Ambitious drivers be warned. Mapping the world's second largest country through a car window can be as tedious as it is rewarding. Long stretches of highway, although imbued in scenery, can wear out their welcome faster than the in-laws on Thanksgiving. Yet year after year, hundreds, maybe thousands trek the seam of asphalt between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Crazy? Probably. But more than likely they have more time then the average traveler. To drive across Canada, and still take in all the sights, takes a minimum two weeks. Some of us just don't have that kind of time. Which is why we opt to dissect Canada into smaller portions and travel those accordingly. This, of course, requires a rental car, whose offices are littered across the country, from airports to remote gas stations and hotels.
It's not uncommon for visitors to rent two or three cars in different locations across Canada, then fly, bus or train to their next location. Unlike, let's say Mexico, the stretch of highway between the Atlantic and Pacific is quite large. Driving its entirety isn't always the best option.
Which leaves us to the part about rental agencies. There are at least 10 (conveniently listed below) across Canada, ready to serve your needs. Here are five helpful hints travelers should take into consideration before booking their rental(s).
1. Do l I need insurance?
Chances are, nothing will happen and you'll return the rental car back to the agency in the same condition as when you picked it up. But then, there's always that offhand chance that something could happen. Canadian highways can be littered with moose, elk deer and other wild animals, especially in the western mountains and Newfoundland. Some drivers are already covered under their own car insurance plans but it's always a good idea to check and never a bad one to get the insurance either way. You could end up paying full price for any damages done to the car.
2. Drop-off fees. How much and who charges them?
Depending on the company, a drop-off fee can cost more than the car rental itself. The reason being is because the company must hire a driver to bring the car back to its original pick-up location. The amount of the fee usually depends on the distance between the drop-off and pick-up points.
3. Which car is best for me?
Economy cars are the best choice for small families or couples. They're cheap on gas and relatively comfortable. Bigger parties may opt for compact or intermediate. They run slightly more expensive than the economy but not by much.
4. When is the best time to book?
Rental booking should be completed at least one week in advance. Almost every rental agency requires at least 48 hours notice for cancellations so this gives you a nice buffer in case of emergency. Do not show up to a rental agency without a reservation and expect to receive a vehicle.
5. Where can I find discounts or upgrade my car for free?
Message boards and posting forums on travel websites can be goldmines for promotion codes, online coupons and other hidden gems, such as free upgrades (search under: "rental car name" promo code). Calling the rental agency directly may also net a cheaper price than what is advertised online and vise versa. Travel search engines such as hotwire.com and expedia.ca are also good resources.
If the car rental company does not have the model you requested available, ask for a free upgrade. If they can't offer you that, ask to speak with a manager or their regional director. Chances are, you'll get what you deserve.
Canadian rental car agencies
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