1. Check the driver requirements
Find out what the driver requirements are and what documents are needed for the contract. Car rental companies tend to impose age limits, and some stipulate that you must have held a driving licence for at least one year. Most car rental companies require a credit card and some even impose conditions on the expiry date.
It is also worth remembering that if you intend to share driving between several people, all drivers must be declared in the contract. This may lead to extra charges, such as separate insurance payments for each driver.
2. Read through the contract carefully
Even if you book your rental car through a Finnish website, the actual contract is usually not signed until you pick up the car from the local car rental company. Keep in mind that the contract will invariably be in the language of the country where the car rental company is located. If you do not speak the language, ask for the contract and the terms and conditions in English.
Make sure that you have enough time to read through the contract, because its terms and conditions and the laws of the country concerned determine what your responsibilities are. Never skip the terms and conditions or especially any small print. Ask the car rental company for clarification if you are unsure about anything. If you do not understand the contract, do not sign it!
The contract must include all the terms and conditions that you have agreed with the car rental company, including any deposit. The contract should also ideally state contact and emergency telephone numbers that you can call in the event of a breakdown or an accident. Always ask for a copy of the contract for yourself.
3. Find out what is included in the price
Check how the price is calculated per day and for the whole rental period. Pay particular attention to whether the price is given inclusive or exclusive of value added tax. A lot of car rental companies charge extra for accessories such as child car seats.
Also look out for any delivery fees and service charges. For example, returning the car to a different location from where you picked it up usually carries an extra charge.
4. Read through the terms and conditions of insurance
Pay careful attention to terms and conditions relating to insurance, as the insurance policies available in different countries vary considerably. Find out what each policy covers in terms of both personal injury and the car in as much detail as possible. Additional cover is often required to waive the excess. Insurance usually does not cover tyres, rims, the chassis or damage caused by loose stones.
Always look through the insurance documents before you sign the contract, even if you have made the booking online. You may also be offered additional insurance at that time. Remember that some types of additional cover may be included in your travel insurance.
5. Pay by credit card
It is always wise to pay by credit card, and almost all car rental companies actually insist on this. If there are any problems with the service or the car, you can ask the credit card company for a refund.
6. Inspect the car in connection with both pick-up and drop-off
Check the car with a representative of the car rental company before you drive it out of the lot. It is a good idea to make a note of even the smallest of scratches in the condition form and to ask for a copy of the form for yourself. Also inspect any accessories that come with the car (e.g. spare tyre, tools). Remember to check that you have all the necessary paperwork for the car.
When you return the car, make sure that the car rental company records the car as having been returned undamaged. Never return a car outside the opening hours of the car rental company or at least never drop off a rental car in an unsupervised, unfenced location. A good precaution is to take photographs of the car in connection with both pick-up and drop-off.