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Car Hire Savings Tips

1. Don't forget the extras: In general, you can safely buy by price, even through opaque sites, but make sure your price comparisons include all the extras, taxes, and fees.

2. Bigger companies provide more support: Renting from a small, independent company can be cheap, but a multinational network is a big help if something goes wrong. If possible, rent from a company that does business in your home country in case you have a subsequent dispute.

 3. Don't skimp on comfort: Make sure to rent a car that is truly big enough for your travel party. You have to rent at least the "intermediate" or "midsize" car, station wagon, kombi, or crossover for a rear seat roomy enough for an adult. But steer clear of the "full size" class. Most of those are no larger than intermediates. They're just more upmarket.

4. Go standard transmission to save: These days, almost all but the smallest rental cars in Europe and the U.S.A. are air-conditioned. You no longer have to pay a big premium. Automatics, however, remain expensive.

5. Pay up front for a lower rate: Prepaid rates can sometimes be lower than pay-at-return rates, but make sure the prepay rate includes all the extras.

6. Pick up your car downtown: If possible, when renting in Europe, avoid picking up your car at a "premium station," including major airports and rail stations. In some countries you pay a big surcharge: For example, 20 percent in Germany, 19 percent in Switzerland, 15 percent in Austria, 15-17 percent in Italy. In other countries, including Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and the U.K., the premium station fee is a one-time charge of 25 to 60 euros per rental. Rental companies in the U.S.A. typically add on a long list of fees and surcharges, which vary by location but are typically higher at airports than at downtown locations. Usually, even when you pick up your car at a downtown location, you can return it to a premium station without any extra fee.

7. Watch for borders: Check for any geographical limits on where you drive. Many European renters do not allow you to take their cars into Eastern Europe Many U.S.A. renters do not allow you to drive into Canada, and hardly any allow you to take cars into Mexico. Some U.S.A. renters even limit the states where you can take the car, and they can follow you through GPS.

8. Buy your own fuel: Your best fuel option is almost always to take the car with a full tank and return it full.

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