Renting a car when I travel home to Nova Scotia gives me a huge sense of freedom. I can go where I want, when I want. Halifax has an okay bus system, but even when I lived in the city I always preferred to get around by car. Beyond the metro area you really do need a vehicle. It’s almost impossible to get to popular tourist destinations like Peggy’s Cove, Mahone Bay, or the Annapolis Valley without a vehicle.
Car rental is relatively easy in Canada, and these tips will make it a hassle free experience:
1. If you’re not a Canadian, you’ll need to determine if your driver’s license is valid in Canada. You might need an International Driver’s License, which must be obtained in your home country.
(From: Trail Canada)“Foreign visitors can use their driving licence in Canada so long as it is readable to Canadians. This means it must be in either English or French. If this is not the case then an international permit is required. If the licence states the class, date of birth, expiry date and conditions it can be used in Canada for up to 6 months. International driving permits can be used for up to 12 months on the condition the holder is a visitor and not a resident.”
2. Rent your car online, and book early for best availability and price. A Goggle search will quickly provide you with the all of the rental car companies available. It’s easy to do comparison shopping. I would even check with your airline. Quite often they offer special car rental deals for their customers. If your airline isn’t offering any deals, go coupon hunting. I often spend as much time looking for coupons as I do selecting the car. I want a bargain!
3. Vehicle insurance is mandatory, and you have a few options. First, you might have the option to purchase a “rental car rider” through the company that insures your domestic vehicle. This transfers your coverage to the rental car, and usually at a very reasonable price. Remember, you can’t lend your car to family or friends while you’re away. The car will have to be parked. Secondly, the credit card you use to pay for the rental may offer insurance at no extra cost to you. I have a Canadian issued American Express Card, which I keep active simply for car rentals in Canada. Using my Amex card gives me the insurance I need at no extra cost. Finally, you can purchase insurance through the rental car company. This will most likely be your most expensive option, and one to avoid if at all possible.
4. Where should you pick up your vehicle? Everything I have read on the Internet says that you’ll pay more if you pick up at the airport. I have not found that to be the case, or at least not in Nova Scotia. The price offered is always the same, regardless of where I pick up the vehicle. I always pick up and return my rental to the airport. A return taxi fare is at least $120.00. I’d much rather put that money towards the price of the rental! On a side note, the highway into Halifax is modern and signage is good.
5. Should you take the free upgrade? I always choose the most economical (umm… that would be cheapest) car available, and I almost never accept the free upgrade. It’s as simple as that. I would rather have a cheaper, smaller car for more days, than an expensive, larger car for only a few. Plus, I want the biggest bang for my buck when it comes to gas mileage.
6. Protect yourself against being liable for damage that you didn’t do by simply taking a few shots of the vehicle with your cell phone. Shots of the back, front and sides should do the trick.
7. Fill up the tank before returning the rental, and be sure that the inside is clean. Rental car companies generally charge a premium for gasoline. Returning the car clean, makes a good impression.
Do you rent a car when you travel? What do you do to make the experience hassle free?
Rushton Beach, Nova Scotia
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