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Are you planning a trip with your family and need to use a rental car? Be sure you brush up on these five car safety tips to avoid a disaster

1. Familiarize yourself with car features and make necessary adjustments

You should not jump in a rental car and drive off as soon as you get the keys. You should do some due diligence before you take off on your vacation. 

CoverTrip offers these steps before leaving the rental lot: 

  • Walk around the car. Take pictures of all the panels and make notes of any damage. This is helpful if the rental company tries to hold you accountable for damage later. 
  • Check the tires for proper inflation and uneven tread. These could indicate a problem with the car. 
  • Check the odometer. If the car has more than 25,000 miles, it’s considered a senior rental car and could cause problems later. 
  • Open the trunk. Check the spare tire and the equipment needed for changing a tire. 
  • Check the fluids under the hood. 
  • Turn on the car and let it warm up. Check the gas gauge and adjust temperature controls. 
  • Take the car for a quick trip around the lot. Take note of how it feels and listen for any strange sounds. 
  • Adjust your seat so your legs are comfortable. Also, adjust the side mirrors and the rearview mirror for the best view. 
  • Figure out the radio before leaving. 

2. Use the built-in navigation system or GPS app  

Leave the directions to the built-in navigation system in your rental car or the GPS app on your phone like Waze or Google Maps. Getting lost in a strange town is easy, but navigation systems can make it easy to stay on track. Even if you make a wrong turn, the GPS can adjust and redirect you to where you need to be going. This can help prevent you from pausing and looking at a physical map or depending on a passenger to direct you. Bring a portable phone mount on your trip so you can easily install it in your rental car. 

3. Make sure the rental car doesn’t have prominent signage 

The Miami-Dade Government recommends you check your rental car for “stickers, advertisements, or other insignias that identify your vehicle as a rental car.” These types of car adornments can alert thieves that you are from out of town and possibly an easy target

4. Know your information may be compromised 

Many newer models of rental cars allow you to connect your phone to it. You might want to think twice about connecting your phone

According to USA Today, connecting your phone to the rental car via Bluetooth can put your personal information at risk. When connecting your phone, you will often be asked to sync your contacts, leaving your contacts, most recent phone calls, and other pieces of information behind in the rental car’s system.  

Using the onboard navigation system leaves a trail of where you’ve been, and you never know what someone with bad intentions can do with that information. 

If you have to connect your phone to the rental car, be sure to allow enough time before returning it to wipe the car’s system of your information. You can figure out how to do this by referencing the car’s owner’s manual. 

5. Use safety belts and children’s car seats

Takata child car safety seats on display in a showroom in Tokyo, Japan
Takata child car safety seats | Christopher Jue/Getty Images

A rental car does not offer a special layer of safety that your personal vehicle does not provide. So, you still need to use those safety belts. Make sure that all your passengers are aware of the expectations for seat belt usage. 

You also need to make sure your smaller children have proper car seats. If you can handle the extra luggage, it is best to bring your own car seat. Using your own car seat ensures that you know the history of that car seat. If you can’t bring your own seat, the rental company should provide one. Install the car seat properly before leaving the rental lot. 


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