I’ve never met anyone who enjoys going through the car rental process. First, you scour the internet and visit a million different websites looking for the lowest price for your rental. But how do you know if you got the best deal? How do you know if you are dealing with a company that knows car rentals? How do you know that the company with whom you’ve rented the vehicle will even have the vehicle for you when you come to pick it up? The truth is, you don’t.

Even if you rent from one of the major nationwide carriers, there are still no guarantees that you will get your vehicle when you arrive. Unless you’ve prepaid, or, at the least, paid a deposit on the vehicle, the company with whom you’ve rented the vehicle is only making a reservation for you – it is not a guarantee that they will have the exact vehicle that you’ve reserved or that they even will have the vehicle at all.

Standard practice for most car rental companies is to overbook – much like the airline industry. They rely on a “no-show” factor which means that they (car rental companies) rely on a certain number of people not showing up for their vehicle. So, in reality, they are essentially taking reservations on vehicles that they may or may not have. So, just like an airline seat, if you are renting with a company that requires no deposit and thus no guarantee, you may be the victim of overbooking. “So, how do I protect myself?” you ask.

Call the company directly. Booking online is a great way to find great deals and I recommend that you do so. But before, or directly after you book, give the company a call. Ask questions! What is the cancellation policy? What is the insurance policy? What is the policy for additional drivers, leaving the state (if you are), or anything else that you don’t have the answers. Most importantly, what is their policy for guaranteeing your vehicle. If they don’t know or they can’t produce something in writing, be very wary of renting with them.

This is especially true in busier markets. Orlando, where I have the privilege to work, is the number one vacation destination in the world. Orlando International Airport is in the top ten of the busiest airports in the world. Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Cape Canaveral, just to name a few, contribute to these figures by drawing tourists, sports teams, church groups, etc, to the area – also contributors to making Orlando one of the biggest areas for car rental providers to operate. Because of all of these factors, there are going to be times (read: peak travel seasons) when overbooking runs rampant. Protect yourself by asking the questions and educating yourself. It sounds like a lot, but it could end up costing you a lot of your hard-earned money if you don’t.