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Drew: Car Rental Safety Tips

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By Samuetta Hill Drew

Approximately 55 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home over the holiday season. The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts an increase of 1.6 million more people will travel compared to last year. This will equate to a 2.9 percent increase. The majority of Americans will drive to their various destination points.

Many of these drivers will opt to rent a vehicle for their holiday trip versus using their own personal vehicle for a variety of reasons. Car rentals have increased since last year, but gas prices are lower than last year. Regardless of one’s rationale for renting a vehicle for their holiday trip, there are some safety measures everyone should practice when renting a vehicle.

Begin by planning ahead and not waiting until the very last minute. This allows the customer far more rental options to accommodate your passengers comfortably, along with all the luggage and gifts.

Compare prices. Waiting until the last-minute means you may not get your vehicle of choice or price point resulting in renting a vehicle that’s much smaller than needed and lighter in weight. Lighter weight vehicles typically are more susceptible to strong gusty winds.

Depending upon your travel destination, a smaller lighter car may not be as suitable to safely drive through some of the extreme wet, stormy, snowy or a severe weather combination which has been plaguing most of the country.

When renting your vehicle ask about any add-ons you require, especially a Global Positioning System (GPS). This GPS will help you maneuver through any unknown or seemingly dangerous neighborhoods as you drive to your final destination.

It’s important to take time to familiarize yourself with your vehicle prior to leaving the rental lot. Adjust your seat and mirrors both rear and side. Turn on your hazard lights, check the window controls, windshield wipers, turn signals, temperature settings, headlights, etc. Know how to engage your GPS. Fumbling around the controls in the vehicle while driving is the biggest cause of accidents – usually within a few hundred feet of the car rental parking lot.

Take pictures of the vehicle from all angles before driving off the lot. Check your tires, gas gauge, as well as the trunk. Also check underneath the hood to inspect the fluid levels of your oil, antifreeze and washer fluid, if you know how to. Otherwise just do a quick visual inspection.

Check the odometer. If the car has more than 25,000 miles it’s considered a senior rental and depending on the length of your travel destination you should request another vehicle (another reason for planning ahead). Any rental over 25,000 miles is suspicious.

Take the rental vehicle for a quick spin around the lot. Make several turns, brake and listen carefully.  If there’s any problems or strange or unusual sounds take it back. It’s best to find out before leaving the lot and driving on the road.

Always check the weather before traveling.

Holiday driving has several unique driving risks, but by Keeping an Eye on Safety using the aforementioned safety tips, your trip should be a more enjoyable one. Safe travels!