Part of your travels may involve renting a car which can certainly be enjoyable as it allows you to get around just like you would at home. However, driving a rental car comes with its own complications as this is generally not the typical vehicle that you drive. Even if the car is the same make and model as the one you own, there are still differences in the way it is going to handle.
Plus, getting involved in an accident or worse can not only cost you a great deal of money, it can put you in a serious bind being so far from home. First things first, when you rent a vehicle, be sure to protect yourself with rental car insurance. It adds that extra layer of protection that you will need in case the unexpected should happen while you are far away from home.
Once you have taken care of the insurance, here are the 10 best safety tips to help keep you safe when driving a rental vehicle. You cannot eliminate the chance that an accident will occur, but you can reduce the odds significantly which may make all the difference.
If you’ve never driven a large van before, this is not the time to learn. You’ll want to rent the basic type of vehicle that you have driven before. It is much easier to go from driving a large vehicle to a smaller one than the other way around. Large vehicles are more cumbersome and do not respond as quickly as smaller cars.
Also, while it may be tempting to rent a high performance sports car, if you’ve never driven anything fancier than a standard mid-size vehicle, you should leave the racing to someone else.
2. Check the Outside of the Vehicle
Before you get in, take a minute to check the outside of the vehicle first and pay particular attention to the tires. Even a tire that is just a few pounds under the recommended level can cause your vehicle to turn in unexpected ways, so have it taken care of before you leave the rental car agency.
In many cases, the rental agency will send a representative with you to the vehicle so that both of you can check it out to report any dents, dings, scratches and the like before you leave so that it is fully reported. The failure to do so means that you might be charged for a ding or dent that you did not cause. So take the time to go over the vehicle so that everything gets reported.
4. Check the Inside of the Vehicle
Before you start the vehicle, you will want to locate the following;
- Windshield Wipers
- Indicators like the Temperature Gauge, Check Engine Light and so forth
- Gas Gauge
- Radio and other features that you will use
Basically, you’ll want to get familiar with the car before you even move it from its parking space. Turn on the vehicle and check to see that all the lights and windshield wipers work properly. A sudden rain storm can greatly reduce your visibility quickly and you don’t want to fumble around looking for the windshield wipers.
There should be a fully inflated spare tire or a smaller, solid rubber tire and jack so that you can change your own flat if needed. Plus, the rental agency should have an emergency service vehicle in case of mechanical difficulties, so have that number handy when driving.
6. If you have a GPS, Program your Destination
This can save you a great deal of time and effort in trying to find your location. So before you leave the parking area, be sure to program your first destination which can save you from becoming distracted while driving. This is especially true if you are traveling in densely packed urban areas where accidents are more likely to happen.
7. Test the Vehicle as You Drive
If the rental agency has a large parking area, take the vehicle around a couple of time to get the feel of it. You’ll want to test the brakes and steering as well so that way you can know what to expect. You only need a minute or two, but if you notice something really odd or even wrong with how the vehicle operates, immediately take it back to the rental agency.
8. Limit Distractions
This is arguably the toughest piece of advice to follow since it is very easy to become distracted when driving in a place that you have never visited. However, distractions are one of the leading causes of accidents so if you should see something so interesting that you must keep looking, pull the vehicle over to a safe place so you can view it without putting you and any of your passengers in danger.
9. Stay at a Safe Speed
Driving the speed limit will help you keep out of trouble with law enforcement and also allow you more reaction time if something should occur which requires you to apply the brakes or change lanes. It can be easy on long stretches of the highway to let the speed creep up. Just keep in mind that the faster you go, the less likely you are to avoid a potential accident.
10. Read the Map when the Car is Stopped
While reading a map has been the source of high comedy in television series and films, it is no laughing matter to get distracted by a map or anything else while driving your rental car. If you need to find a location, talk or text on your phone, or have to take your eyes off the road for something else it is best if you pull over the vehicle first.
By following these simple tips, you can significantly decrease the odds of having an accident while driving a rental vehicle and keep you and your passengers safer which makes for a much more enjoyable trip.