When you rent a car, chances are you haven't read the fine print of your agreement with the rental company. And how often do you take time to inspect the vehicle for damage before you drive away? Next time you rent your ride, take a few small steps toward ensuring you've covered all your bases. You'll gain peace of mind, and your wallet will thank you.

Hidden Fees

Most car rental bookings are done online, so take a printed copy of your booking agreement to the rental agency when you pick up your car. Companies may try to add extra fees or sell you additional services or protections, but with your printed agreement in hand you can make sure they stick to the original price. You might face extra fees, however, if you are under 25 years of age.

Credit Card Hold

When you book a rental car, you will likely need to provide your credit card information. The rental company may put a hold on your card or charge you a security deposit, both of which disappear when you return the car. This charge counts against your credit limit, so factor that in when making other travel-related purchases.

Collision Insurance

Rental companies will offer you collision insurance for an extra fee. It is only wise to purchase this if you're not otherwise covered. For example, some credit card companies cover collision damage on rentals of up to 30 days. Your car insurance for your personal vehicle may also extend coverage to rentals.

Driving Restrictions

Most rental car companies place restrictions on driving out of state or into another country. Some also restrict use of the car on unpaved roads. Cars may be fitted with a tracking device, so, if you choose to bend or break these rules, beware.

Previous Damage

Check the condition of the vehicle you're renting before you drive off the lot. Make sure your contract notes existing damage such as windshield cracks and dents or scratches on the auto body. You need to avoid being blamed and charged for this damage.

Maintenance Issues

If you approach a vehicle that shows wear and tear and are concerned about the vehicle condition, ask to see a maintenance report. Before you drive away, run the air conditioning, check the fluid levels, and make sure there is air in the tires.

Owner's Manual

Before you drive away, make sure you know how to operate the headlights, windshield wipers, trunk release and GPS system. Make sure there's a copy of the owner's manual in the car and that you have contact information for the rental agency on hand in case you have problems.

Spare Keys

Ask for a set of spare keys. Losing the only set of keys given to you when you're driving in an unfamiliar area can be stressful. Often the agency will give you a spare set without question.

Getting Gas

Make sure your car runs on gasoline. In Europe, cars often run on diesel. Ask the rental agent any questions you have about where the gas release is or how to pump gas if you are in a foreign country. To avoid a fine, be sure to return the car with as much gas as the agency requires. Most require three-fourths of a tank in a returned vehicle.

Returning the Car

Clean your trash, dirt and crumbs out of the car before you return it. If the agency has to do more than a quick vacuum, you may be required to pay a cleaning fee. Check the car thoroughly to be sure you haven't left anything behind.