Car Rentals: 11 Hot Tips
Travelers use any means possible to experience the world around them.  There are many ways to be a savvy traveler, like finding the most direct flights, booking the most comfortable hotel room, and finding the best deal on a rental car.

The business of renting cars for travel is gradually increasing in popularity.  In the year 2005 alone, car rental increased by about 12 percent, due to the increase in travel demands and the supply of cars.  If you're planning to book a rental car, there are some steps that you can take to ensure a great deal.  Depending on where and when you're traveling, it can be tricky to get a good rate.  The following pointers will help you to learn the car rental essentials and drive a better bargain:

1.  Choose the smallest car available and ask about possible free upgrades.
Rental rates are usually dependant on the size of the car. If you don't mind traveling in a small car, then opt for a smaller model.  Then, ask if upgrades are available.   Many car rental companies provide free upgrades.

2.  Travel over the weekend.
You can usually enjoy a discounted rate when you rent a car from Friday to Sunday.  This discount can greatly lessen your overall expense, so jump at this chance if it's offered to you.

3.  Book in advance.
If you are planning on traveling over the busy period, book your car rental in advance.  Some companies give special deals to renters who book well in advance. On the contrary, prices usually increase as your booking date nears your travel period.  As you get closer to busy travel times, such as summer vacation, rates will go up.  You may be in luck if you're booking last minute though; some companies also offer great deals for unreserved cars, even during peak times.

4.  Shop and compare prices online.
Shopping for car rentals on the web is a great way to plan, because it gives you the chance to compare rates, terms and even vehicles.  Most car rental companies have their own websites where you can browse for information, and even book your vehicle.

5.  Fill the tank before you finish the trip.
You can save a bundle by returning the car with a full tank.  If you return your rented car with an empty or partially empty tank, the company can charge as much as double the price of gas at a filling station.  To avoid this extra charge, fill the gas tank before returning the vehicle to the car rental company.

6.  Don't rent your car at the airport.
Rental companies located at the airport charge a premium, as they are required to pay concession fees to the airport. Because of this, rates of car rentals can be as much as double those that are located elsewhere.

7.  Let your travel agent make the arrangements.
Most reputable travel agents will arrange your car rental.  Agents are able to get big discounts from rental companies, and many are willing to pass these savings on to you.  It's customary to pay the travel agent for the favor.

8.  Look for possible "Club" savings.
Members of organizations such as Costco, AARP, Sam's Club, the CAA and the AAA may qualify for special car rental discounts.  If you belong to a club or hold a credit card, find out if you are entitled to additional savings.

9.  Beware of additional fees.
The fees that you pay may differ from company to company. Some companies charge extra fees for items like additional miles, late vehicle return or a second driver.  You can also expect to pay $20 to $80 more per day if you're a driver under the age of 25.

10.  Choose a reputable company in good standing.
Anyone can rent a car, but not everyone can offer reliable service.  You may pay a little more to deal with a well-known company, but the extra cost will be worth it if you're satisfied with the degree of service you receive.

11.  Be sure to check the car thoroughly before leaving the rental lot.
Ask the person at the car rental service desk check the car with you for signs of damage.  If they hold you responsible for any scratches or damages to the car, you can be charged $500 or more upon return.  Make sure that the vehicle is damage-free before you leave, and have the agent make note of any existing damages.  This will help you to avoid a lot of inconvenience, and a possible damage charge, upon your return.  Have existing scratches or damage noted in writing before you sign the rental agreement.

Each of these pointers is important to your satisfaction when renting a car.  Following each one carefully will not only help you to avoid grief and headaches, but can also save you time and money; and every traveler can always use a little extra time and money.