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Traveling by car over Labor Day? Some things to remember

Motorists, like this one in Wichita last year, are expected to hit the road in droves over Labor Day weekend.
Motorists, like this one in Wichita last year, are expected to hit the road in droves over Labor Day weekend. The Wichita Eagle

Labor Day weekend is always an active travel time for many Americans.

For those planning to travel by car, there are some important considerations that should not be overlooked.

Whether your plans include the family car or a rental, here are tips from the Better Business Bureau.

The family car

Familiarity can lead to complacency when it comes to travel in your daily car.

It’s easy to take the family wagon for granted and overlook some important safety checks. Take a few minutes to look at the following issues before setting out on the road:

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▪ Tire tread: Look carefully at the condition of each tire. Watch for any tears or bulges in the sidewalls and see that there is plenty of tread left.

▪ Tire inflation: Improper inflation hurts your gas mileage. Be sure your tires are at the recommended pressure for your vehicle. Your car’s manual has this information.

▪ Battery: Check to be sure the terminals are clean and use baking soda with water on them if they aren’t.

If you have time, get your car checked out by an auto mechanic. You can look up a garage’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org.

Have your brake pads checked and have all fluid levels, belts and hoses examined.

A vehicle safety kit is a good thing to have. It should contain a flashlight with extra batteries, a radio, first aid and set of jumper cables.

Also, don’t forget an extra set of keys as many travelers lock themselves out of their cars, and then have to scramble to get help.

Renting a car

If you elect to rent a car for a road trip, here are some tips to save money and avoid potential headaches:

▪ Ask about discounts, especially if you’re a senior or a member of an automobile club. Remember that certain dates can be cheaper as well.

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▪ Shop around. Prices vary from company to company. Be sure you’re making an “apples to apples” comparison, where the same options and car sizes are looked at.

▪ Prices are cheaper at non-airport facilities because of charges that airports make to rental companies.

▪ Purchasing extra insurance isn’t usually needed. Many drivers’ existing insurance policies cover rental damage issues.

▪ Fees to ask about and watch out for include drop-off fees, mileage caps and refueling fees. There may be late or early return fees, or fees charged in the event of an accident. Fees can be affected by the size of the car. Extra-driver fees can be charged as well.

▪ Prevent unpleasant surprises by asking the agent precisely what the final charge will be.

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▪ Remember that most rental companies place a hold, or a block, on your credit card to protect themselves in the event of additional charges. They won’t process that amount unless you fail to meet the contract requirements. It’s important to consider whether this hold will reduce your credit card spending limit and inconvenience you while on your trip.

Whether you own or rent the car you drive on your Labor Day road trip, stay safe and take extra care to observe traffic laws.

Denise Groene is state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Contact the BBB at 800- 856-2417 or bbbinc.org.

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