Perhaps your car is in the shop and you need a rental vehicle to get to and from work, or perhaps instead you are traveling in a city away from home, and desire a car rental to get around that destination and its tourist spots, if you are age 25 or above, you are probably going to get a car rental. If you are under 25, you still might be able to get a car rental, it just becomes more problematic and expensive for doing so, and that should be your first hint that car rental agencies are all about one thing: making money.
Anytime you purchase anything, you should pay close attention to any extra items the store manager, or clerk is pushing you to purchase. For instance, when you go to a grocery store, do they push anything extra on you, unless you have some sort of club membership, i.e. Sam's Club, they never do. However, when you go to a Best Buy and purchase some electronic merchandise, you are almost invariably hit with a request for an extended warranty in which a simple "No", is usually not good enough for the cashier to shut-up, as they drone on and on and on. Car rental agencies have their spiel down to a science and you should pay very careful attention to it.
When you sign up to get a rental car, you will be subject to all sorts of potential upgrades, ruses, and con games that you often do not need, to which most of them are just another avenue for the rental agency to get their hand into your pocket. Let's look at the most common instances, one-by-one:
1. Upgrade to your vehicle. When you pre-selected your vehicle type such as compact or SUV, unless you are running a con game of your own, it is assumed that this is the vehicle type that you actually want to drive or have the budget for, consequently when you are asked for an upgrade that is additional money, it should be a fairly straightforward decision to shoot it down. The only reason not to turn down an upgrade, is if the upgrade is free of charge, mainly because they don't have your type of vehicle on the lot (by the way, if they downgrade you, you should always request a refund), or you purposely booked a lower vehicle grade, hoping that some "sweet talk" will allow you to upgrade for a reduced amount of money or possibly for free, but it's difficult to out-con a conman.
2. Insurance. It isn't legal to drive a vehicle in the States without car insurance, and most car insurance will be sufficient coverage for car rentals, in addition to the fact that most credit card companies will also offer you supplemental protection at no charge. If you are diligent, you will actually call both your current car insurance company and your credit card company to ascertain what they do or what they do not cover. Further to this point, there isn't anything that prevents you from getting your own additional car insurance coverage and setting that up ahead of time. The sheer amount of signatures and initials that you have to put to your rental agreement for turning down extra insurance should send an immediate signal to your brain cells that car rental insurance is a big ticket extra money-maker for them, to which they try to apply the fear factor to "goat" you into signing the agreement.
3. Gas. In America, there are a plentitude of gas stations, so pre-paying for gas as some sort of convenience, is a waste of your money, because the cost of their gas is so much higher than the street cost, this is a prime example of them "nickel and diming" you.
4. Toll charges. This particular charge is a new money maker for rental car agencies, mainly because they have added devices to their vehicles that allow automated tolls to be credited against the car. Whether these tolls are even legitimate tolls in the first place is debatable, that is to say, you could be in the lane adjacent to the toll lane and your vehicle will inadvertently be charged for the toll. Additionally, you are often in a strange city, to which you cannot say for a certainty that you didn't pass through a toll without paying. What is not in issue is the price of the tolls is usually trivial, perhaps $2.50 or $3.00, and hardly worth disputing on their own, however, you won't see this charge when you return your rental car, for two reasons. Reason#1 is that hidden deep within the Terms and Conditions the rental car company is allowed to charge your credit card for any additional incidentals upon the return of their vehicle, and Reason#2 is that the rental car company will attempt to pull one over on you by adding an administrative fee for this toll of perhaps $15, $25, $30, or even $50 for each toll violation. If you, do not notice this on your credit card bill which could show up as a charge even weeks later, you will have been suckered into their most profitable item of all.
While it's nice to have the convenience and comfort of driving a car rental, you should always keep in mind, that the entire time the vehicle is in your hands, the car rental agency will be continually angling to get theirs.