When you rent a car, I bet you don’t give much thought into the times you say you’ll pick up and drop off the vehicle. Most people enter in the time their flight is due to arrive and then maybe give themselves an hour or two before your flight is scheduled to leave. But what if your flight home is delayed and you know you’re going to be stuck at the airport? You might decide to just show up a bit later. What if you change your departure time at the last minute to get on an earlier plane? Those decisions could cost you an entire day’s worth of rental car charges if you’re not careful.
Unlike most of us who think of Monday as one day and Tuesday as the next day, car rental companies go by a 24-hour clock. If you check out your car at 1:00 PM, you better return that car by 1:00 PM or be ready to pay up. That’s one reason why it pays to plan your flights to save on car rental charges. Even if you plan your trip correctly, you may get stuck in traffic on the way to the airport.
Rental car companies offer a grace period on rental returns, but they are nowhere as generous as they used to be. I was able to take advantage of one of these grace periods in Hawaii when I forgot to fill up my rental car with gas before returning it. I didn’t prepay for the gas, so I was prepared to pay through the nose. The rental agent told me I had 30 minutes grace period so I could drive out of the airport, across the street to the gas station that doesn’t overcharge tourists for gas and fill up, which I did. That saved me about $20 in fuel charges but that’s Hawaii for you!
Here are the grace period policies of the major rental car companies if you return the car past the 24-hour mark. You may get a more lenient policy with a particular group code but I decided to list the base rules that’ll apply to almost everyone.
There is no mention of a grace period for late returns on Advantage Rent A Car’s website.
There is generally a 29 minute grace period for daily rentals. If the vehicle is returned within 2 hours of the time it was rented on a subsequent day additional hourly charges will apply. If you return the vehicle 2 hours or more from the time it was rented on a subsequent day, you will be charged for an additional day of rental.
Vehicles are rented on a daily (24 hour) basis. There is a 29-minute grace period for returns. After 30 minutes late, hourly charges may apply. After 90 minutes late, a full-day late charge may apply.
Vehicles are rented on a daily (24-hour) basis. There is a 29-minute grace period for returns. After 30 minutes late, hourly car rate charges and taxes may apply. After 90 minutes late, full-day late charges and taxes may apply. After 7 hours late, if you didn’t call to extend your rental, an additional $10/day late fee applies. There is no grace period for rental fees, surcharges and optional equipment or protections charges. Full-day late charges will apply for these items.
Late returns beyond our 30-minute grace period may be subject to extra hour and/or extra day charges, in addition to any other rental charges. If the renter fails to comply with the conditions applicable to the rate, including any geographic driving restrictions, a mileage charge, surcharge or other rates may apply.
There is generally a 29 minute grace period for daily rentals.
If the vehicle is returned within 2 ½ hours of the time it was rented on a subsequent day, additional hourly charges will apply. Hourly charges for your location and rental can be found on your rental contract. If you return the vehicle 2 ½ hours or more from the time it was rented on a subsequent day, you will be charged for an additional day of rental.
E-Z Rent A Car
There is no mention of a grace period for late returns on E-Z Rent A Car’s website.
Fox Rent A Car
A rental day is each 24 hour time period commencing with the date/time indicated on the rental agreement (contract) at the time of rental. There is a 59 minute grace period for return. Hourly charges may apply after this grace period. After three hours, a full-day charge may apply.
Rentals have a grace period of 29 minutes. Optional coverages do not have hourly charges/grace period, but are charged as a full day. Extra hour charges will be incurred at the 30 minute mark if the vehicle is returned more than 29 minutes past the original rental time.
There is generally a 29 minute grace period for daily rentals. If the vehicle is returned within 2 ½ hours of the time it was rented on a subsequent day additional hourly charges will apply. If you return the vehicle 2 ½ hours or more from the time it was rented on a subsequent day, you will be charged for an additional day of rental.
There is no mention of a grace period for late returns on Payless Car Rental’s website.
Silvercar’s grace period is 59 minutes. Your 24 hour rental period begins at the time you actually pick up your Silvercar. If you find you need to extend your rental and return later than originally expected, you can modify your reservation in the Silvercar application.
Beyond the initial grace period, charges will apply as follows:
60 – 119 minutes = 25% of the daily rate
120 – 179 minutes = 50% of the daily rate
180 – 239 minutes = 75% of the daily rate
240 minutes or more = 100% of the daily rate.
I couldn’t find anything about a grace period on Sixt’s website. Here’s a response from the company to a BBB complaint that spells out their policy
Our rentals are priced and quoted per day, whereby 1 day is equal to 24 hours. We understand that due to unforeseen circumstances you may return the vehicle slightly later than agreed. For this reason only, Sixt operates a 30 minute grace period. Once you enter this grace period, it does mean that you are returning the vehicle late, but we do not charge an additional day until this grace period has passed. We believe that 30 minutes is a fair amount of time as you should always endeavor to return the vehicle to the branch at the agreed time as stated on your rental contract.
Late returns beyond 30 minute grace period may be subject to extra hour and/or extra day charges, in addition to any other rental charges. If the renter fails to comply with the conditions applicable to the rate, including any geographic driving restrictions, a mileage charge, surcharge or other rates may apply.
It’s important to know that the grace period only applies to charges for the car rental. Even if you return a car within a grace period, if it’s late by just one minute you’ll be charged for any additional fees such as insurance, airport fees, local fees, add-ons like car seats or GPS or radio, along with applicable taxes on those charges.
If you have a car rental where the check out and return times are close, it may pay for you to leave early for the airport when possible. There might be some great places in the airport to spend some time like a Centurion Lounge or a nice airport restaurant where you can spend the money you saved by returning the car a little bit earlier.
Like this post? Please share it! We have plenty more just like it and would love it if you decided to hang around and get emailed notifications of when we post. Or maybe you’d like to join our Facebook group – we have 14,000+ members and we talk and ask questions about travel (including Disney parks), creative ways to earn frequent flyer miles and hotel points, how to save money on or for your trips, get access to travel articles you may not see otherwise, etc. Whether you’ve read our posts before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!
This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary