Saturday 19 November 2011

Top 10 Car Hire in Florida Questions

Hiring a car in Florida with is simple but there are 10 things you need to know to give you peace of mind. We get a lot of questions about car hire at Orlando and here we would like to answer some of your concerns.

1. Are there any extra charges for insurance or Collision Damage Waiver to pay? The answer is no! We have an inclusive deal with our suppliers and you pay all charges up front when booking your holiday. We know that some tour operators sell you ‘basic car hire’ here in the UK and then leave you with a big bill for insurance when you pick up the car in Florida. Surprisingly it’s the big, well known holiday companies that still do this and we don’t know how they get away with it! Their motivation is very simple – they can advertise very cheap ‘fly-drive’ packages and therefore receive lots of enquiries. Don’t be fooled!

2. What is the difference between ‘gold’,‘silver’, ‘platinum’ etc insurance? There are two types of car hire you can choose with us – different websites use different terms but we’ll call ours silver and gold.

SILVER - you are fully insured for two adult drivers. Adult drivers need to be 25 years old and to have held a driver’s licence for a year. You pick up the vehicle with a full tank of fuel and bring it back empty or as near as you can manage. You pay Alamo (our supplier) for the tank of fuel on pick-up at the airport. The charge for the first tank of fuel varies according to the size of the vehicle and to current fuel prices but I can give you a good example – I picked up an Intermediate 4 Door at Orlando in March this year and I was charged $45. I filled it up a couple of times during my visit from a quarter tank and paid about $35 so the charge seemed fair.
GOLD – you are fully insured for four adult drivers. You pick up the vehicle with a full tank and take it back empty. You pay nothing to Alamo for the fuel – instead we charge you a higher rate here in the UK. Is gold worth buying? Only if you need the four drivers. A lot of people believe that GOLD gives superior insurance cover but this is not so. You are fully insured on both deals and the insurance is identical.

3. What size of vehicle do I need? You have to be a little careful here. One thing’s guaranteed – you are going to have a few suitcases and bags to deal with so you need a bit of space. Another consideration is the type of driving you’ll be doing. Car hire is cheap in the US so in my opinion there’s no need to bother with the two smaller models which are economy and compact. Go straight to Intermediate if you are a party of 2 or 3.. If you’re a party of 4 adults don’t bother with Intermediate – go straight to Full-size or a Mid-Size SUV. If you’re a party of 5 then a 7 Seat Minivan or a Standard SUV is a good option. Larger parties have the 7 seat SUV, the 8 Seat Minivan or the 12/15 Seat Minivan to choose from but don’t forget that 2 Full-Size cars will work out cheaper than the 12/15 Seat Minivan and you’ll have more freedom while on holiday. The bottom line is that there’s no need to try and economise by choosing the smallest cars – the saving is tiny and you’ll be uncomfortable.

4. What’s the procedure at Orlando International and what about the deposit? Don’t worry – it’s not difficult. As soon as you hit ‘Arrivals’ you’ll see the car hire desks in front of you. The bigger companies such as Dollar, Alamo and Budget have quite a few desks and they know when the Brits are coming – unless you’re unlucky they’ll be well manned. You simply hand in your voucher along with your driving license and a credit card (must be a major card such as Visa or MasterCard). Usually your contract will be printed out within 10 minutes and you’ll be done. The credit card is authorised for a few hundred dollars against deliberate damage, traffic fines or missed tolls etc. We’re often asked if a cash deposit can be made. The answer’s yes but you won’t find the process convenient. For starters you will needs to leave $300 per week. That means if you’re on holiday for a fortnight it’s $600, 3 weeks $900 and so on. When you bring the car back the cash is not returned to you – instead you are given a dollar cheque. You’ll need to deposit the cheque with your bank on return to the UK and who knows what they’ll charge you to clear it or how long it will take. We’re also asked if the deposit can be made with a debit card. Again the answer’s yes but your debit card must be Visa or MasterCard – Solo, Maestro, Electron etc are no good. In addition this is only an option at Orlando International – not at Florida’s many other airports. Once your contract is printed you walk along to the garages – less than a hundred yards. Here you’ll find lines of cars organised in size category and all with the keys in and ready to go. Each size is likely to have several different models. Choose your favourite and off you go! Lots of potential here for arguing between yourselves over which is the best model but obviously Mum knows best!

5. I want a particular model – can this be guaranteed? The answer is 'No' unfortunately. Cars are graded by size. You’ll be amazed though if you ring round a few travel agencies – some of them will ‘guarantee’ a particular model. All nonsense I’m afraid! Don’t worry about the quality of the cars – they are pretty much all late model and the specs are good. All are air conditioned and have Radio/CD so take a few CDs with you if you want. If you forget it doesn’t matter – the US radio stations are excellent and there are loads to choose from. Bruce Springsteen guaranteed!

6. What about all the horror stories I’ve heard about extra charges? All the car hire companies will try to sell you some ‘extras’ and in the US they know how to sell! You’ll often be asked if you want an add-on and truth be told it’s possible that the staff will imply that some of them are necessary. Favourites include roadside assistance and personal injury protection. Suffice to say that you already have everything that’s required by US law to drive so think carefully before you sign for extra charges. Once you’ve signed it will be difficult or impossible to recover them so please be careful

7. Can younger people drive? Yes they can and we can arrange the ‘young driver’s package’ for you. This allows one driver aged between 21 and 24 per vehicle and gives a further 3 adult drivers on the same vehicle plus a tank of petrol. If you’re going for a week the supplement will be about £70 although this can vary

8. I’m picking up and dropping off at different airports – any problems or charges? No problem at all if both the airports are within Florida – say Miami and Orlando or Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. The car hire companies make no charges. If however the 2 airports are in different states you will need to pay a ‘one way drop-off fee’. These fees are on a sliding scale according to mileage and start at about $100 – they rise to about $500 if the journey is coast to coast although this circumstance would be unusual.

9. I’ve got children – what are the rules about baby seats? Nothing different here to the UK – the rules are identical. You have 2 choices on baby seats – you can either take your own at no cost (the airlines are very accommodating) or you can rent them locally from the car hire company at a cost of about £5 per day. I know what I would do!

10. I need a Sat-Nav Good idea – you’ll spend your holiday enjoying yourself rather than lost! There are 3 choices………….take your own with you having downloaded US maps from their website (not difficult to do and costs about £10)………….pay a fee to the car rental company who will supply you with a machine (about £35 per week)…………..or buy a US Sat-Nav locally if you’re a regular visitor. Radio Shack is a good shop to visit and you’ll find one in every mall.

Car hire in Florida is simple, but you need to be careful that you understand the full ramifications of your hire and that you not only get the best price but you also get the best advice. Feel free to contact me at and if you need a competitive car hire quote give me a call on 01635 885 170.

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