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August 4, 2021

The Only Car Rental Checklist You Need

Let our car rental checklist put your mind at rest before you head off on that next road trip. Here's everything you need to think about. And the things you don't.

You may also be interested in our Road Trip Planner & Toolkit and the list of Road Trip Essentials here.

The Perfect Car Rental Checklist

We love a good road trip here at Travel Lab HQ. Whether I'm on my own, with friends or family or zipping about for work, driving can be a great way to explore the world, chill out and get things done. 

However. I wish I'd had a car rental checklist when I first started travelling. Because there are things you need to know and it's easy to forget about something at the checkout desk. Although it should be a relaxed, easy going place, most people are so keen to finally get going that they rush through it and miss something. 

Don't make my mistakes. Learn from my car rental checklist.

The Car Rental Checklist At a Glance

When booking

  • Will you have enough space for all passengers, including luggage, pushchairs, car seats, surfboards, golf clubs and anything else large and cumbersome?
  • Can you drive it? Many countries, especially in Europe, have manual cars as the default option, not automatics. Also, do you need an international driving permit?
  • Can your rental car handle the road? Do you need a 4WD for off-road terrain? Snow chains for the mountains?
  • Is it small enough ;-) Smaller is better for city driving. As long as you can all fit in.
  • Do you need to book SatNav or child car seats?
  •  What about car insurance? Additional drivers? Car rental companies frequently use these as upsell suggestions when you pick up your keys.  Think about it in advance and research as necessary so as to make the best decision for you.
  • In many countries, the car rental company will insist you pay by credit card. However, in other places, they will insist on cash. Find out before you fly and plan accordingly to avoid steep charges.
  • Car rental periods usually run in 24 hour blocks of time. Make sure you leave enough time in your booking for any normal delays because of traffic and the like.

Rental Car Checklist on pick up (including Vehicle INspection Checklist)

  • Check which type of petrol or gas you need and note which side the fuel cap is on.
  • Note down the emergency breakdown number and ask what to do if you lose your key. Make sure you have a copy of the car rental agreement or car rental form.
  • Check the returns process, particularly if you are returning outside normal business hours. Do you need to drop off the keys somewhere in particular?
  • Walk around the car looking for obvious damage and check the condition of the tyres.
  • Check the fuel level and miles on the dashboard and note them down. Do you need to bring the vehicle back with a full tank or empty?
  • Check the car has a manual, spare tyre, jack and lug wrench already.
  • Check the lights, mirrors and windscreen wipers and drive around the parking lot before leaving.
  •  Check that you know how to find the reverse gear as it differs from car to car.
  • Get all your road trip essentials in place (snacks, water, Sat Nav, music) and then hit the road!

Rental Car Return Checklist

  • Make a note of the mileage and petrol level.
  • Check for any damage and take photos of the car.
  • Check under the seats, in the glove box and in the boot or trunk.
  • Obtain a receipt if possible or photograph the car in the return space.

Make sure your vehicle can tackle the road conditions ahead, has space for all passengers AND luggage and (ahem) make sure you know how to drive it.

Know the Rules of the Road

In Britain, you drive on the left. And Japan. And Australia,  Jamaica, Malawi and the Maldives and many more. 

So, for one, check whether to drive on the left or right with this handy website.

But the rules don't end there. Some countries require certain equipment, such as a spare pair of glasses in the glovebox, or restrict various others. See not being allowed to drive in flip flops in Spain, among others.

Check the rules of the road in the country (or state) you plan to drive in. You may be surprised...

How to Put Together the Perfect Road Trip




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