Renting a car with Budget during the pandemic

As part of my trip to Maryland, I had to rent a car out of Baltimore Airport (BWI) for a 4 days for commuting.  As usual, I turned to Costco Travel, which typically has the cheapest rental car options.  The 4-day rental came out to about $157 with Budget for a compact car.  After arriving into BWI, I headed to the ground transportation area, where a rental car shuttle runs every 15 minutes to take you to the rental car center off-airport where all the rental car companies are located.


BWI Rental Car Center

The rental car center was mostly empty, with no lines at any of the companies.  I've never seen this before as usually I would have at least a few people waiting in line in front of me.  As with most service desks, all the rental car agencies had plexiglass partitions separating the customers from the agents, and masks are encouraged though not required per local ordinances.  As usual, I declined the collision damage waiver, counting on Amex's purchased premium car rental insurance for coverage.

Upon entering the parking area to pick up my Chevy Malibu rental car, I noticed that the lot was pretty full, which is an indicator of how low rental usage has been since the start of the pandemic.  In every parking aisle, cleaning stations can be found.

I spent a good 10 minutes cleaning and spraying down the entire interior of the car and trunk, even on surfaces that I was unlikely to come into contact with like the rear seats.  I also opened all the doors and windows to allow the car to completely air out before driving off.  After driving off, I left my mask on, fully opened all the windows, and ran the car's air system (non-recirculating) for 15 minutes.


The rental car

I had reserved a compact car via Costco Travel, which was the cheapest option, and even cheaper than a smaller economy car option.  I received a Chevy Malibu, which is actually a mid-size car, so I essentially got a free upgrade.  The Malibu was also surprisingly decked out with a touchscreen Android Auto and Apple Car Play.  And with only 2,500 miles on the odometer, it likely only underwent a handful of rentals before me.




There were existing physical scratches and minor damage on the exterior of the vehicle, so I was sure to take pictures of it and told the exit agent to record it on my rental agreement.  After taking it off the lot, I connected my Google Pixel 3 to the Android Auto system, which navigated via Google Maps to my hotel.


Car rental return

After my 4-day rental, I returned the car to the BWI Rental Car Center.  The return process was quick with several agents working the few returning vehicles.  Although the agent didn't notice the pre-existing exterior damage, I pointed them out to her and said that I had pictures of it and it was recorded on my rental agreement, so she said that I would be fine.  She performed a chip monitor scan on the car, which indicated that I was 1 1/2 gallons short of a full tank, and thus automatically charged me for it.  However, the returns agent noticed that the fuel gauge was at full, so she told me that I could get the charge removed from my final invoice at the rental desk.  She then radioed the rental desk informing them that I would be coming to get a refund for the gas charge.  After going to the front desk, the service agent removed the charge.  I then took the shuttle back to BWI airport.


Bottom line

Renting a car during the pandemic is a more seamless process now with expanded car availability and no lines.  Precautions should be taken though before you take the car off the lot, including wiping down the entire interior of the car and leaving the doors and windows open for ventilation.  And as always, check the car for any type of damage before removing it from the lot.  The rental car companies have done their best to adapt to the times by providing cleaning supply stations and bottles of hand sanitizer.  Although I would be bold enough to state that renting a car is a safe process, rental numbers are still way down as it's directly correlated with the collapse of travel during this pandemic.

From all of us at Flying for Fitness, please stay healthy during this trying time.  We hope you enjoyed this post.  Please consider visiting one of our sponsors by clicking on the advertisements.  Our sponsors pay us for customer visits and help us to keep the lights on.  Thanks!



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