How To Avoid Surprise Rental Car Charges

When you’re already trying your best to stay under a budget, surprise charges can really catch you off-guard. After all, no one likes to know they’ll have to pay extra on top of what they had originally planned.

While some of these charges depend on the services you avail, many are surprisingly common almost every time you rent a car. Today, we’re going to be talking about some of these surprise rental car charges and how to avoid them.

Some common hidden charges almost every customer faces with rental cars are insurance fees, fuel charges, additional driver charges, under/overage driver charges, overtime fees, and car upgrade charges. Sometimes, you can also see charges like damage fees, toll charges, taxes, seasonal charges, and add-on charges if you aren’t careful.

If you’re looking at all these hidden charges and thinking it’s better to take an alternative, fret not. We’ll help you understand these charges and how to avoid them to keep yourself under the budget. Read ahead to find out how to rent a car at the lowest possible rates without paying any additional charges.

Hidden Rental Car Charges And How To Avoid Them?

If you’ve read until here, that means you want tips on avoiding these pesky hidden rental charges. We’ll go over them one by one so you can see which ones you’re prone to falling for and focus on avoiding those.

Remember that not all of these charges are equal, so make sure to dodge the big ones at least.

Insurance Fees

Insurance charges are usually buried deep in the contract and not frequently mentioned when renting out a car. That’s because rental car companies have significantly higher insurance charges as compared to private insurance agencies.

While it may seem tempting at times to get better insurance, the chances of you availing it to the fullest are usually very less.

Car rental agents may try to convince you that their insurance is necessary in case you are in an accident. While that is agreeable, you should remember that you can privately get the same insurance (or one more befitting for you) at lower rates.

So always check private insurance rates before making a deal with your rental company, as you may save a big sum of money.

Also, check up on the company’s policy as some incidents (such as theft or collision damage) are already covered, and you usually don’t have to pay extra to get insured for them. However, if you do opt for their insurance, you should have thorough knowledge about what the package entails so you aren’t surprised when the bill is issued.

Fuel Charges

Some of you might be surprised to know that a car rental company will charge you for the difference in fuel when you’re dropping off the car from the amount it had when you picked it up. Just to be clear, this does not amount to a couple of bucks.

Since Rental car agencies give you a full fuel tank at the start of the renting period, you should return a near-full tank while dropping it off because they will not pay for the fuel you used.

This is important to avoid any surprise charges at the end since they charge you more in comparison to what you’d pay at a local gas station for the same amount of fuel.

So if you were wondering why your last bill was so inflated, you should check the breakdown for any fuel charges added.

Additional Driver Charges

If you’re going on a road trip, chances are there will be more than one driver. While one rests during the nighttime, the secondary driver takes over to keep up the pace. Well, if that’s your plan, then you’ll need to inform the rental car company as there are additional charges for each driver besides the one stated on the form.

Even though we might suggest some of you stick to one driver, people who are likely to use more than one driver should definitely pay the extra charges. This is because you could lose your deposit or, worse, have legal action taken against you (if the agency finds out you lied to them).

Under/Overage Driver Fees

Additional drivers aren’t the only thing costing you extra. If your driver is under or over certain age parameters, that makes them eligible to be charged extra for driving. This is usually for security reasons, and the age parameters are fairly lax.

Drivers under the age of 25 or above the age of 65 will need to pay more as compared to someone aged 25 – 65.

This can sometimes be unavoidable as you can’t change your age. So if you have no option other than someone outside these age parameters to drive the car, you’ll end up having to pay this sneaky, surprise rental car fee. The age parameters can vary from company to company.

Overtime Fees

This is a relatively justified charge set by rental car companies that penalize customers for bad practices. You book the rental car for a certain period of time, and if you fail to return the car before that period is over, you’ll be charged extra. This can be per hour, but mostly, it’s per day for simplicity.

Using the car after your rental period ends is a breach of contract, so the company will start charging you. You should always make sure you’re booking the car for a comfortable time period and keep track of how long you have left.

Otherwise, this can be a charge you wouldn’t want to deal with.

Car Upgrade Charges

This highly variable charge can change depending on your rental agency. Sometimes you book the car in a hurry without properly inspecting it, which can lead to you having to upgrade the car in the future.

While some companies will upgrade you for free on the basis of loyalty programs or other privileges, you’ll have to pay extra charges for this most of the time.

It also depends on how big the upgrade is. If you’re going from a D-tier to an A-tier car, you’ll be charged significantly more as opposed to upgrading from a B-tier to an A-tier car. To avoid this charge, simply inspect the car thoroughly before booking it.

Make sure all your travel members will fit inside comfortably with their luggage. You should also check for any features you might need in the future; otherwise, this will definitely make a difference on your final bill.

Damage Fees

Damage charges are pretty straightforward. If the car is damaged in any way while it is in your possession, you’ll have to pay for the damages, right? When we talk about hidden damage charges, we’re talking more about pre-existing damages that are pawned off on you.

While this is unethical and illegal, you’ll be surprised how many fall victim to this.

Many times car rental companies will find damages after a long period of time. Since they don’t want to be paying out of pocket, they might try to adjust the damage repair bills into your final bill.

To avoid this, always take video proof or talk to your rental agent about any pre-existing damages the car has before you pick it up.

Make a list of all those damages so the agency cannot hold you responsible for those damages.

Having a trusted mechanic by your side is also helpful when checking out the car. They can tell you if there is anything wrong with the car and what you should be looking out for.

While this can take up a bit of your time, often times it can be worth the investment.

Toll Charges

If you’ve been through toll points, you’ll know there are two types: one where you pay as you go, while the other register your vehicle, sending you the bill at a later date. This can be a small hidden charge on your final bill if you pass some of the latter.

The bills go directly to the car rental companies as the car is registered with them; they will then adjust that into your bill.

If you’re looking to avoid this unnecessary charge, you can always choose routes with the least toll booths. However, even if you go through manual toll booths where you have to pay there and then, you’ll still be paying for the toll regardless.

So it’s up to you whether you want to pay now or later in most cases.


Even though you don’t own the vehicle while renting it, some countries will have you paying local road tax for the time being. This is because you are using the roads, which are government property.

The taxable amount depends on the duration of your contract, the type of car, and the country you’re in.

Countries like USA or Canada will have this local road tax added to your final bill, while other countries may ask you to pay the tax during the time you are renting the car.

Seasonal Charges

Seasonal charges might sound irrelevant to some of you, but they can make a real difference in what you’ll be paying for the rental car. These are surprise charges that are applied during peak times of the year, such as major holidays.

Rates of car rentals are significantly inflated and can have you paying much more than you originally thought.

If you want to stay clear of any seasonal charges, you should try to plan your travels during months when no major holidays are coming up. There are also certain months, like June or December when people are more likely to travel.

Try to avoid traveling during these periods to reduce the chances of getting hit by this surprise rental car charge.

Add-On Charges

Add-On charges can weigh down pretty heavily on your pocket if you’re not careful. The annoying part is that car rental agencies are very discrete about this fee and won’t disclose it beforehand.

Add-on charges are essentially charges for any extra features you are using besides the car itself, including a child car seat, a driver, satellite radio, or even GPS in some cases.

You might be thinking that some of these things are included in the car. That’s where you’re wrong. The only time you’ll get to know you were getting charged for these is when you see the final bill at the end of your trip.

Add-on charges can heavily impact the amount you’ll be paying, so it’s best to make sure what features are pre-included in the car and what you’ll be paying extra for.


Am I Charged Extra For One-Way Trips?

Yes, most rental companies will charge more if the pick-up and drop-off locations are different. This is simply because of the effort it will take for them to get the car back to their agency.

Can I Change The Dates of My Rental?

It depends. Some companies don’t allow changing the dates of your rental; they only have the option of cancellation and making a new booking. Those that do allow changing rental dates will usually charge you a small fee, like if you’re looking to extend your travels or reschedule your flight.

Do Rental Companies Accept Loyalty Programs?

Yes, loyalty program points are applicable in many rental agencies. You’ll need to look if the car rental company you are interested in has this option with your particular loyalty program before booking. Check out their web page or talk to an agent for more information.

Final Thoughts 

Renting out a car seems simple enough, but avoiding all these hidden charges can be a real hassle. While you can dodge some of them with ease, others would require a lot more effort or are simply unavoidable.

You should always think about the trade-off when considering these hidden charges, as many times, it’s just better to pay them and move on with your travels.

Daniel Clarke

The website is run by myself Daniel Clarke, I’m lucky enough to have been living in Hervey Bay, for 31 years so I’m classed as a local I have seen many changes over this time. Read more about us here

Leave a Reply

More Pages On Other Areas