Don's Home Travel Car Rental Information Contact
 
Listed according to 2002 reader poll  in Travel+Leisure.
1.  Hertz  800-654-3131
2.  Avis 800-331-1212 
3.  National 800-227-7368
4.  Budget 800-527-0700
5.  Enterprise 800-261-7331
6.  Alamo 800 462-5266
Fees
In a 2007 study, Travelocity found that major American airports tacked on an average of 28% to your total bill. So, you should check out local rental locations also.
In the example below it added 10%

Examples: Weekly Rate - June 2009 Reno
one-way return to same loc
Hertz Hertz Budget Enterprise
Off/On Airport Off Airp Off Airp Off Airp Off Airp
Rental $380 $526 $397 $467 $157 $321 $199 $146
Taxes $37 $55 $39 $51 $17 $38 $20 $15
Airport Concession Fee   $58   $54   $36   $18
State Fees $23 $30 $24 $28 $16 $36 $12 $10
Vehicle Licensing
Cost Recovery
$15 $20 $16 $18     $8 $8
Registration Recovery             $8 $6
Taxi     $12   $12   $12  
Total $455 $689 $488 $618 $202 $432 $259 $203
* Enterprise Greenhouse Gas Emissions Offset - For just $1.25 you can offset emissions produced by the average rental. The money will go to TerraPass to fund certified offset projects that work to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Off Airport Locations:
Enterprise - 3005 Mill St., reno 4 min.
Hertz - Harrahs 10 min.
Budget - 1595 Marietta Way, Sparks 8 min.

San Francisco Rentals (SFO):
All rental companies are in one building some miles away; with a shuttle for all companies. Returning your car is even worse because of the long, circuitous route the common-use buses take to get you back to the airport... back across 101, then onto the highway, then off again... and the buses are always SRO. They are working on an elevated light-rail link from the terminals to the "Rental Car Center"
Some people recommend taking the Mariott shuttle and renting from Hertz at the Mariott.

One-way rental across country:
In June 2009 the best I could get was above,... (weekly rate) from Hertz, Orbitz, Priceline and Hotwire didn't have anything better, Avis and Budget didn't have any one-way car's available from Reno, Sacramento, Oakland or San Francisco, Dollar, National, ... were more expensive.

Discounts
There are many sources of discounts; AARP and AAA are two popular ones.
Use the "Club Code" on your AAA card in the CDP field for Hertz discounts.
There are usually fields for entering discount codes on the online rental forms:

CDP - counter discount program, is a contract or program that has been established in cooperation with a company or organization under which individuals with specified characteristics are entitled to rent on rental terms that differ from those generally offered to the public.

PC - Promotional Coupon

RC - Rate Code

BCD - Budget Customer Discount code

Insurance
Your personal car insurance usualy carries over to rental cars domestically, but not overseas. Check your policy or with your agent to verify.
Most travel advice sites recommend that you do not buy the overpriced CDW/LDW (collision/loss damage waiver), $10 - $25 a day, from the rental company.
In "CDW gap" at SmarterTravel.com, Ed Perkins says:
"The combination of your credit card and your regular insurance can lower your risk— sometimes totally—but it may leave you with some residual exposure."

Many versions of AmEx, MasterCard, and Visa offer no-cost collision coverage when you use one of their cards for the rental;
Your personal car insurance usually covers domestic insurance; check your policy.

American Express Card Insurance
Collision damage to your rental car is included with both the green and gold card, but is secondary to your personal insurance, but if you personal insurance does not cover (e.g. oversees) it becomes primary.)

You can pay $25/rental for pemium insurance (a service you need to subscribe to in advance). It makes AMEX service primary in all situations, and covers your personal property from theft or damage in an accident.

Neither of the above includes liability insurance (damage to another car or property).

So, when you rent overseas you can decline the decline the collision damage waiver (CDW) if you use the AMEX card to pay, but should take the liability insurance. You may want to check with your insurance company to make sure your liability applies to a rental car.

Loss of use (LOU) :
According to Ed Perkins on Travel at SmarterTravel.com, "AmEx and MasterCard cover LOU only if they can get car logs from the rental company. Because some rental companies, including Hertz, do not provide that information, you may be on the hook for a stiff additional charge if you rely on your credit card."

Links:
Car Rental Hidden Costs at IndependentTraveler.com
World Travel & Tourism Tax Barometer at Michigan State's Tax Policy Center

last updated 2 July 2009