Did someone say road trip? With gas prices now averaging $3.50 a gallon, many people are renting vehicles to head to the hills – and beyond. If you’re considering navigating the rental car process, take time to read and fully understand the leasing agreement. In 2011, for example, the Better Business Bureau received 3,773 complaints against the auto renting and leasing industry, many as a result of billing and contracting issues.

To avoid overspending, the BBB recommends:

Shop around and watch out for hidden charges. Several travel websites offer good prices on rental cars. Before reserving a vehicle at one of these sites, however, take a few extra minutes to check directly with the rental car websites to see if you can snag an even better rate. Also, check to see if your auto club membership or even credit card company offers any special deals for car rentals. Make sure to clarify which taxes, surcharges and other fees you’ll be expected to pay. Many states have additional fees for drivers under age 25 or for multiple drivers.

Opt for a smaller car. If you’re traveling solo, or don’t need a lot of leg room or trunk space, go for the smaller car. Oftentimes, the salesperson will steer you in the direction of an upgrade for “only a few extra dollars” because the smaller economy cars are in high demand. Just say no, and stick to the smaller car – or smile politely and ask for a free upgrade.

Ask lots of questions. Make sure you understand where the “unlimited mileage” rates apply. Some rental car companies have restrictions and only apply the mileage to certain states.

Gas up and be on time. Car rental companies will ask if you want to prepay for gas, oftentimes a pricey option. Instead, refill the tank yourself.  And make sure to return the car on time or be ready to be charged an extra day for being late.

Bring your own car seat and GPS. If you’re traveling with children or fear that you’ll get lost, bring your own car seat and GPS rather than pay additional rental fees for items you already have.

Do you need to pay for insurance? Before agreeing to insurance on the rented vehicle, check with your insurance agent to see if you are already covered. Also some credit cards also provide limited coverage.

Start With Trust. For trustworthy consumer tips and information, visit wynco.bbb.org or call 970-484-1348 or 800-564-0371.

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