Bruce Ream: Hi, I am Bruce Ream, Managing Director of AAA Partnership Programs. Today I'm going to discuss tips for picking up and returning your rental car and driving an unfamiliar vehicle. At pick up, inspect the interior and exterior of the vehicle and make sure any damage is recorded. Note the odometer reading and make sure lights and turn signals are working properly.
Take a copy of your rental agreement noting the date and time you're required to return the car. Driving an unfamiliar car in an unfamiliar city can be a daunting task. Spent time getting to know the vehicle before you leave the lot. Become familiar with features and equipment; adjust your seat, head restraint, and steering wheel, and mirrors. If needed ask for an overview of the vehicle, and it's safety features.
Take a test drive in the parking area and if you're not completely comfortable ask for a different vehicle. Sometimes the vehicle you rent can be very different from the one you typically drive. It could be larger or smaller, have more or less horsepower, or have quicker or slower steering response. If the vehicle is significantly different practice driving in a non-congested area until you feel comfortable behind the wheel.
Most importantly, remember you are not familiar with this car and do not know how it will respond in emergency maneuvers. Therefore, drive with an abundance of caution. Use a longer following distance, leave more room for stopping, and don't wait until the last minute to start slowing down. Allow ample time to return your car particularly at airport locations factoring and time to complete your return and for airport security before your flight.
Fill the gas tank before returning the car to avoid a refueling charge. If you're unsure you'll have time to fill the tank. See if your rental company offers a fuel purchase option. Customers purchase a full tank of gas upfront and pay nothing for fuel on return regardless of the tank reading. Be sure to take all your belongings out of the car before returning the keys. Finally, ask the attendant to note the time you returned the vehicle, its condition, and the fuel gauge, and odometer reading.
So that's the basics for picking up and returning your vehicle as well as tips for driving an unfamiliar vehicle. Happy travels!