When arriving at the rental car counter, make sure to ask for a copy of the contract in English if it is not presented as a matter of course.

Make sure to check with the car rental agent on these items that you may not be aware of:

- What are the local laws you might not be aware of (for example, whether headlights must be on at all times, where and how kids ride, etc.)
- Length of the grace period for drop-off, if any
- How to use anything you can`t figure out, such as the wipers, alarm system, lights, radio, GPS, etc.
- What type of fuel the car takes (diesel vs. unleaded), the local term for that fuel type, and how to release the gas cap
- Location of proof-of-insurance `green card` and other paperwork
- Whether your car has an unexpired toll-highway vignette (if needed)
- Info on making repairs and any included emergency roadside services
- Location of spare tire and directions for using it (if the car has no spare, ask for a different vehicle)
- Whether the car has a breath-testing kit for measuring alcohol levels (required in France, costs around $5)

Make sure to check the entire vehicle for any imperfections such as scratches or dents. Photograph all dings and scratches, even the tiniest ones (be sure the date/time stamp is on). Note the fuel level and double check the tire pressure. If any damage is not noted on the rental agreement, make sure to make the adjustments with the agent prior to leaving the lot.

Before hitting the road, get familiar with your car. This is tough when you`re itching to start your travel - but take a few minutes, while you`re still in the rental agency`s parking lot, to try out all the features and gadgets: Run the front and rear windshield wipers and sprayers, figure out whether the headlights come on automatically with the engine, switch the headlights to high-beam, get comfortable with the gear shift, turn on the radio, and so on. Then, drive around the parking lot for a few minutes and test out the mirrors, the gearshift and clutch, the lights and signals. Also, you may want to ask for directions to your next destination (or at least to the expressway).