I rented a car from Avis over the Independence Day holiday for a road trip along California’s central coast. But although my wife and I had a great time and even got to meet up with my siblings, the trip started off on the wrong foot with a $200 overlooked charge for extra mileage on the rental car.
See, I made this reservation — like most of my rentals — through Costco Travel. I like the free extra driver policy, and unless the rates are ridiculously high I don’t bother to shop around. For this trip the rental I found seemed like a good deal. I knew it would be a long trip with winding roads along Highway 1 and US 101. We would pick it up in San Francisco and drop it off in Los Angeles.
What I didn’t expect was paying 30 cents per mile plus tax. I can’t remember ever renting a car that didn’t have miles included. It certainly didn’t have to be unlimited, but nothing? This would be a painful addition on a journey of over 500 miles during which we purposely did not take the most direct route.
I can tell you that it was partly my own fault for not noticing it on my reservation. I’m still bringing it to your attention because such disclosures are not obvious. For example, the top half of my email shows the rental information you’d expect. There’s a rate and some taxes.
But scrolling through the email, at the bottom of the second page, additional information is listed that details an extra charge for mileage. Since the purpose of renting a car is to drive it at least some distance, I’d expect these unavoidable charges to be listed more prominently. I certainly never noticed it when comparing rates before making the reservation.
Since then I’ve been reading more about surprised customers who weren’t expecting to be charged by the mile for their rental car. In most cases it seems to be for one-way rentals but not always. It’s also not consistent. I cannot replicate the extra mileage charge if I go back to the Costco Travel website today and search for a similar one-way journey, so there must have been something about my rental that resulted in this hidden charge.
Had I known that I would pay $600 instead of $400 for this rental, I might have booked through Silvercar instead and enjoyed the comfort of an Audi A4. Instead I got a Chevy Malibu that was literally falling apart (pieces flying off in the wind on the highway), and with an air conditioner that turned off in stop-and-go traffic (ironically, not the kind of car you’d want to drive in Malibu). So let that be a lesson! Always pay close attention to the terms of your rate, and cancel and rebook if necessary.