wear, and be sure to check the spare tire in the trunk as well. If you wind up with a flat, you want to be sure your spare is in good shape.
  • Check the rental’s fluid levels: Pop the hood of the rental and check the oil, antifreeze, and wiper fluid levels. Once you get behind the wheel, check to make sure the gas tank is full and the climate controls work correctly.
  • Familiarize yourself with the vehicle: Every car drives differently, and even if your rental is similar to your personal vehicle, unless it happens to be the exact same make, model, and year, it will probably handle much differently than you expect. Drive around the lot and the area near the rental office to get a feel for how the car drives. If you notice any odd or alarming sounds, head back to the rental office and let them know.
  • Return the vehicle: You should keep receipts for all expenditures related to your rental. Most rental companies require you drop to the rental vehicle off with a full tank of gas – some even go so far as to require the receipt from refueling, and will add a charge to your final bill if you fail to provide one. Be sure to return the vehicle on time, as being late will likely incur additional fees.
  • Play it safe: When you’re renting a car and driving through unfamiliar territory, it’s best to err on the side of caution and drive conservatively.

We hope these tips are helpful to you for your next car rental. Always be sure to know the rental agency’s policies, so you don’t incur excessive fees. In the event you do get into an accident, reach out to a Charleston, West Virginia car accident lawyer to learn about your available legal options.