Once you have added the many features that cheaper airlines charge separately you may probably have noticed that they are no longer quite so cheap. In the golden age of flights, you paid for the ticket and everything else was included. Now, if you feel a sneeze coming, a box of tissues is available for you to buy. Well, never wanting to be the ones left behind, the cheap car rental agencies are into the same game. When you look around their websites, you see only the good news. The daily and weekly rates look spectacular. There are no obvious signs of additional charges unless you go through all that small print in the terms and conditions. So you sign up at the headline rate and then discover driving this vehicle is like using a hotel minibar.
You may not know this but you can sometimes be billed for the use of the satellite radio to make your drive more fun, the use of the E-ZPass transponder to pay tolls and the GPS navigation system to get you where you want by some of the cheap car rental companies. So before you drive away from the collection point, always spend a few moments with one of the helpful employees and ask whether you will be charged for using anything left in the car. If the answer is yes and the things can be removed, have then removed. This avoids any of those unfortunately arguments about whether you did or did not use the child safety seat so conveniently left in the trunk.
This is not to say all cheap car rental companies have suddenly become vicious predators. They have always been vicious predators but, until the recession hit, you did not notice it. Unexpected charges could go on the credit card and there was no need to worry. Now that credit is in short supply and often quite expensive, it becomes even more important to ensure you only pay for what you need. If that means picking up the telephone and asking about charges before you book online, that’s what you do in self-defense.