This is not an article on the pros and cons of renting versus owning; rather it’s what you might want to think about if you have made the decision to rent, because there are special considerations for people who rent airplanes.
The first thing you want to think about as a renter is what kind of insurance coverage should you have? That can vary depending on where you rent the airplane. If you rent from an FBO, it will have insurance on the airplane, and you may or may not be included as insured under the FBO’s policy. Most likely you are not, but you need to ask and understand what coverage the FBO has for renters. If you are not covered and you bang it up, the insurance company will pay the FBO, and then the insurance company will most likely come to you for reimbursement. As a renter you may not be insured unless you have your own insurance policy. Even if you are covered by the FBO’s policy, you will probably be responsible for paying the deductible.
If you belong to an aero club you must ask how the aircraft is/are insured. If the club members are all owners, then you should be a named insured on the policy and are covered. If the club or another individual owns the aircraft and leases it to the club, you may not be covered just as in the case of renting from an FBO. Some clubs do include their members on their insurance policy, but you need to know for sure; and if you aren’t part of the insurance policy, you should consider a renter’s insurance policy for both damages to the aircraft and property as well as for injuries to passengers or people on the ground.
In your preflight weight and balance calculations, don’t forget to account for all items kept in the rented plane in addition to all the things you are taking on the trip. A good preflight is important whether you own or rent; but as a renter, there are more things to consider. Since you have no idea what the last person did, you should approach every preflight as if maintenance has just been performed on the airplane. You want to make sure everything is working and there is no damage to the aircraft before you start it up and become responsible for anything the next person might find. Some obvious examples are prop dings or ground strikes, bald spots on tires, and hangar rash on the wings or tail. If a problem is already there and you don’t catch it—and the person after you does—you will be responsible for the repairs; not to mention you might be flying an airplane that may not be airworthy. You should also do a thorough post flight inspection to make sure you didn’t do any damage.
Cockpit setup is another area for renter scrutiny, particularly if flying a technically advanced aircraft. The software on many PFDs, MFDs, and GPS units allow the pilot to configure displays and information in many ways. Temperature can be shown in Celsius or Fahrenheit, maps can be oriented in North up or Track up, and information can be displayed in a variety of locations. My procedure is to always restore the default settings and then make any changes for my personal preference. That way I always know where and how information is displayed. For the most part I try to stick with the manufacturer’s default settings, as their engineers have given that a lot of thought. You do want to think about the optional displays such as wind vectors and HSI information.
Renting relieves you of many ownership tasks, but it means you need to put special effort into other areas. Whichever you do, enjoy the flight.