US Car Hire Rental Agreements

Here we look at the rental agreement signed when you arrive at the desk of the rental company.  The pre-paid rental voucher we provide is not a rental agreement. The voucher is proof that you have pre-paid the costs of the hire of the car, plus insurances required by law to drive in the US or Canada.

Confusion Can Cause Customer Service Issues

The majority of customer service issues are created by two common oversights.  Failing to read the rental agreement before signing, or failing to fully understand the listed charges. The usual reason given for this, is the customer has just got off a long flight and is tired.

Whilst this is completely understandable – I fly to the USA myself and know the feeling well –  rental companies have a quick and indisputable answer to this. If you are too tired to properly read the rental agreement, you are too tired to be driving! This is hard to reason against.

If, for any reason you do not view the agreement, in its entirety, before signing – you must take the time to look it over before you leave the desk.

5 Tips on what to watch out for as you sign the rental agreement

Our tips below will help you sign the rental agreement whilst avoiding any charges.

  1. Do not assume a polite refusal of upgrade/personal accident insurance/roadside assistance means it won’t show on the rental agreement. Always check again before you sign.
  2. Go slowly.  A small screen presents the rental agreement over several pages. Keep your wits about you for the duration of this process.
  3. Look for the zero’s.  We cannot be precise about the layout of the rental agreement as each company uses a different format. You want to see  ‘included’  or  0.00  as a cost. You may see  ‘Included’  next to items such as  Collision Damage Waiver/Loss Damage Waiver,  unlimited mileage, tire/battery fee, state surcharge and vehicle licence fee. These items may show a cost estimate of 0.00.
  4. Keep vigilant!  We do not want to see Personal Accident Insurance, Emergency Sickness Plan or  Enhanced Roadside Assistance   – with either  ‘Accepted’  or a cost – such as  6.95/dayunless  you specifically want these additional items. You may see something called Non-Pkg Items with charges. You will be charged for any cost shown on the agreement.
  5. And finally.  You will initial/sign next to  Estimated Charges.  If this line/box does not state  0.00 – you will be charged,  so you must ask the desk clerk to explain the charge, and if you are not happy with the explanation, do not sign the agreement. Your options at this point are to demand to speak to the manager, or to phone the emergency number on the voucher that is provided expressly for problems with collection.

Check again in the morning

It is always worth double checking your agreement in the morning when you have had a good nights sleep to make sure that you didn’t miss anything. Alamo offer a 24 hour guarantee. Alamo removes any option taken in the last 24 hours, just request this at the collection location.

Dollar, Thrifty and Hertz will remove any unwanted add on items within 72 hours of collection. You must attend a Dollar, Thrifty or Hertz location and sign a new rental contract.

The other companies don’t offer the same guarantee. However, we believe that if you can get to your nearest location within 24 hours you should be able to ask to have the option removed, even if you don’t manage to get a refund of those 24 hours.

Signing the rental agreement ends our responsibility to provide you with a voucher for presentation. The contract is now directly between you, the renter, and the rental company.  As a contract, the rental agreement is a legally binding document. You sign your acceptance of the terms and conditions of the agreement, usually in several places. As with any contract, it is your responsibility to read, the agreement and ensure it is satisfactory to you before you sign.

If you would like to discuss any concerns about the rental agreement before your travel, please  contact us.

Rental Agreement

7 thoughts on “US Car Hire Rental Agreements

  1. Amanda Dunn


    I wanted to thank you and your team for all the assistance sorting out our problem with Budget when we landed at JFK in October. The last thing we needed after flying for 26 hours, from Australia, was for budget to tell us that our rental agreement was for 30 days and not 45 days, although they could see that we were returning the car on the 45th day to Newark airport. They told us we either had to pay extra or return the car in 30 days. We took the car and sent an email to Tripwheels asking what to do? Thank you for sorting it all out in the background whilst we continued on our holiday. Thank you very much to you and Tripwheels for your customer service.

  2. Elle Hubbard Post author

    Hi Amanda,
    That is very kind of you and it is all part of the service!
    Hope you had a lovely Christmas.

    Best wishes

  3. Amanda Dunn

    I just wanted to pass on my experience with electronic Toll passes on the US East Coast. We picked up a car at Budget JFK and I asked if the electronic toll reader worked in Florida as well. I was told yes, so I decided to uncover and use the electronic toll pass and pay the admin fee, for the convenience, and I had read that some tolls were only electronic. The admin fee is charged for ever day of the car hire starting from the first day of use. Throughout all the Northern States we had no problem with the E-ZPass tolls, until we got to Florida and found the tolls had a Sun Pass sign. I was told that the E-ZPass would not work and whilst in Florida had to use the toll booths. So, a word of warning to your customers that E-ZPass and Sun Pass are not compatible, although I have seen some Internet Posts saying the they are working on it.

  4. Elle Hubbard

    Hi Amanda,
    That is very useful information, particularly as you received conflicting information from Budget at JFK. EZ Pass works over most of the USA, but for some reason Florida decided to create their own system in the SunPass. The reports that you have read that they are working on interoperability are true. North Carolina’s Quick Pass for instance, was incorporated in July 2013, but it does seem rather slow for the other states. I know they are particularly working on the New York to Florida route because so many of Florida’s Snow birds (winter residents) come from there and are frustrated that their transponder systems don’t work and so they have to maintain two accounts!

    Thanks for sharing the update with me.

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