If youve rented a car within the last decade without springing for whats now a daily $12-$15 fee to have a GPS device mounted to your dash, you likely have a better sense of direction than I do. For my dollar, GPS is not a gratuitous add-on its a must-rent, in the same way that toddler and booster seats are essential when Im renting a car away from home.
But like most renters, by the time youre done tallying up your basic daily rental charges and insurance costs, you likely have severe fee fatigue. That said, there are few extras you may not use or even know about that you might find are worth the convenience.
Transponder tags are old hat for car owners but if you rent, the $2.50 average daily service fee on top of whatever tolls youd normally be paying may feel gratuitous. But if youve ever been forced to wait in an end-of-summer change-only toll line with overtired kids in the back seat, you know it isnt. The Hertz and Avis fleets are well-equipped with transponder tags which go by the name of E-Z Pass, FasTrak, and other names depending on which side of the Mississippi youre on and you may find one already affixed to your windshield whether you request it or not. But do request one just in case.
Nick on the Go, a portable touch-screen video player pre-loaded with more than 40 hours of Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. programs, is available at selected Hertz airport locations for a $5 daily fee. If you have a pre-schooler in your midst or, lets face it, any child who still watches either Nick channel at home, this gadgets worth the fee, especially if legs of your trip involve lengthy drives between the airport and hotel. The screen mounts to the back of either the driver or passenger seat or can be held; battery life varies depending on use, but the unit can be powered by provided car or wall chargers. Plus, the players touch screen is intuitive enough not to require constant intervention from a grown-up busy trying to follow GPS directions up front.
Electric scooters are obviously not extras for some travelers but chances are you didnt necessarily know you could pick one up along with your Avis rental at selected airport locations. Rental fees start at $110 for three days but costs hinge on rental duration and scooter size (www.scootaround.com). Some standard scooters, once disassembled, will fit in many medium- to full-size vehicles, though heavy duty models will require the rental of either an SUV or minivan.
Ski racks. If your familys thoughts are already drifting toward ski season, know that Budget and Thrifty are among the car rental companies offering ski racks in selected locations for an average daily rental fee of $7-$13. If this seems steep, consider that some European rental car companies charge upwards of a $70 flat fee for a ski-rack equipped car regardless of how long youre keeping your rental.
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