Renting a car? Watch out for new fee

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) -  Travel season has arrived and whether you are taking to the skies, the roads or the water to get where you need to be, you will probably find it a little more expensive this year.

That's because rental car companies are following in the footsteps of airlines, tacking on extra fees and telling customers, "pay up."

It's hard to imagine that a car key could slap you with a several hundred dollar bill if you lose it while renting a car.

And while many are opting out of a new roadside assistance service because they have AAA, rental car companies say the key won't be covered.

It's just one more reason we as consumers have to read the fine print and ask lots of questions when stepping up to the counter. First it was the airlines and luggage fees and now it appears car rental companies are following suit.

"One more fee. One more add on to the cost of the trip. Yeah, it gets to be a little challenging and frustrating," says George Tilschner, who we caught up with renting a car.

All major rental car companies have added what they're calling a Roadside Assistance Service fee, something that wasn't in place prior to this year.

While these rental companies say the service will protect you and I from steep costs later on, it's hard for renters to see past the fees racking up.

Here's how the companies stack up: Alamo and National are charging $4.99 per day, Enterprise and Hertz are charging $3.99 and U-SAVE is the cheapest, costing $2.95 per day.

"When you're renting a car, you're not expecting a lot of help with the car, you're just expecting to get the car and not mess it up. So I'm not really that surprised by it," says Niki Vonhedeman, who's renting a car.

Tim Hansen says roughly 30 percent of his bill for his rental car was in taxes, fees and insurance costs. Something he now budgets for when hitting the roads.

"I mean it is what it is. You pick your battles and that seems to way things are going and you just have make your decision based upon the best fee or the best price with the company," says Tim Hansen who just returned his rental car.

Not everyone is taking the fees lightly. George Tilschner says his threshold of calling it quits on travel is rapidly approaching.

"You look to alternate means to travel or to do something different or just stay at home," says Tilschner.

In all fairness, rental cars are typically newer and are less likely to break down, but remember that the next time you're roadside with a flat tire, you're out of gas or you've locked yourself out of the car.

And although you can opt out of this fee, it's the risk you're taking for keeping your bill down.

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