If the prospect of renting yet another Chevy Aveo or Ford Fusion leaves you yawning, consider this a wake-up call: Rental car companies are expanding their fleets of high-performance and exotic automobiles.
Last week, Avis announced that it was adding Chevrolet Camaro convertibles to its Cool Car Collection. Both the 400-horsepower Camaro SS and 312-horsepower Camaro LT will be available at select U.S. locations.
Why go sub-compact when you can go high performance?
A few days later, Hertz announced that it was expanding its Adrenaline Collection by adding the Lotus Evora sports car (top speed: 162 mph). Unfortunately, it’s only being introduced in Europe, so you won’t be able to pick one up at LAX or JFK.
“The high-performance/exotic car business is definitely getting larger,” said industry consultant Jim Schalberg. “More and more players are getting into it.”
That’s good news for fans of fast cars and stylish rides, but it should raise a yellow flag for anyone thinking of joining their ranks. Renting a Corvette or Camaro, let alone a Lamborghini Murcielago, is not like renting your average Aveo or Yaris.
Needless to say, you should take the usual precautions — doing a walk-around to check for pre-existing damage, maybe snapping a few photos, etc. But there are also special considerations you should bear in mind before you get behind the wheel:
Get what you deserve:“People build their vacations around these cars,” said Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com. “Before you get there, verify with a phone call that the car you want is there and that it’s washed, gassed and ready for you.”
Make sure you’re covered: While your credit card probably provides some insurance coverage, there’s no guarantee it’ll cover your rental hot rod. “Don’t ask them if you have the insurance you need,” said Schalberg. “The better question is, ‘I’m going to rent a Corvette. If I smash it up are you going to pay for it?’”
Drive defensively: Speaking of insurance, recognize that you will drive these cars differently. That Lotus will be very low to the ground, which can create visibility issues, and those Mercedes and BMWs are so well-insulated, 90 can fell like 60. Even a ding can cost you some serious scratch.
Watch your wallet: Of course, you’ll pay a higher daily or weekly rate, but be aware that many high-performance rentals don’t include unlimited mileage. Hertz and Avis include 700–1,000 miles free, but charge anywhere from $.40–$.75 per mile after that. “Rent a Rolls-Royce and you’ll pay a per-mileage fee from the driveway,” said Schalberg. “We’re talking $1–$2 per mile.”
Act your age: Sorry, kids. While it’s getting easier for those under 25 to rent cars these days, the same is not true for many high-performance and exotic cars. Even when you can, you can expect to pay a “young renter” premium.
Enjoy the ride: “When you rent an exotic car, people assume it’s yours,” said Reed. “It’s an opportunity to pretend you’re a high roller.”
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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.