So you found the perfect rental car dealer and chose your ride. But did you know there are a few things you need to check the rental vehicle for before you leave the lot?

The freedom and convenience of having your own set of wheels are unparalleled. However, there’s more than meets the eye. Sometimes the interior has hidden flaws, or some parts of the car aren’t working as they should.

But why bother with pre-rental checks? 

Well, there are several compelling reasons why this step is an absolute must. 

First, conducting a thorough inspection allows you to identify any existing damages or issues with the vehicle before you take possession. By documenting these findings, you can avoid disputes and potential charges from the rental company upon return.

Beyond financial considerations, your safety and the safety of your passengers are of paramount importance. 

A comprehensive pre-rental check allows you to spot any potential hazards or malfunctions that could jeopardize your journey. Also, it can save you from unexpected delays and hassles during your rental period.

That’s why we decided to have this trusty guide to pre-rental checks. By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to avoid potential issues, ensure your safety, and make the most of your rental period.

Before you drive off into the sunset, check the vehicle thoroughly before you leave the lot. Here are the things to look out for.

Exterior Damage

Start by giving the vehicle’s exterior a once-over. Take a leisurely stroll around the car, paying close attention to every nook and cranny. 

Look out for any dents, scratches, or other damages to the body, bumper, or tires. While minor wear and tear are often acceptable, it’s essential to spot any significant damages

And before you hit the road, don’t forget to inspect all the lights and signals. From headlights to tail lights, make sure they are in working order.

If you come across any issues, be sure to report them to the rental agent promptly. By documenting the damages on your rental agreement, you protect yourself from potential disputes or charges upon returning the vehicle.

Interior Damage

Once you’ve given the exterior a keen eye, it’s time to shift your focus to the interior. Open the car door and step inside to inspect the cabin closely. 

Keep an eye out for any signs of interior damage, such as cigarette burns, food stains, or pet hair. A well-maintained interior contributes to a comfortable and enjoyable ride, so make sure to report any damages or abnormalities to the rental agent. 

Safety is a top priority, so buckle up and check the seatbelts for proper functionality. Test the air conditioning and heating systems to ensure a comfortable ride, no matter the weather. 

mechanic checking car interior

And, of course, don’t forget to play with the audio and entertainment features. Check the rental car for these before you leave the lot. They’ll keep your journey upbeat and enjoyable.

Your proactive approach ensures you won’t be held responsible for pre-existing issues. It also helps maintain transparency throughout the rental process.

Fuel Level

Before you leave the lot and hit the road, ensure that the fuel tank is full. Confirming this detail is crucial, as returning the vehicle with less fuel than initially provided will incur additional charges. 

By starting with a full tank, you can better manage your fuel expenses and avoid unexpected costs at the end of your rental period.


Give the tires some attention. Check to see if they are properly inflated. Well-maintained tires contribute to better fuel efficiency and safer driving. 

Should you notice any tire pressure issues, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from the rental agent. They are often more than willing to provide a free air fill, ensuring you hit the road with optimal tire performance.

Tools and Accessories

Next, ensure the car comes equipped with all the essential tools and accessories you may need. 

A jack, lug wrench, spare tire, and first-aid kit are vital items to have onboard in case of emergencies. Ensure they are present and in good condition before leaving the lot. 

Having these tools at your disposal ensures that you can handle unforeseen situations with confidence and ease.

Mileage Allowance

Understanding your mileage allowance is crucial to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Find out how many miles you are allowed to drive the car during your rental period. 

If you exceed this limit, the rental company will charge you for each additional mile. Keeping track of your mileage allows you to plan your travels accordingly. With that, you can manage your expenses effectively.


Familiarize yourself with the rental company’s insurance policy before you leave the lot. While the rental fee typically includes basic coverage, you may need more than this for complete peace of mind. 

Consider purchasing additional insurance coverage. A collision damage waiver (CDW) or loss damage waiver (LDW) will work pretty well. 

These options can offer added protection in the event of an accident or theft. This reduces your financial liability and potential stress during your rental period. 

Before making a decision, carefully review the terms and conditions of the insurance options available. If you fully understand the extent of coverage provided, you can comfortably sign the agreement.


Pro Tip: Before you set foot in the car, take several photos of the car using my phone. I do so from various angles. 

The pictures are automatically date-stamped with the network date and time. So they serve as evidence of the moment I accepted the vehicle. Additionally, these photos distinctly indicate that they were taken on the premises of the rental agency. 

You can also take a video, but I prefer photos.

Should you observe any damage during this inspection, ensure that the rental staff acknowledges and records it appropriately.

Final Words


In a nutshell, check a rental car for interior or exterior damage, deflated or damaged tires, and insurance inconsistencies before you leave the lot.

Be proactive in understanding your mileage allowance and exploring insurance options that best suit your needs. With these expert tips and resources at your disposal, you’ll breeze through the pre-rental inspection process.

This will set the stage for a delightful and worry-free driving experience. Happy travels!