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Are the prices on car rental price comparison sites (eg: Kayak, Expedia, etc) what you will really end up paying? Or are there a bunch of hidden "extras" or other additional charges that you will also need to budget for when planning a car rental?

It seems like we ended up spending a lot more than expected the last time we rented a car, and I'd like to know how to more accurately plan out a budget for such expenses when planning future vacations or trips.

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5 Answers 5

Yes, sort of.

I booked a car through Kayak in Vancouver, Canada. It was as cheap as it said, however there are other costs to remember on the ground. For us that included:

  • extra driver charges for a second driver
  • insurance for the car (third party or full depending on the country)
  • some additional taxes might apply
  • credit card charges might apply

Kayak can only quote the price provided by the source. For example their Easyjet and RyanAir and Jetstar flights are always a bit under, as RyanAir especially is infamous for adding lots of extra charges as you purchase your flight.

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Are the prices on car rental price comparison sites (eg: Kayak, Expedia, etc) what you will really end up paying? Or are there a bunch of hidden "extras"?

No, in nearly every case, you will pay more than the Kayak etc sticker price. But this is not because you have to, but because the price excludes most of the extras that any reasonable person hiring a car is likely to choose - the key one being complete insurance, but as Mark Mayo mentioned there are others.

I'd like to know how to more accurately plan out such expenses when planning future vacations

The surefire approach to this is to check the rental company and attempt to book the same car through them directly. Make sure you select all the extras you need, and the price before checkout will be an accurate reflection of what you will spend.

Another good thing to do though, is check if any of your credit cards offer eg. loss damage waiver cover or other extra car rental insurance when paying with that card (this is a typical feature of platinum cards). If so, then you just need to cultivate a clear understanding of what insurance is included in the 'no-frills' product offered by Kayak et al, and whether your credit card insurance closes the gap sufficiently for your comfort/risk appetite. Then you can keep on booking with the convenience of Kayak, but know you have the cover you need.

Just make sure you read the fine-print on the credit card provided insurance, because as this Wiki article details, there are often many exceptions or limitations.

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As Mark mentioned, there are extras, and that depends on the country/state you're visiting. The price quoted, much like airlines up until a few years ago, usually excludes insurance and/or local taxes.

If you get through to the payment page (without actually paying) on one of the popular rental company website you'll have a fully detailed invoice to look at which will include all local additional taxes and any specifically mandatory insurance for the location. Once you have those percentage/daily fee details you have an idea of any additions any prospective comparison site may be missing.

The best way to guarantee your budget is to prepay by credit card if that is an option. They'll always try to up-sell when you're getting the keys, and you can happily say no to every option, especially if you work out where the closest petrol station is to where you're renting from and if possible work out the litre/gallon cost there, then you can calculate whether paying for the 'tank of gas' is worth it.

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Paying for a tank of gas is never worth it, unless time is simply priceless to you. Generally, the rental company will charge you the price to fill the tank when completely empty, regardless of how much fuel is left in the tank. If the vehicle has a 12-gallon capacity tank, they'll charge you for 12 gallons, even if you return the vehicle with 3/4 of a tank. So always always fill the tank before returning a rental car, unless money is literally no object to you. –  Flimzy Feb 1 at 3:34
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I thought the same thing and in general I'd agree with you, but I have experienced then having a significantly lower price (even commented by the sales staff) and confirmed by researching online. Since I was there for a couple of weeks I could make sure I took the car back with an empty tank –  dsample Feb 1 at 9:50
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A lower price per gallon? Or an actually lower price? I've seen lower prices per gallon, but then they have charged for a full tank. I suppose if you were careful to return the car empty, you could still come out ahead that way. –  Flimzy Feb 2 at 3:05
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I have tried to explain to rental car people that I don't know their dollars, gallons, or local gas price and therefore cannot evaluate the "great price" they're offering me. I never prepay for gas. I have checked once or twice and the "great price" is 2/3 the retail, but as @Flimzy says, you pay for a full tank, not just what you used, which is almost always a lot less than 1/3 a tank, meaning you're overpaying if you prepay. (Logically, they choose their prepay price to ensure this.) –  Kate Gregory May 8 at 16:10

I think sometimes for some rental companies comparison sites are right on the dot. Other times they estimate the costs without the little (or not so little) "extras" rental agencies add once you get there.

However, I tend to like to do a bit of research first on local car rental companies and try to book thru their sites in the local currency (Google translate helps). It can often be much cheaper. Sometimes even 50% cheaper! After I do that I them try the comparison websites to see IF the local rental car companies even show up, and how they compare. I do similar things for airline tickets... when possible.

For example: I recently booked a 3 day rental in Brazil with Movida (a Brazilian company) for about R$210.0 total (all insurance included) which is basically R$70/day or ~UDS$35. Thru comparison sites rates with other "international" rental companies were in the USD$50-65 range, if I recall correctly.

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I have used holidayautos.com (from the UK) to book cars in a few countries, all in cases full insurance etc was included and there were no hidden charges.

However if you use a USA site to book a car in the USA it is more complex as a lot of people already have their own insurance that cover hire cars, so prices are often quoted without insurance.

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My experience in europe is the same. The only time there was an ´hidden´ was an airport tax. But even than, it was clearly mentioned that all was included except for the airport tax. –  nsn May 17 at 10:47

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