Even if you're a regular Mario Andretti, if you'll be traveling
by automobile, there are several matters you'll want to keep in
mind to ensure your safety.
Before driving off the rental lot, ask if your car is equipped
with driver or dual air bags, which are designed to work in
conjunction with seatbelts. Please note that children under
the age of 12 should always ride in the back seat.
Drive defensively and remember that the law does not assign
right of way to anyone; it only specifies who must yield right-of-way.
To help avoid accidents and roadway unpleasantness that could
spoil your trip, resist being provoked by traffic crunches or
bully motorists, especially when driving in crowded areas.
If another driver bumps you or attempts to make you pull over
by honking or yelling, keep driving. Proceed to a populated,
well-lit area and then check out the situation.
If you will be driving a rented car, ask your rental agency
for a car that does not have any agency decals or other distinguishing
marks that identify it as a rental car, being driven by out-of-towners.
Also, ask for a map and directions before you leave the rental
Store all valuables and belongings out of sight, preferably
in the trunk of your car or, better yet, in the lobby safe of
Lock all doors and your trunk, whether your car is parked or
you are driving. At night and on any occasion when you are alone,
you should also close the windows.
When you pick up your rental, find out if the car has anti-lock
brakes. Chances are good that it will, as many car-rental companies
have autos with this feature. If you're not familiar with anti-lock
brakes, it's a good idea to practice braking in a remote area
while driving at a moderate speed. Do not pump the brakes--this
will disengage the entire braking system. The brake pedal will
vibrate; just keep your foot on the pedal and continue steering.
If your car starts overheating, it can help to turn on your
heater; this helps draw heat away from your engine, and may
help you make it safely to the nearest garage.
||How to Handle Rental-Car
This grim possibility should definitely be discussed with your
rental agent before you get behind the wheel.
Note that the larger companies--including Budget, Avis, National,
and Hertz--offer 24-hour emergency roadside assistance and are
likely to give you a replacement car faster than the smaller
chains and independent companies.
If a car breaks down due to abusive driving or the wrong type
of gas in the tank, the driver will likely be held responsible
for repairs. Ditto for locking the keys in the car.
If you are many miles away from a rental office, you may have
to wait for a tow truck. Worse yet, you may be asked to have
the car repaired yourself and wait to be reimbursed at a later
date. In this case, notify the company before any repairs are
done and save your receipts!
Before hitting the streets, consider joining an auto club such
as AAA. In case of breakdowns, you can usually get speedy and
In the United States, you must be at least 25 years old to
rent a car through most agencies. (If you are under 25, it's
probably a good idea to call several rental agencies ahead of
time for their policies regarding age.) At the time of rental,
be prepared to present a valid driver's license and a major
In most cases, your credit card isn't charged until you return
the car, at which time you can settle your bill with some other
form of payment. However, many agencies do place a hold on a
certain dollar amount of your credit during your rental; this
amount will not be available to you until the agency releases
it, after your rental has ended. Be aware that some agencies
also delay releasing this hold on your credit and that you may
need to prod them with a phone call.
Keep in mind that many rental agencies charge no-show fees
if you fail to pick up a reserved vehicle without cancelling
in advance. Further, some particular vehicles, including convertibles
and luxury cars, may carry a cancellation or no-show charge.
To avoid fees, observe the agency's cancellation policy.
Today, many car-rental agencies complete a "good-driving"
check before renting cars to prospective drivers. Each agency
uses its own discretion in determining to whom it will or won't
rent a car. So if your driving record is less than stellar,
don't be surprised if some agencies decline your business.
Always remember that car-rental rates quoted on the phone or
in advertisements do not include gas, airport fees, taxes, insurance,
or extra equipment. These fees can come to as much as 25 percent
of the base-rental price.
Additionally, make sure to do a quick walk around the car to
check for damage. If you note a problem, bring it to the attention
of an employee and mark it on your rental agreement.