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Rental Health

Don't get taken for a ride by your rental car bill--look out for these hazards.

By Christopher McGinnis

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Nearly all business travelers have experienced last-minutesurprises when their final car-rental bills far exceed what wasquoted. Here's what to look out for:

  • Local taxes/fees: When shopping for car rental rates, besure you're comparing apples to apples--meaning all taxes andfees should be part of every rate quote. Always ask. Taxes and fees(often used to fund construction of convention centers or stadiums)can increase your final bill by up to 71 percent, according to study, which ranked airports whererental car fees are steepest.
  • At Houston's Intercontinental Airport, for example, if yourent a car for two days at $50 per day, you'd expect your billto be about $100. But with taxes and fees, you'll end up payinga whopping $171. Other airports that ranked high's list include Austin, Cleveland, Dallas/FortWorth and Houston-Hobby.

  • Frequent fliers: Most rental car companies now add asurcharge to those customers earning airline frequent flier milesfor their rentals. Expect to pay 50 cents per day, up to a maximumof $2 per rental, for the honor of earning those miles.
  • Insurance: This is one car-rental fee you can dosomething about. When it comes to collision or liability damagewaivers, don't fall for rental car agents' hard sell (theyearn a commission selling these add-ons, which can cost as much as$30 a day). Typically, if you own a car and have insurance,you're covered when driving a rental car. In addition, manymajor credit cards offer insurance if you charge the rental car onthe card. Before your next trip, call your insurance company orcredit card company and ask whether you're covered.

Chris McGinnis, travel correspondent for CNN HeadlineNews, is author ofThe Unofficial Business Travelers' PocketGuide.

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