When you rent a vehicle, you enter into a contract with the rental car company. One of the terms you agree to is the rental period — starting at pick-up time and finishing when you return it.
Returning your car before the agreed time and date may not seem like a big deal, but it is technically a breach of the rental contract.
So, is it possible to return a rental car early? And if so, what does the process entail?
If you want to know the answers to these questions, keep reading! This article will review everything you should know about returning rental cars early.
Can I Return My Rental Car Early?
Policies vary from company to company, but usually, you can return a car early.
While it would be logical to assume that using the vehicle for less time than expected would result in a partial refund, that's usually not the case. In fact, car rental agencies may charge you extra for returning a vehicle before the agreed time.
For example, Dollar and Thrifty (sister companies) charge you a $10 fee to amend the rental agreement. There is also an early return fee of up to $32.50 if you bring the vehicle back more than 24 hours before the scheduled time without notification. Avis and Budget have similar extra fees for modifying rental agreements.
On the other hand, Alamo doesn't charge customers who need to change the rental period. Instead, they may adjust your rate or charge you only for the time you had the car.
When you rent with AVR, you can change your reservation at any time on our website. And, if you need help modifying your rental period, we can help when you call or email us. We won’t refund you for unused days, but we may compensate you for extras, such as coverage or accessory products you didn’t use.
If you aren't sure how long you'll need to rent a vehicle, you may wish to choose a rental agency that is flexible and doesn't charge a fee to modify the return date.
If you can't find a company in your area that offers flexible rentals, compare the costs and policies for early returns at various companies by calling them or checking the FAQs on their website.
What to Expect with an Early Return
As you can see, most rental car companies allow you to bring your car back early, and each company has a different way of handling the situation.
In best-case scenarios, you may get a cheaper rate or a refund if you prepaid. However, sometimes bringing back a car before the agreed time can cost you more money, especially if you got a special deal for renting a car on a weekend or holiday.
Let's look at some of the different ways returning a rental may affect your wallet.
When you break the terms of the rental agreement by bringing a vehicle back earlier than expected, most rental companies reserve the right to adjust your rate.
Sometimes, companies end up charging you more for the rental period, despite using the vehicle for fewer days. It may be that you no longer qualify for the deal you found online or a discount for using the car for a specific period, such as:
Failing to live up to a long-term rental deal gives the rental company the right to charge you for the number of days you used the vehicle, which may be more expensive, depending on how much earlier you brought the car back.
For example, if you get a weekly rate for a seven-day rental but bring the car back on the fifth day, you'll have to pay the daily rate. That means you'll pay full price for the five days, which may be more expensive than the price of the full week.
On the other hand, missing out on these deals may not cost you more money if you bring the car back several days in advance. The car rental company may even charge you less than you would have paid if you had used the vehicle for the entire rental period. Of course, you'll be paying a more expensive rate per day.
So while it’s advantageous to take advantage of deals, such as a car rental weekend special, always check the terms and conditions to see what the company will charge you for early returns.
If you prepay for a vehicle, you may get a partial refund when you return the car early. After calculating your new rental rate, they'll give you back the difference if you paid more. Of course, you may not get back as much as you expected if the price per day increases or if there are additional fees for modifying the rental agreement.
Still, be aware that several companies have no-refund policies. That means they will not reimburse you if you bring the car back before the rental period ends. Instead, you'll be stuck taking a loss if you decide to end your trip early.
So, if you think you may have to return your rental car early, choosing a company with lenient early return policies is best. And if possible, avoid prepaying for a rental if you aren't sure how long you'll need it.
As mentioned, some companies charge fees for modifying the terms of the rental agreement. Usually, this fee is around $10, but it may be more at some rental companies. It's a good idea to find out about all the fees you may be eligible for before reserving a rental vehicle.
In addition, many companies charge renters an early return fee. While this may not seem fair to the renter, companies usually do so because they cannot rent the vehicle during the unused days. Thus, they ask for some compensation for the days of lost rent.
You may avoid early return fees by letting the rental company know about the changes to your reservation in advance. If you already know that you will need the car for less time than initially planned, tell the staff at the rental counter when during pick up. That way, they'll have more time to find someone to rent the vehicle and won't lose business due to your early return.
Or, if your plans change after you check out the car, you can call the rental agency to modify your return time. You may avoid additional costs by letting them know at least a day before you return the vehicle. However, not all companies waive the early return fee, so you may be stuck paying it even if you notify the company.
Keep in mind that returning your car early to a different location than planned will also lead to additional charges.
Unlock Early Rental Car Returns with AVR
If you like to live spontaneously, you shouldn't have to spend your trip worrying about whether or not you can return a rental car early. With an AVR rental, you'll have complete flexibility and several airport locations to choose from!
We make it easy to modify your reservation online or by calling us anytime! Plus, you can drop off your vehicle at any rental location if you decide to change your plans at the last minute. So, use this AVR van rental discount code to save on your next trip!