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The first time that I rented a car for work was an absolute nightmare. I was supposed to catch a ride with the team, even though I was landing later. Once I turned airplane mode off, I read a text that there was a mistake and that I would need to get an extra car. I had no idea what to do, I had just landed by myself, and of course our team manager was in a meeting and couldn’t answer my calls. I am fortunately alive today, but I wanted to make a post on what to expect when renting a car for the first time so you don’t have to go through this anxious experience.
If possible, make your car reservation ahead of time.
95% of the time when traveling for work, you will know that you need a car and will reserve one ahead of time. Pick a car that will be comfortable for all of your teammates. Keep in mind that you and your team mates will all have luggage, so you may need a larger vehicle in order to fit everyone’s suitcases in the back. If you have 4 or more people, you may need to reserve a bigger car. Your company may have a policy on the type of car you can rent, but you will typically go with the cheapest option.
If you are under 25, you will have to pay more money for your rental.
If your manager tells you to rent a car and you are brand new at your firm, they should already be aware that you will have to pay extra to rent the car. Since you are expensing your costs, this should not be a significant issue. Managers looking to save costs should be aware that an older team member should take care of the rental, but in some circumstances it may still be your responsibility. These fees are because younger drivers are riskier, but as long as your manager is aware then do not worry about the costs.
What to expect when picking up your car
When you land at the airport, you will have to make your way to the rental car lot. The rental car lot may be connected to the terminal, in the parking garage, or you may need to take a shuttle to the rental car lot. Follow the signs after landing – you can also research the car rental situation online before arriving.
When you go to the counter, you may need your driver’s license and a credit card. You should definitely have your driver’s license for identification to get on the plane, but they will also verify your age at this time. You will then either be given the keys to your car, or you will be told to go pick your car out.
If you have the option to pick your own car, consider the team that you are traveling with. Pick a vehicle with enough room for people and suitcases. I try to avoid the largest vehicles, because I am used to driving smaller cars. Selects car that you would be comfortable driving, since you will now be responsible for it.
Getting a car without a reservation
If you land and find that you need to get a rental car, head to the rental car lot. There is a chance that there are no cars available, but there is typically at least one brand with a walk up counter. Tell them that you need a car and how many days that you need it for. Then cross your fingers that they have a vehicle for you!
Driving off the lot
As you are driving off the lot, you will typically pass through a booth. Here you will need to present your driver’s license and a credit card. If there is a car identification number in the vehicle (typically on a piece of paper that’ll be in the cup holder) you may need to hand the paper over as well, for the person in the booth to mark down which car you are taking.
You will also be asked if you need a toll tag, and if you want to pay for gas ahead of time. Whether or not you need a toll tag depends on where you are going – try to find out the information ahead of time if possible. If you are not sure, you can always ask the attendant if they’d recommend a toll tag to get to your location.
With gas, I will always pay for it ahead of time. It saves time, and you don’t need to remember to fill up before dropping your car off.
Renting a car for the first time can be nerve-wrecking, but it is something that you will get used to. If you are traveling with a team and someone else is renting the car, I would recommend paying attention so that you are not confused when it is your turn. Good luck with your car rental, and have a safe drive!