Any time you rent a car, you will be required to put down a deposit, either in the form of a credit hold, a bank account hold, or as a physical cash deposit. Know what to expect, and how much money or credit is really required for a car rental.
What is a Rental Car Deposit?
The deposit put down at the time of car rental is an amount (usually between £130 and £325) above the rental amount that is held until the car is returned according to the terms of the Rental Agreement. Since this amounts varies from company to company and may depend on the rental duration and type of vehicle rented, the best way to know for sure how much your deposit will be is to call the rental agency and ask.
The Credit Card Hold
The most common, easiest, and preferred method of car rental deposit is the credit card hold. With this method of deposit, a hold is put on the total amount (rental cost plus deposit) at the time of rental. The card is not charged; however, that amount will not be available to you until the deposit is returned.
Also note that if your available balance is less than the amount of the hold, you may not be able to use the card to rent a car, or it may cause overlimit penalties with your credit card holder, even if you plan to actually pay with another method.
Always be sure to have at least the hold amount available, and don't plan to have access it until a few days after returning the car. You should always be informed exactly how much will be put on hold before your card is swiped.
The Debit Card Deposit
Most car rental agencies accept major debit cards for rental and deposit. It is not preferred, however, because it doesn't show that you are creditworthy, even if you have enough funds available. Some agencies will run a credit check with debit card transactions, and the hold amount may be more than for a credit card transaction. Don't expect to have access to the funds in your bank account for at least 7 to 10 days after returning the car.
The Cash Deposit
Some, but not all, car rental agencies accept cash for rental deposits. A credit check is almost always run, and identifying paperwork verifying your driver's license information, such as utility bills, are required.
There may be extra restrictions--for example, Alamo doesn't allow additional drivers with cash deposit. A reservation is usually required as well, so be sure to tell them you plan to use cash, and be sure to know exactly what you need to bring when you pick the car up. Cash deposits are sometimes returned at the time the car is brought back, but expect that it will be returned as a check via the postal service.
What Would Prevent a Deposit From Being Returned?
Although there are cases when deposits are kept for light damage to the car, most of the time if there is any damage, an insurance claim will be filed instead (and you will be billed according to your deductible, if applicable). You should always be protected, either by your credit card's insurance, your personal auto insurance, or insurance purchased by the day from the rental agency in case of accidental at-fault damage.
If you return the car later than agreed, you will be charged for any additional time. Always be mindful of the actual return time; if you are late returning the car, you may be charged for another day.
Always be sure the car has the same amount of gas in the tank as it had when you rented it. The amount will be noted on your rental agreement. They will check, and if it's short, they will charge you an outrageous amount per gallon to replace it out of your deposit.