US Car Hire Rental Agreements

Signing Your US Car Hire Rental Agreement

In this post we are looking at the rental agreement that you will sign when you arrive at the desk of the rental company before you can depart with your hired car. The voucher we provide is not a rental agreement, or a legal document. It is proof that you have pre-paid the costs of particular items from the rental company – namely, the hire of a car, plus the insurances required by law to drive in the US or Canada.

Confusion Can Cause Customer Service Issues

The majority of customer service issues that we deal with come from either, a failure to read the document before signing, or a failure to fully understand the listed charges. The most usual reason given for this, is that the client has just got off a long flight of 9 hours minimum – usually 12 or more hours travel time – and is tired.

Whilst this is completely understandable – I fly to the USA myself and know the feeling well – the 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 have not managed to view the agreement, in its entirety, before signing – you must take the time to look it over before you leave the desk.

What to watch for as you sign the agreement?

So having pointed out the legal position, how can I help you to get that document properly signed?

  1. Do not assume that because you have politely refused their upgrade/personal accident insurance/roadside assistance package it will not appear on the rental agreement. Desk agents make commission on everything they sell at the desk, and some of them are quite used to our exhausted faces, and know that they could well have another unwilling victim and commission in their pockets.
  2. Take your time, a small screen that you initial electronically seems to be the way most rental agreements are signed these days, and because the information is presented over several pages, you will need to keep your wits about you for the duration.
  3. Look for the zero’s. Each company has a slightly different agreement, so we can’t be exact about how the information will be presented to you, but what you want to see is ‘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. You may see a cost estimate of 0.00 for these items.
  4. Keep vigilant! What you don’t want to see, is Personal Accident Insurance or Emergency Sickness Plan – with either ‘Accepted’ or a cost – such as 6.95/dayunless you specifically want to take these additional items. If you see anything with a cost next to it – you will be charged for that cost. It is not a breakdown of what has been included in your voucher, it is a charge that will be taken from your card at the end of the rental. You may see something called Non-Pkg Items. Any charges next to this item, will also be charged to your card.
  5. And finally, you will usually be asked to 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 in particular, has a 24 hour guarantee, and any option that you may have signed for the night before, can be removed and refunded if you visit your nearest location within 24 hours.

The other companies don’t offer the same guarantee, but 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 at the desk 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, and you are asked to sign your acceptance of the terms and conditions of that agreement, usually in several places. As with any contract, it is your responsibility to read, fully, the agreement and ensure that it is satisfactory to you before you sign.

If you would like to discuss any concerns about the rental agreement before your travel, please do give us a call in the office on 01428 741438, or contact us on the live chat facility.

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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