If you’ve ever owned a car, you know the intimate bond that’s forged between driver and vehicle over time. You get to know this car — it’s your car. It might even have a name, a personality, a special skill (for example, my 1996 beauty goes by Lexi, she’s quirky but dependable, and she’s so scratched and dented, no one tries to mess with her).
But when you don’t get behind the wheel often enough to merit a car purchase or you’re traveling far and need to leave the wheels behind, you might need to invest in a rental. And while a rented ride can be pretty sweet, it can also feel unfamiliar and kind of freaky. You never want to be uncomfortable on the road — tension and anxiety aren’t your allies when you’re trying to stay safe. Luckily, practicing a few simple strategies when you pick up your rental can help you find your cool and feel confident in the driver’s seat.
Rental Car Safety Tips
1. Make sure your insurance plan includes car rental coverage. Most Metromile policies do transfer to rental vehicles, so if you’re a Metromile customer, you’re probably good to go. If you’re not sure what kind of coverage you have, contact your carrier ASAP and work out the details before you reserve your rental. Insurance is a must whether the vehicle you’re driving is yours or someone else’s — iron out the logistics ahead of time.
2. Inspect your car at the lot. You might be stoked to drive off into the sunset in your new ride, but don’t leave the lot without doing a thorough inspection of the vehicle. Take a look at the mileage, look for dings and scratches, and check the tires and fluid levels (and make sure that gas tank is full!). You might also want to open the trunk and make sure you have the correct tools to change a tire if necessary.
3. Cover the basics. Before you drive off, talk to the rental agent about who you should contact if the car breaks down, you misplace your keys, or you mistakenly leave them in the vehicle. Be sure to write the contact information down and keep it on you at all times (storing the info in your phone is great, but what happens if you accidentally lock that sucker in the car along with your keys?).
4. Get familiar. Even if you’ve been behind the wheel since high school, all cars are different — your rental will likely have some quirks you’re not familiar with. Take a few minutes to adjust your seat and mirrors, locate the turn signals and light switches, and take a brief lap around the lot to make sure you feel confident.
5. As always, buckle up. It should go without saying, but seatbelts are a must, no matter which car you’re driving. Don’t forget to secure your belt before you go.
6. Study your geography. If you’re in a new area, be sure to take a good long look at a map, consult your GPS, and plan your route ahead of time.
7. Eliminate the distractions before you drive. If you know you’re going to want to listen to the radio or play music on your phone, figure out the technical logistics before you start the engine. Distracted driving is a major cause of accidents — stash your phone somewhere where you won’t be tempted to glance at it, and prepare to focus all your attention on the road.
Whether you’re traveling for work or gearing up for an epic summer road trip, taking basic precautions will help keep you safe in your rental car. Need insurance coverage that will have your back, wherever you go? Visit www.metromile.com today for a free quote.
Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based journalist/writer/editor and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumna. She’s written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design, and tech for outlets like Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Seventeen, and a whole lot more. She’s also a contributing editor at Fitbit and the social media director at California Home + Design Magazine. She is an avid admirer of shiny objects, manatees, and preteen entertainment.