What Happens if I'm Late Returning My Hire Car?

Car hire companies charge a fee for the late return of your car. How much the charge is will depend on how late you return the vehicle, and whether you notified them. Here we have a look at what to do if you're going to be late, and what the cost might be.

When you collect your hire car you sign an agreement which is your contract with the rental company. On the agreement, it states the time at which you will return the car. If you don't return it by that time, it can work out expensive. There could be late fees and hourly or daily charges.

However, it happens. You could oversleep, or you might be stuck in traffic because of an accident or unexpected roadworks. It is often because of circumstances beyond your control. Inform the rental company that you're going to be late as soon as you can. They may take pity on you and not charge a late fee.

How Late Can I Be and Not Get Charged?

Most car rental companies offer a grace period for the return of your car, which can vary from 29 minutes to 59 minutes after the agreed drop-off time. After the grace period there is generally an additional time frame of between 90 minutes and three hours, depending on the company, for which you will be charged an hourly rate. Returning your car after that time will incur a whole day's rental cost, plus late fees.

The following is a guide to the grace period of some of the major companies:

  • Alamo: 29-minute grace period. Hourly charge up to two hours, after which an additional day will be charged.
  • Avis: 29-minute grace period after which a full day may be applied.
  • Budget: 29-minute grace period. Hourly charge up to 90 minutes after which a day rate will apply. After seven hours an additional late fee will be charged.
  • Enterprise: 29-minute grace period. Hourly charge up to 2½ hours after which a day rate will be charged.
  • Payless: 59-minute grace period after which an hourly rate will be applied.

These times are a guide only and you should check the specific terms and conditions of your rental agreement.

You should be aware that the grace period does not apply to extras such as car seats and GPS, or to insurance and local fees. You will be charged for these if you are even a minute late.

How Much Will Late Return Cost Me?

How much you are charged for returning your hire car late will depend on the company's terms and conditions, and how late you are. Here are some sample late fees charged on top of an additional day's hire:

  • Avis: £18 per day or part day.
  • Budget: £12 per day or part day.
  • Goldcar: €40 per day or part day.
  • Hertz: £10 per day or part day.
  • Some companies such as Alamo and Enterprise only charge for the extra day's hire.

Prices correct as of January 2019. The equivalent will be charged in local currency.

If you return your hire car after hours, you will be held responsible for it until it is inspected by a staff member. This means that you could be charged for any damage incurred after you returned it.

What If I want To Extend the Car Hire?

Sometimes you need to change your plans and extend your car hire. Contact the rental company as soon as you can and they will extend the rental if the car is available for an extension. The last-minute booking rate might be more than you paid for the initial rental.

Alternatively, booking on the internet is invariably cheaper. If you are able to get back to the rental location, make a new booking on line, return your car at the agreed time and pick up the new one.

What If I'm Late Picking Up My Hire Car?

If you're collecting your hire car at an airport, they will usually ask for your flight number. If you don't show up on time, they should check the status of your flight and hold your booking. When you're late for other reasons, contact the company as soon as possible and they should keep your car for you.

When things go wrong, communication is everything. Keeping the rental company informed is more likely to buy you some time, and might save you money.