Caution Tape

If you're looking for a car in your own backyard--maybe to drive while your car is getting fixed or something bigger with extra room for houseguests--it often pays to check rates at your local airport, too. Sometimes airport rentals can actually be cheaper than in-town rentals, and airport rental office hours are usually much more flexible than those at your neighborhood branch.

But if you live near an airport that you're renting from--typically within 100 miles or within the same state--make sure you keep reading. It turns out that a number of companies have some extra restrictions for locals renting at airport locations if they're not arriving by plane. Unfortunately, these terms and conditions are often buried in fine print that most people don't read, so in the spirit of full disclosure and making sure you don't have an unwelcome surprise at the rental counter, let's take a look at each company's policies individually:

(Note that these policies impact you ONLY if you are renting from these companies and not arriving at the airport by plane.)

Advantage

Advantage's policy is as follows:

Customers wishing to rent who reside within 65 mile radius of location where rental transaction is to be opened must present a return flight segment of a round trip airline ticket or electronic ticket for a flight leaving from within the renting state.

Customers who reside within the 65 mile radius without a return airline ticket and wish to rent a car will be required to show: written proof of a current automobile liability insurance policy in renters name covering injury to third persons or property.

the Advantage agent is unable to verify proof of insurance when calling the insurance company, the rental transaction will be declined. Renters traveling on official government business, on military leave, or with an approved CID number are exempt from the local renter policy.

So put simply, if you don't have a round-trip airline ticket and can't show written proof of liability insurance, then they will refuse to rent to you. Obviously not something you want to find out when standing at the rental counter ready to start your trip. Unfortunately, liability only policies are hard to come by, and while credit card companies do offer collision insurance (CDW/LDW), they do not offer liability insurance.

Bottom line, if you live within 65 miles of the renting location, and you don't have a personal auto insurance policy you can bring proof of to the location, then Advantage isn't interested in your business.


E-Z

E-Z defines a local rental as a renter who has a driver's license issued from the state that they are renting from. Apparently, if you live locally, they don't want you to rent from them. Here's some typical verbiage form the Terms & Conditions for their Jacksonville, FL airport location:

All rates and reservations listed for us are reserved for airline arriving passengers only. Posted rates do not apply to residents with FL & GA drivers license Florida residents seeking unlimited mileage must present an airline ticket with proof of outbound return flight. Non-airline arriving customers and Florida residents will receive 150 free miles per day and 25 per additional mile. Airline arriving passengers traveling outside of FL will be subject to a $25.00 per day mileage surcharge. Reservations booked thru internet or GDS channels are responsible for the total amount reflected on the reservation. We reserve the right to refuse service or to honor a reservation booked thru an internet or GDS channel that is not an airline arriving passenger. Non-Qualified prepaid reservations will be given a credit voucher for future rental use and are not refundable.

If you have a Nevada driver's license and are renting in Las Vegas, E-Z caps your free mileage to 150/day and then charges $0.39 per additional mile. Furthermore, if you live in state and can't provide written proof you already have insurance, you will be required to purchase CDW from the rental company--even if your credit card offers this as a standard benefit.

Lastly, E-Z says: "Local renters cannot rent specialty vehicles, including luxury, premium, convertible, SUV and other premium car classes."

So to sum up, if you are a local, you can rent a basic car with limited mileage as long as you bring your own insurance along. Basically if you live locally (or even in a neighboring state in some cases), and don't have a round-trip airline ticket, then E-Z is anything but easy with regard to their policies.


Payless

Payless tends to have some of the most aggressive rates around. While we're not huge fans of their pushy sales tactics at many locations, you can walk away with a really low rate if you're careful to review your rental contract before you leave the rental counter. The exception is if you are renting locally at one of their airport locations.

Here's a link to Payless' rental polcies in their Orlando location:

Local renters require a verification process which may include verifying personal information such as home phone number, address and/or employment. Supporting information can be a current utility bill, recent bank statement and /or pay stub.

Payless apparently goes to great lengths to ensure you are who you say you are. Apparently, if you're flying in from another state, they're sure you're a good person, but those darn Floridians are shady characters. You will need to prove to them that you are worthy of their rental.

While most locations don't seem to have mileage restrictions for local renters or force you to take CDW if you can't prove you have insurance elsewhere, some locations do hedge this a bit with the following policy (Denver being one example): "We can elect not to rent to you if you do not present proof of auto liability and physical damage insurance coverage." While they don't go into specifics of when that might apply, you can be fairly certain that that magic round-trip airline ticket we keep talking about is your insurance to avoid having to take the insurance.

Bottom line, if you're a local renting with Payless, bring proof to show you are a fine upstanding citizen or be prepared to be turned away at the counter if they don't like the looks of you.


Summary

Although most of the problems come from these three companies, no matter who you're renting from, it always pays to read the terms and conditions when reserving your rental car. Unlike airplane tickets and hotels, which are pretty straightforward, there are often some "gotchas" with rental cars, and you can head off many of these surprises and problems by spending just a moment to familiarize yourself with the rental company's rules.

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