Heads Up on Rental Car Fees

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You know the drill.

"Initial, initial, and sign."

Paying for a rental car is just the start. A child safety seat costs extra. So does satellite radio, emergency roadside assistance, even the privilege of using E-ZPass to pay tolls.

One driver explains, "I don't want to be nickel and dimed. I'd really rather just have one total price."

Consumer Reports ShopSmart checked the fees at the nine big rental companies, including Enterprise, Hertz, Avis, and Dollar.

Lisa Lee Freeman with Consumer Reports says, "Car-rental companies don't make it easy to find the charges on their websites. But they certainly do a great job of loading on the fees when you return the car."

For instance, add a driver? Another $13 to $30 a day. If the second driver is under 25, the fee can jump to more than $100 a day!

Lose the key, and that can cost you $375.

And be especially careful about picking up the car in one place and dropping it off in another.

Lisa explains, "The lowest drop-off charge we found was $50. But believe it or not, in some cases Avis charges as much as $1,000 to drop off a car in another location."

And at Avis if you return a car even 30 minutes late, you'll be charged for nearly a full day.

With any car rental, be sure to fill up before you drop off to avoid paying extra-high prices for gas. Then you'll avoid another possible fee for refueling. At Budget it's $14.

Consumer Reports ShopSmart says before you leave home, be sure to check your auto-insurance policy and credit card protection so you'll know whether you need to sign up for car-rental insurance.

And it's always a good idea to pay with a credit card. That way you can dispute inaccurate charges.

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