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Renting a car for the holiday travel season? Don’t get burned by hundreds of dollars in unexpected fees. I’m Claes Bell with the Bankrate.com Personal Finance Minute.

Avoiding fees starts with being as precise as possible with your reservation. You probably know that car rental companies may charge you a bundle for returning a car late, but you probably didn’t know you can also incur fees by returning it earlier than the date you agreed on.

You’ll also want to inspect a rental car carefully before you drive off with it. Rental car companies are keeping cars longer these days than they have in the past, so they’re more likely to rack up a long list of dings and dents. If those dings and dents aren’t noted in the contract, you could get stuck with the bill for fixing them .

Finally, be clear you’ll be protected by insurance in case of an accident. That doesn’t necessarily mean blowing $20 a day on rental insurance; most personal car insurance policies also protect against collision damage to rental cars. But you’ll want to be clear what your personal car insurance policy covers, and what it doesn’t.

For more on this and other personal finance topics, visit Bankrate.com. I’m Claes Bell.

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