Sally is a key member of the MoneyMaxim editorial team. She is a frequent hire-car user and often goes on holiday with her family. With an interest in getting great value for money, Sally shares her hints and tips for travelling and insurance.
Hiring a car in the US can feel very daunting but it needn't. Taking to four wheels is one of the best ways to really explore this vast and varied country and with a little extra knowledge you can confidently take to the roads. We can help you with all your car hire and car hire insurance needs for your forthcoming trip to America.
Peak times for car hire in the States can be different from the UK. For example Thanksgiving around the end of November can be a busy time for car rental companies. Also certain events can increase the demand for cars - Daytona sees a rise in demand in February due to the motor racing! Book early so you don't miss out but ideally find a car hire with free cancellation so that, if you find a better deal later, you can change without losing money on it.
Many people choose a road trip holiday in the USA which means that they pick the rental car up from one airport and return it to another. Make sure you have factored the cost of a one-way hire into your rental as it can make a big difference when comparing prices. By doing a road trip 'backwards' (i.e. the opposite way to the majority of tourists) you can occasionally get lucky with the deals available.
You can sometimes get cheaper deals by choosing a car hire firm that is not located at an airport. Without the on-airport subsidies, the prices for rentals can really drop. Do bear in mind that these rental agencies may not have as many vehicles as airport-based companies nor the range. However, if you are spending a couple of days in the city before heading off, then it can make sense to also save on a few days rental and pick it up in the city before you leave.
With any car hire, there are 3 main insurances that you need before you drive away the car and these are Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), Theft Protection (TP) and Third Party (also known as Liability Insurance). If you book through a UK car hire site then the chances are they will all be included but, if you go through a US site or while in the US, they may not be included. Before looking at any additional insurance for US car hire it is important to know what cover you already have.
Once you have established what you have in the way of insurance with your car hire, additional independent policies are available through MoneyMaxim which can reimburse you for any excess. There are also policies available which include CDW or SLI (Supplementary Liability Insurance) if you do not have adequate cover. If you need assistance our customer service team can help. Call us on 0800 520 0699
You may be offered various additional insurances at the desk. The desk staff may mention PAI (Personal Accident Insurance). PAI is often included within a good travel insurance so check whether you are already covered before you go. Here again, understanding what you have and what you need is important so you have the necessary insurance but also do not 'double up' on cover.
Familiarise yourself with the basic driving rules for the USA. There are some differences in the 'rules of the road' compared with in the UK. For example, in the US they drive on the right and, in most instances, you can turn right when the traffic lights are on red (provided it is safe to do so). Do be aware that driving laws can vary from state to state so, particularly if you are driving across several states, watch out for such things as changes in speed limits.
Most cars are automatics (in fact it can be hard and quite expensive to hire a manual) so, if you are not used to driving an automatic and you have the opportunity, it can be a good idea to get some practice in before you go. Once you get used to not using your left foot, it is relatively simple!
The highways in America can have up to 8 lanes but they operate much in the same way as motorways in the UK. Look out for pool lanes which are reserved for cars with a minimum number of passengers. These are indicated by a diamond road marking. Some lanes are shown as 'Exit Only' when you are approaching a junction.