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TravelCool Tips of the Month:

The Important Non-Existential Questions One Should Ask At The Car Rental Counter

1) You should ask how much time it will take to return the car and make it back to your flight, as well as the return location. This, of course, does not apply if instead of returning the car, you plan to go on a cross-country crime spree/voyage of discovery, à la Thelma & Louise. For that scenario, we do recommend you pay the extra twenty bucks and get the maximum rental car insurance coverage. Your beneficiaries will thank you for it.

2) If the rental company provides free maps of the area, you should take one. If not, then just tell them to “wing it” and wave your hand in the air in a vague kind of way. Wait to see what they do after that. You won’t get a map, but their response might be amusing. This is also a good time to ask for directions to your hotel, assuming you haven’t yet soured the relationship between you and the car rental clerk. Bring along your hotel’s address since the big chains often have several of their hotels on the same major roads.

3) Most Rental Companies provide a full tank at pick up. If so, make sure that it is full when you return it. If you keep track of the gas you purchase, you can also use BWC’s carbon offset program to “balance your eco-vacation chi” after your trip.

4) The car rental agreement is a legal document, so please read it, no matter how boring or devoid of glossy celebrity photos it might be. Make sure it matches your reservation pricing. Make sure you are clear on any charges you have agreed to pay and that any coupons or discounts have been applied. Also, beware of rental contracts that require signing in blood, or containing sub clauses concerning the disposition of your “eternal soul” (or some legalistic variation on that verbiage).

5) You will probably need to keep your rental contract in the car. If you’re renting a car in New Jersey, there might be a body in the trunk, so you’ll want to keep the contract in the glove compartment. Your rental contract might be used as the car’s registration, and it will also prove you have the legal right to drive the car if you are pulled over. If you leave the rental agreement in the car, make sure you cross out any personal information printed in the agreement that you don’t want a potential thief to find (credit card info, Britney Spears fan club member number, etc.).

6) Find out the phone numbers to call in case of an accident, breakdown, or rental extension. Your BWC membership will cover you in a rental car, but virtually all rental companies prefer to handle their own roadside assistance. Thus, in the case of an accident or breakdown, it’s your responsibility as a driver to first call the rental car emergency number.