Rental cars have proven to be very reliable over the years. They’re live savers when traveling without your vehicle and help drivers cope without their cars for the repair period at the mechanic shop.
However, you can’t keep a rental car for too long, and at some point, you’re obligated to bring it back. Of course you’d want to know if there are rewards for bringing a car back early.
Let’s find out in this article.
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Here’s the short answer to whether you get refunded when you return a rental car early:
You don’t get refunded when you return a rental car on time. This is because you’re simply honoring the contract. However, when you return the car earlier than expected, you might get charged less or even end up paying a fee. This depends on the rental car company and their policies.
What Are the Refund Rules for Returning Rental Cars Early?
The refund rules totally depend on the company because each has unique policies regarding refunds.
However, quite several rental companies have a no refund policy for contracts. This means they’d not refund your money for unused days. However, returning your rental car early rarely attracts fees.
A reason they may not refund your money is that the agreement prevents them from renting the car to another customer.
Although most companies would not flat out refund your money for unused days, they can do something similar to it. The payment option you choose would determine if you get refunded or not.
For example, prepaid contracts are nonrefundable.
When you return the car earlier, they’d not charge you for the unused days if the rental isn’t prepaid. The rental company will simply recalculate the rates based on the used days and give you a new quote.
This means if you’re not sure of how long you’re going to need the rental car, avoid prepaid contracts. This will give you the flexibility you need.
However, note that the recalculated rate may not always be cheaper than the initial rate because of discounts.
What Car Rental Companies Refund You When Returning Early?
As stated earlier, many of these companies wouldn’t directly refund your money when you return a car earlier. However, Enterprise only charges customers for the days they had the rental car in their possession. They also have no additional fees for returning the rental car earlier than agreed.
They’d charge a fee if you return the vehicle to a different location.
Turo can refund money for early returns if the customer makes the request early enough.
Alamo also has fair policies regarding premature return. However, like most other companies, the daily rates would cause the overall price to go up.
How Early Do You Have to Deliver the Car?
Returning a rental car too early can also be a problem. Some companies may charge an early return fee if you return the car earlier than agreed. This usually occurs when you return the car over 24 hours early.
Thrifty and Dollar are perfect examples of companies that charge extra when you return the car over 24 hours early.
If it’s a prepaid rental, they’d not need to charge you again. The $25 charge comes in when it’s not a prepaid rental.
Hence, even if you’re done using their vehicle, delay the return until you have less than 24 hours remaining. If this is not a viable option because you have excess days left, consider other options like contract modification.
What Companies Charge Me for Returning the Car Early?
These companies would charge you for returning the rental car early. However, you can avoid such charges by modifying your contract with them beforehand.
Alamo charges an extra $15 when you return your rental vehicle over 24 hours early. However, they’d recalculate the rental price to get your new quote. Other companies that’ll charge you for returning the car early include ACE, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty and Fox rental car companies.
What Companies Would not Charge Me for Returning the Car Early?
These companies have lenient return policies and have no charges for returning the rental car early. However, you can do well by informing them beforehand.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car is commonly popular for having one of the best return policies. National car rental also has fair policies for early returns. Although they won’t refund your money if you return the rental car early, they’ll charge no extra return fees.
We expect Getaround to have great return policies and they live up to that expectation. This is because of their peer-to-peer services and we all expect peer-to-peer rentals to be the most transparent and fair.
Besides being among the most reliable peer-to-peer rental car companies around, Turo has one of the best policies. They charge no additional return fees when a customer returns the car earlier than is stipulated. However, such requests must be accepted by the owner renting the car out.
How Much Money Is Refunded?
Based on averages taken from rental companies, they simply deduct payment for the used days alone. Hence, a company like Enterprise would charge you for four days if you return the car after four days. They’d follow this procedure regardless of the original duration of the contract.
That being said, these companies refund 100% of your money for the unused days. Though, if you return the car over 3 hours later, they may charge you for an additional day.
Enterprise would charge you only for additional hours if you return the car within 2 ½ hours of the daily deadline. Any return beyond that attracts another day’s charges. The daily deadline here being every 24 hours from the time you rented the car.
These are the conditions that could cause them to reduce the amount they’ll refund you.
Do You Have to Give Notice Beforehand to Get the Refund?
Before returning the car, let the car rental company know you’ll be returning the car earlier than expected. This will enable them to rearrange their schedules and adjust the rental agreements.
Some companies such as Enterprise may not have any extra fees for this. However, inform them beforehand.
Other companies may charge you a contract modification fee. While this fee isn’t directly aimed at premature return, it affects you when you return the car early.
The good news is that it’s usually a small fee you pay to change the terms of the contract.
Companies like Thrifty and Dollar will charge a $10 modification fee. Avis also charges a $10 modification fee. The contract modification fee is usually cheaper and better for everyone than paying an early return fee.
However, irrespective of the company’s policy, you should always tell them of your plans immediately after they change.
If you already know you’ll be returning the car early while picking it up, inform the company before driving off. If you’ve already driven off, you can still return the car earlier and you may not pay extra charges. Again, it depends on the company.
Can You Rent a Car with a Flexible End Date?
Well, this depends on how you define flexible. No rental company would rent out their car for an indefinite period. This means all agreements must have a stipulated end date.
Hence, before renting a car, you’d have to signify the exact duration of your rental. The best step is to make an estimate, then extend or shorten your contract when required.
There are rental car companies with flexible contract modification policies. One of such companies is SIXT.
SIXT allows you to return your rental car earlier or later than the agreed time. You must inform them prior to the return for them to adjust the terms as per your request.
If you cannot let them know, they’ll charge you about $10 for breaching the terms of the contract.
Would I Get a Refund If I Cancel My Reservation?
You can always cancel your reservation if plans change. If you cancel your reservation, the rental car company will refund your money. However, cancellation will attract a fee.
This sounds logical because if there are no cancellation fees, any random person could make and cancel reservations incessantly. However, the fee mostly affects customers who prepaid for their rentals.
The average cancellation fee for many rental companies is about $50. Certain companies offer a grace period in which they’ll not charge you if you decide to end your reservation.
Rental companies may allow customers to make reservations without paying in advance. While this may seem easier and more flexible, it is more expensive. Customers who prepay for rentals get discounts for paying that way.
The major challenge with returning a rental car earlier than agreed is that the overall rate might change. Rental car companies give discounts for rentals based on the duration of the contract. This means the daily rate for renting a car is reduced when you rent it for a week or month.
Hence, returning the car earlier than a week or a month disqualifies you for the discount. The rental company will charge you the original daily rate.
This implies that returning the car early isn’t always financially in your favor. The daily rates may be even more expensive than your weekly rate. This means you might even pay a greater amount of money for a lesser period.
So even if they don’t charge you extra, losing your discount could prove just as expensive. If you’re unsure about the duration of your trip, cross check the policies of different car rentals around you first.