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Rental Car Insurance in California
Car Rental in California

Tips on Car Rentals, Getting the Best Rate, Equipment Options and More

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Car Rentals California 

Driving a rental car in California is one of the best ways to see the Golden State.  Before you rent a car there some things that will help you make the best car rental choices and make your California visit more enjoyable. Villa Marine California offers discount rental cars from Americas’ top rental car companies. All of these rental car fleets are less than 2 years old, have relatively low mileage and are well maintained.   

 Alamo  Avis  Budget  Dollar
 Enterprise  Hertz  National  Thrifty

These companies offer the full spectrum of vehicles from fuel efficient Economy and Compacts to roomy Luxury and SUV models. Most of these companies now offer Hybrid models as well. Be sure and reserve early if you want one these “green” cars.   
 

If you are a seasoned traveler and already know what you want, then you can book a discount rental car online now, or call our 24-Hour Reservation Hotline Toll Free at (888) 209-7133

                                  Make your car rental reservation here

Are You Eligible for Car Rental in California? 

The first thing that should be done is determine if you are eligible to rent a car in California.  Like many other things associated with driving, the California car rental companies have requirements that must be met before a car can be rented.  These will be discussed in more detail, but the basic requirements are: 

  • Driver must be at least 21 years of age (additional charge applies to drivers between 21 and 24 years old)
  • Driver must have a valid driver’s license
  • Driver must have a valid credit card

 

Checking the Qualifications and Requirements of the car rental company you intend to rent from is the best way to make sure that you are qualified to rent. 

We maintain information on our website regarding age restrictions, valid drivers license requirements, insurance, payment options and optional equipment.  This information is available after you have selected your rental dates, company and car type.  You do not need to make the reservation to access this information. 

You can also call our 24 hour reservation hotline, Toll Free at (888) 209-7133.  We will be happy to answer your questions and book your ideal rental car.  Please remember that your reservation is of no use if the car rental company denies you the car rental in person.

Your Driving Record

Driving RecordMost rental car companies conduct a driver’s license check.  You must have a valid drivers license at the time of the rental and it must remain valid for the duration of the rental period.  If your license is currently suspended or expired, you will not be eligible to rent a car. If you have a history of traffic violations you may not be eligible to rent a car, particularly if those violations include convictions for DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated).  Seat belt violations, accidents, reckless driving, or leaving the scene of an accident; previous offenses of driving with a suspended or invalid license are all reasons companies will deny you a car rental. The best thing to do is check the company's policy regarding driving records.  Remember that each company has its own Qualifications and Requirements, so what is true for one rental car company, may not be true for another.

Drivers 21-24 Years Old – Surcharge

Almost all major car rental companies will now rent to persons between 21 and 24, but will charge a daily surcharge in addition to the other rental charges.  For most companies the charge is about $25.00 per day.  Younger drivers may not be able to rent certain types of vehicles such as SUV’s, Luxury or Sports Cars.  You should always check with the rental car company to determine their policy for renting to young persons.

Payment for Your Car Rental in California

You will be required to present a valid major credit card at the time of the rental.  Most companies will require that you have available credit equal to the amount of the estimated rental charges plus up to $400.  Your card will not be charged until you return the vehicle.  When you make your reservation, you will be required to give a valid credit card number.  Most car rental companies will run a credit check based on that and other information furnished by you. If your credit history is not good, the car rental company may deny renting to you. Most car rental companies do not accept debit cards or cash for deposits, but they will accept them for payment when the car is returned.  

Additional Drivers Must Be Authorized

As the renter, with the credit card and valid driver's license in your name, only you can drive the rental car.  If you need another driver you must get authorization from the rental car company and have them added to rental agreement as an additional driver.  Generally the minimum age requirements still apply and they will have to present a valid drivers license.  Some car rental companies allow a spouse or partner to drive car rentals without being added to the contract. If you need to add an additional driver, it is best to do it at the time of pickup, but if your plans change, it is possible to add another driver later. Having an unauthorized person drive your rental car can have serious repercussions if the additional driver is cited for a traffic violation or involved in an accident. Your rental contract might be voided, which could also void insurance or waivers in the agreement.  Please don’t take this unnecessary risk by allowing unauthorized drivers operate your rental car. Again it is a good idea to check the company's policy regarding additional drivers.

International Drivers

Some rental car companies accept an International Driver's Permit only. Most larger companies require you to have a valid, up-to-date driver's licensed issued by the country of which you are a citizen. Please check the requirements with the rental car company.

What Type of Car Do I Need? 

typesIf you meet the requirements, then the planning can begin. The best place to start is determining the kind of automobile you want. Take time to think about the kind of vehicle that will work best for you. Here are some considerations:

  • How many passengers will be traveling with you?  Adults? Kids?
  • How much luggage will everyone have?
  • What extra equipment are you bringing? Golf Clubs? Fishing gear?
  • What will you use the rental vehicle for? Day trips? Touring? City driving?
  • How much do you plan to buy during your trip? Gifts? Souvenirs?

Car rental companies classify their vehicles in different ways. For example, what is considered a mid-size to one company might be a compact to another.  All of the companies list the specific vehicle models they have in each category, so just check.  Since Hybrids come in different sizes, you may have to look in different categories for these popular models.  Commonly listed sizes are: Economy, Compact, Mid-size, Standard, Full Size, Premium, Luxury, Hybrid, Convertible, Sports Car, Mid-size SUV, Full Size SUV, Mini Van, Full Size Van and Station Wagon.

Make your car rental reservation here  

Optional Equipment for Car Rentals 

  • General Options

You can make special requests and preferences at the time the reservation is made. While they are not guaranteed, the companies make every effort to honor your request.  Most companies will have child safety seats, equipment racks and additional luggage racks for rent if you need them.  Special option packages are available depending on the season and location. For example ski packages are popular December through March. A typical ski package would include a 4 wheel drive SUV with a ski rack at special pricing. Don’t forget to include the cost of the options you select in the price of the rental.  They can add up in a hurry and no one likes surprises.    

  • Hand Controls

The companies have cars equipped with hand controls, for those that require them. Hand-controlled cars should be reserved at least 48 hours in advance.  

  • Child Safety Seats

California law requires that children must ride properly buckled-up, in the back seat, in a safety seat or booster until they are at least 6 years old OR weigh at least 60 lbs.  Child safety seats are available for rent for about $10 per day, but booster seats are not normally unavailable, so if you require one, then it is probably best to bring your own.  

  • GPS

GPS navigational devices are one of the most popular options.  They make your trip faster and safer by tracking your location and giving you turn-by-turn directions.  They're easy-to-use and make traveling in unfamiliar territory easier, safer and more enjoyable.  We didn't know how great they were until we tried one ourselves.  And now... "We wouldn't leave home without it!"  GPS devices are available in rental cars for an extra daily charge (usually about $12/day). 

However, it might be a better investment to buy and bring your own portable GPS Navigator... then you'll always have this wonderful tool to use whenever and wherever you go!  Once you use a GPS... you won't want to be without one either!

In the "leading Consumer Rating Magazine," Garmin Nuvis were the 3 highest-rated models -- and also received the magazine's "Best Buy" designation.  There are many good options, starting at about $160.  Price is largely determined by screen-size and desired functionality. There are also some handy accessories such as dashboard mounts and carrying cases.  If you ever drive more than a few miles from home, we strongly recommend that you consider buying a portable GPS device.

Make your car rental reservation here  

Rental Car Insurance California 

California rental car insurance can be one of the highest costs incurred as part of a rental so it is important to understand your options.  While insurance is important to have, don’t buy more than you need. The first option is rely on your personal automobile and home owners insurance. Check your policies to determine what coverage you have when renting an automobile.  If it’s not clear, contact your insurance agent for a full explanation.  Chances are good that you have adequate coverage and will not have to buy any additional insurance.

Credit Card Company Damage Waiver Insurance

If you're renting the car with a Gold or Platinum credit card, your card provider may also pay for vehicle damages associated with an accident. Be sure to guarantee the reservation and pay for the rental with the card from the company with which you want to have the coverage. Insurance from credit card companies typically provide only some form of Damage Waiver coverage. This generally includes:

  • Physical damage to and/or theft of the covered automobile.
  • Valid loss-of-use charges imposed and substantiated by the car rental company through a fleet utilization log.
  • Reasonable and customary towing charges to the nearest qualified repair facility, due to a covered loss.

This coverage is always subordinate to any other coverage you or your car rental company may have. Credit card companies do not provide Supplemental Liability or other types of Insurance as part of their basic coverage.  Check with your credit card company for exact coverage. Again, it is important understand the car rental companies’ requirements, to make sure you understand your exposure.   

There are four different types of insurance and
insurance-like coverages.

California rental car insurance1.  Loss Damage Waivers (LDW), Collision Damage Waivers (CDW), and Physical Damage Waivers (PDW) from the rental company essentially take the place of your own collision and comprehensive insurance. This relieves you of responsibility if the rental car is stolen or vandalized, or if you wreck the rental car company's vehicle. Some LDW’s include the CDW, and some waivers require you to pay a deductible, just like your automobile comprehensive and collision insurance. These waivers are not insurance, but it's the rental car company's version of comprehensive and collision insurance.) The cost is between $7 and $25 per day, depending on the deductible, rental car company and what kind of automobile you rent.

2.  Supplemental Liability Protection (SLP), Liability Insurance Supplement (LIS), Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI) are forms of insurance that supplements the rental car companies liability coverage that is included in your rate.  California requires car rental companies to provide a small amount of liability insurance with each rental vehicle. This coverage is for damage that you do to others.

In California the liability is limited to 15/30/5.  That means $15,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, $30,000 in bodily injury coverage per accident and $5,000 in property-damage coverage per accident. Because this is minimal coverage, the rental car companies offer additional Liability Insurance supplements that will often cover you for up to $1 million if you cause an accident, damage property, or injure others. This coverage typically has a "combined single limit," meaning the insurer will pay no more than $1 million for bodily injury and property damages. If you purchase this insurance from the rental car company, it becomes your primary liability insurance. Your own personal auto liability insurance is reduced to excess-coverage status. The cost of additional Liability insurance is between $7 and $15 per day, depending on the company.  

3.  Personal Accident Insurance (PAI)You can also purchase accidental death and personal property insurance from the rental car company for $1-$5 per day. Personal Accident Insurance allows you to elect accidental death and accidental medical expense coverage for yourself and your passengers during the rental period of the vehicle.  You may already have this coverage under your health, life or automobile insurance policies. As an example, below is a summary of coverage offered by Hertz.

PAI Coverage:

 Benefits Schedule*

 Renter  Each Passenger
 Accidental Death   $175,000   $17,500
 Accidental Medical Expenses
 (not to exceed)
   $2,500   $2,500
 Ambulance Expense
 (not to exceed)
   $250    $250

4.  Personal Effects Coverage (PEC):  Coverage for theft of personal effects of the renter and his or her family will cost $1-$5 per day. You may already have this coverage through a home owner's or renters policy. If you buy any of the insurance or waivers from the car rental company, remember that some coverage may be revoked under certain conditions. You may not be covered if you or another driver is guilty of driving in a negligent manner including speeding, reckless or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Also, driving on unpaved roads, taking the auto out of state, or if an unauthorized driver was driving may be cause for revocation.

Make your car rental reservation here

What About Taking a Rental Car Out-of-State? 

Given California’s proximity to Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, as well as Arizona and Oregon, renters often want to visit there as a part of their California vacation. mapMost car rental companies will allow their automobiles to be taken out of state, but make sure they know you intend to make that trip when you pick it up.  There may be additional charges for taking vehicles out of California.

What About Taking a Rental Car to Mexico? 

Mexico is subject to a variety of restrictions. Some companies don’t allow their vehicles in Mexico, while others merely limit your travels south-of-the-border. In most cases, only automobiles rented in cities near the border are allowed into Mexico. In all cases, you’ll need Mexico insurance, usually priced at rental agencies around $25 a day, depending on the vehicle and coverage.

How Much Will It Cost to Rent a Car?

Car rental companies practice “yield management” with regard to pricing.  In its simplest form, that means “the higher the demand, the higher the price.”  Since the supply of vehicles and the demand fluctuate, so do the rates.  In addition, pricing varies by day of the week, length of the rental period, and the renting location. Rule-of-thumb is to book as soon as possible and check back for lower rates.  Car rental agencies generally charge four kinds of basic rates:

  •  a daily rate with a mileage charge
  • a daily rate with a limited number of free miles per day
  • a daily rate with unlimited mileage
  • a rate that has free mileage over an extended period 

PiggyBankThe first plan is rarely used anymore.  The last three options are the most common. The daily rate with a limited number of free miles may offer the best deal if you stay within the allowed miles but excess miles can be expensive.  Unlimited miles offer the most flexibility and is the most widely offered.  Weekend and weekly rates offer the lowest base cost and are ideal for a getaway or a longer vacation. Generally the weekly rates are better for rentals of five days or more. Weekend rates generally apply from noon Thursday through Monday. All of the rates quoted on our site include estimated taxes and fees.  

Car rental days are based on 24 hour periods, staring at time the automobile is picked up.  For example if you picked it up at 1:00 pm on Monday, it would be due at 1:00 pm on whatever day was agreed to.  Most rental companies allow a 30- minute to one-hour grace period.  After that, late fees are assessed.  First you will be charged hourly and then for a day. When you pick up the auto, ask them about their grace period policy.  

The other major factor in the cost is the renting location. Rates are generally higher in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, when compare to Sacramento or Palm Springs  


One-Way Car Rental Drop-Off Charges

There is no one-way drop-off charge at most locations in California if the car is picked up at one location and returned to another. For example, if you fly into San Francisco and drive down the coast to Los Angeles and return the vehicle there, most likely there would not be a one-way charge. However, in some cases there is a one-way charge, and it can be high, so check with your rental car company when you are planning your trip. 

How to Get the Best Rate (Compare Discount Rates)

It’s always best to check the rates with several car rental companies. You can easily shop and compare discount rates at our eight rental companiesEnter your Location, Dates and Car Type; then select “All Featured Vendors.” You do NOT need to make a reservation to access this information. 

 Alamo  Avis  Budget  Dollar
 Enterprise  Hertz  National  Thrifty

Make your car rental reservation here

If you can, book well in advance. Car rental companies book-up quickly during peak travel periods. Don’t forget to take advantage of any additional discounts you may be entitled to.  AARP, AAA, veterans groups, alumni associations and other similar organizations often have various discounts arrangements for their members. Coupons are sometimes available, but before using one, find out what the rate is without it. Sometimes the discount is based on the company’s highest rate and may actually cost more money than other rates that are available.

If your plans change, then change your reservation, so you do not incur extra charges or worse yet, have the reservation canceled.  Give the rental company your flight information when you make your reservation or as soon as you have it.  They monitor the airlines for late arrivals and will hold your reservation until the flight arrives.  

Pick-up Your Car "On Airport" or "Off Airport?"

Car rental companies are charged various taxes and fees that are added to the base rate and options charges.  Typically these can add between 20% and 30% to the cost of a car rental.  While the taxes are unavoidable, some of the airport related fees can be avoided if the auto is picked up and returned to an “off airport” location.  If convenience is not a high priority, using an off airport location may save a much as 10%, depending on the length of the rental period.

What About Gas?

Each company has its own re-fueling policy.  Some companies will offer the choice to pre-pay for a tank of gas at a market or higher price, or you can fill-up at a gas station upon return. It will almost always be cheaper to fill up at a local station if you know you won't use a full tank of gas. The pre-paid gas option is almost always more expensive, but it is convenient if you are on a tight schedule.  The least desirable option from a cost viewpoint is bringing the auto back without filling it up. Most companies will charge a high per gallon rate for the fuel. Some companies are charging over $2.00 per gallon more than pump prices for their fuel. Given the potential cost impact, make sure that the tank is full when you do your pre-trip inspection. If for any reason the tank is not full at pick-up, make sure it is noted on the contract.

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Booking online through our site is the fastest and easiest way to book your discount rental car.  If you would rather book by phone, call our 24-hour reservation hotline Toll Free (888) 209-7133.

                                         Make your car rental reservation here 

Upgrades

Sometimes the specific automobile you reserved is not available and the rental companies will offer an upgrade, typically to a larger more expensive model, but at the same rate you were promised.  If you are offered larger model, be sure to factor in the difference in fuel cost.  Sometimes you can negotiate a lower rate to offset the higher fuel cost.

Inspect the Car at Pick-up!

check carefullyOne of the most common mistakes made by automobile renters is failing to inspect the vehicle before leaving the rental facility. You can be sure that the rental company will thoroughly inspect it when it is returned, and you will be charged for any damage not noted when you picked it up.  Since that is the case, you should inspect the body for existing damage and defects such as dents, scratches, broken parts and overall operation. There should be an inspection form inside the automobile or in the rental agreement envelope. If you can’t find the form ask for one.

Start the inspection by walking around the vehicle and making a visual check for damage to the body, lights and mirrors.  Be sure to check for a missing or broken fuel cap.  Next, check under the hood for correct oil, coolant and windshield washer fluid levels. Then, open the trunk to see if they included a properly inflated spare tire and jack. Check the tire pressure. This is very important safety item under any conditions, but even more so if you will be driving at high speed, in hot weather with a heavy load.  It will also improve handling and fuel economy.  For safety reasons, I always travel with a tire pressure gauge (like the gauges to the right).  I consider it very cheap insurance! 

After you have checked the exterior, engine compartment and trunk, move to the interior.  Conduct a visual check for broken, torn, stained or missing items.  Check all safety items including wipers, windshield washer, emergency brake, exterior mirror controls, hazard lights, seat belts, headlights, tail lights, brake lights, turn signals front and rear, and the availability of an owner's manual. Next check the comfort items including the interior lights, air conditioner, audio system, window operation and seat adjustments.

Verify that the mileage on the rental agreement is correct and don’t forget to check that the vehicle has a full tank of gas, since rentals must be returned with a full tank. Also, check to see that you have an emergency contact number.  Make sure that all damage and defects are noted on the rental agreement or inspection form and signed by an authorized employee before you move your automobile. 

We know this seems excessive, but there is no such thing as cheap auto repair cost. Renters who are negligent about inspecting damages can find themselves in trouble after returning the vehicle. They may be charged for damages they did not cause. But since they never took the time to complete the inspection form, there is no legal way to fight these charges.

What if I Need the Car Longer?

Call the rental company and inform them of your situation. Also check the company's procedure regarding extending rentals beforehand. Make note of the date and time you notified the company, any contact numbers and the name of the employee you talked to.

 Make your car rental reservation here

Safety Tips

safety tipsAlways be wary of pulling over, especially if it is dark or if you are unfamiliar with the territory. Never exit your car until you are sure that the situation is safe.  Always keep all of your luggage and personal effects locked in the trunk. Do not draw attention to the fact that you are a visitor. Stay on the main roads and stick to your planned route.  Be sure to lock the vehicle doors and trunk and do not ever leave valuables inside the automobile.

Cell Phone Use

California law prohibits the driver of a vehicle from using a hand held cell phone. A hands-free device must be used to make or receive a call.

Seat Belts

California law requires that seat belts be used by all occupants of a motor vehicle.

Parking Tickets and Traffic Violations

The renter of any automobile is liable for all parking and traffic violations.

Roadside Assistance

All of our rental car companies provide 24-hour road assistance
if you have a bread down or get a flat tire. There will be a Toll Free number on the rental agreement. Also, the Toll Free number will often be on a decal inside the passenger compartment or in the glove box. As a matter of convenience, you may also chose to have roadside assistance provided through you Gold or Platinum credit card company.


Accidents

If you've never been in an accident before, then you should be grateful (think insurance rates).  However, if you do have your first car accident while you are renting, here are the most important things to do:

  • Make sure are involved parties are physically OK. Any injuries should be taken care of first.
  • Call the police and/or ambulance (if necessary)
  • Call the rental agency. Be as cooperative as possible. The rental agency will have its own policies regarding accidents.
  • Exchange information with the affected parties. It is important that you detail the accident as though you were driving your own vehicle. As you probably know, these are the most important pieces of information to collect from the involved parties: full name, mailing address, telephone number, insurance details, and drivers license number.
  • Also try to get the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident. Make a note of the vehicle’s make, color, brand and license plate number of the autos and people involved, and the names and badge numbers of the police.
  • If you have access to a camera, including a cell phone, take pictures of the accident scene. Include the vehicles, other parties and points of reference in case there is a dispute about the facts. A picture is worth a thousand words, and possible thousands of dollars.
  • Try to pinpoint the exact time and location of the accident. If the police get involved, ensure that you receive a copy of their report. Don't forget to advise your insurance agent. If you purchased insurance through the rental company, they will have to make the claim. If you are still able to drive the car and you choose to continue driving it, make sure that you allow extra time when returning it. If there is damage, there will be a lot of papers to fill out.  

Returning Your Rental Car

SignWhen you return the car, be sure the check-in attendant inspects the body in your presence and that you agree about any damage or defects. Also make sure that the fuel level and mileage are correct on the check in form.  Examine your agreement carefully for all charges and make sure they credit any deposit to your account while you wait.


 

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