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Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a cross-country road trip, a rental car may be in your future. Comparing prices online can save you a bundle, but make sure you compare the total cost — not just the advertised rate. Added fees can increase the base price dramatically.

Pay attention to fees before you reserve your rental car to avoid surprises when you’re at the rental counter or paying your bill. Common fees include:

  • Taxes. The rental company will add required state, city, or county taxes — and their own sales tax rates — to the price of your car.
  • Early or late return fees. Did you know that companies may charge a fee if you return the car more than 24 hours early? And while you may not be charged a fee if your return is late by less than 30 minutes, you still may have to pay a full day’s charge for optional items, like navigation systems and liability coverage options.
  • Airport surcharges. Renting a car at the airport, even when the rental company shuttles you to its off-site lot, can increase the rental rate.
  • Fuel charges. If you don’t return the car with a full tank of gas, most companies will charge you their price for it — which usually costs more than if you fill the tank at a local station.
  • Out-of-state charges. Check to see if the company lets you drive outside the state where you rented the car. Then ask if any charges apply.
  • Equipment-rental fees. Adding items like a navigation system, car seat, or ski racks will cost you.
  • Additional drivers. There may be a charge for adding other drivers to your contract.
  • Drop-off fees. There may be a steep fee for dropping off the car at a location other than where you picked it up.
  • Tolls. Most rental companies offer ways to pay tolls automatically, but that convenience comes at a cost. What you pay depends on both where you drive and the rental company you use. That’s because different companies offer different plans. As you compare companies, think about whether you’ll be using toll roads, bridges or tunnels.

For more tips, turn to Renting a Car.


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October 15, 2019
What I find appalling is on top of all fees the local taxes in particular in Tri-State which can be as high 25% all-in.
October 16, 2019

In reply to by JHYs

When renting at airports you are generally charged a concession/ hotel/ airport/stadium etc tax. Logic that always confused me, that business or recreational traveler should burdened with a “taxed” for a stadium or airport etc that primarily not only benefits the local economy and enjoyment of the local population. Those travelers who may not have any desire to utilize local attractions should not be unilaterally burdened for local attractions that benefits the local economy. If one chooses to frequent those facilities they are penalized with additional taxes on tickets etc. Local taxpayers subsidize these facilities to attract outside revenue for local commerce should not be taxed for frequenting the local facilities whether they frequent them or not.
October 15, 2019
Thank you, very imported and great read, especialy for the older Folks. Thanks again...
October 15, 2019
I've been "fast-talked" by a counter clerk with a difficult to understand accent. She had me sign what I thought was a refusal but that was an agreement. I specifically asked to not have any additional fees of this nature added but she did it anyway.
Bibi 07
October 15, 2019
Very good advice! we did not know ALL those. and learned the hard way.. Please WATCH: 1-Last Summer, we rent a car at Orlando airport through Costco and ABC car company- At pickup we were charged an airport fee abt $ 12 because Costco did not include in the quote/ bill(??). It was steaming hot; after a 30-minute wait, we decided not to argue, and paid . 2- ABCcar rent has an "auto-toll" pass glued on the top right side ot the windshielsd with a small door open ( like a book). Luckly we noticed it ,and we CLOSED that door to turn off the auto toll= no charge. BUT our friends who rent a SUV did not notice, and were charged 7.50 to for the same route ( we paid 2.50) + each day even did not use/ go in Hway. 3-Tolls in FL are expensive! 50 mile cost us 7.50- some have NO attendant-- Pl bring coins! or buy their passes; they have 2 toll systems- quite confusing.. Enjoy!
October 15, 2019
If you have a toll pass, you can add your rental to your pass and use it in most states. Don't forget to add funds and put your toll pass in the rental window!
Mr C S P
October 15, 2019
I just returned a rental car from a 2-day trip. The taxes are absurd and I notice a “frequent flyer” charge. I am at a loss for whatever that charge is and really have no idea where these extra charges appear before you rent a vehicle. It seems a bit scandalous on the part of these rental companies and all in the name of making money (which I do not object to) and secretly charging extra money. It’s the secrecy and hidden costs and that surprise factor that leaves me a bit disappointed. So yes, good advice to heed.
steve 1
October 15, 2019
Check your contract CLOSELY at the desk of the rental Agency BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE BLDG . We disputed charges added to our contract at the Phoenix airport rental center but we were told we would have to return to the airport to dispute the items we did not want need or request . We didn't notice the extra charges till we were out of town .We chalked it up to jet lag .
October 16, 2019
I always wonder about the insurance they advise you to buy. Do you really need it if you already have insurance. Is the price for the extra insurance reasonable for what coverage it supplies?
October 16, 2019
The last 4 or 5 years my experience has been that location fees (airport) and taxes represent 40 to 45 percent of the total cost to rent a car. This an easy way for governments to generate tax revenue, since visitors, not locals, pay it.
October 17, 2019
What a shame that it is a buyer beware situation for domestic travelers and foreign visitors. A car rental in Florida tried to scare us into paying a lot more to cover cashless toll roads. I had read that most roads don't apply and when I pressed them for information the manager looked at a map and surprise surprise, told us we didn't need it after all as the roads we planned to travel were not cashless.