Do Rental Cars Charge For Cleaning? (Checked & Explained)

Rental cars solve transportation issues for travelers and tourists by providing vehicles for rent.

However, the use of rental cars comes with terms and conditions, including the state of the vehicle when you return it to the rental company.

In this article, we discuss whether car rental companies charge for cleaning.

Do Car Rentals Charge for Cleaning?

Car rentals charge what we refer to as cleaning fee or valeting fee if a rental car is returned dirtier than the company expects.

You are likely to be charged for cleaning if there are any of the following on/in the car:

  • Bio wastes or bodily fluids
  • Wastes or spills that require cleaning in between the vents or door panels and windows
  • Remnants of very big or major stains covering a large area of the vehicle’s interior and would need steam cleaning
  • Large amount of dirt, sand or mud that need an expert to do the cleaning
  • Noticeable amounts of pet hair
  • Odor of smoke or any other offensive odor

There are certain things that can leave your rental car dirtier than it should be. Some of them are:

  • Traveling with a dog or any other pet
  • Drinking and eating in the car
  • Driving while there are children in the car who can leave crumbs and shoe-prints on the seats
  • Driving on muddy or sandy roads
  • Leaving a mess in the car

Meanwhile, find out if rental cars have a remote kill switch.

Do Car Rentals Offer a Discount If You Clean the Car Yourself?

It is not likely that car rentals give discounts or refund you when you clean the car yourself. This is because the cleaning fee is charged when you return the vehicle to the car rental.

The only good thing is you won’t be charged for cleaning if the car is clean enough.

Related: Do Rental Cars Have Smoke And Vape Detectors? (Solved)

How Much Do Car Rental Companies Charge for Cleaning?

Depending on how untidy the car is, the cleaning fee can be as low as $30 and high as $400.

The dashboard, seats, carpets, steering wheel, cupholders, etc are the interior parts checked out to determine how dirty the car is.

Mud or dirt on the tire and the car, outside windows, etc are the exterior things that are considered to determine if you will be charged or not.

Do You Have to Clean Rental Cars Yourself?

It is not a bad idea to clean a rental car yourself if you think it is too dirty and you might be charged for cleaning.

If definitely you need to clean the car because it’s too dirty, a simple hand car wash with a quick vacuum can do the expected wonder. This is better, as  risking to return a very dirty car would cost far more than what it takes to do the cleaning yourself.

Related: What Is Considered Damage To A Rental Car? (Explained)

How Well Do You Have to Clean Rental Cars Before Returning Them?

Ensure that you dust off any excessive dirt or sand from the carpet and clean off any glaring dirt or bird feces from the body or windows of the vehicle.

In short terms, properly clean the interior and exterior parts of the car before returning it.

Sometimes, it is difficult to guess when the rental company would consider the car too dirty. The best you can do is to ask yourself, “if I were to rent this car in this state, would I like it?” If your answer is no, it’s best you try to clean the car before returning.

Do You Have to Pay Extra If the Car Is Too Dirty?

You might need to pay between $30 and $400 extra when you return a rental car that is too dirty.

Some car rental companies have a fixed price for cars returned very dirty, while others have minimum and maximum fees depending on how dirty your car is.

Related: Can You Swap A Rental Car? (Explained)

Can You Dispute Car Rental Cleaning Fees?

When a rental car company charges you for cleaning and you think it shouldn’t be, you can definitely dispute the charge. The following ways are likely to help you out:

  1. Preparing evidence: It is advised that you prepare evidence in case you may need to dispute a cleaning fee. A very good way to go about that is to take pictures and video of the interior and the exterior of the car before driving off from the company and immediately when returning it. This can be tendered anywhere to get your case resolved.
  2. Disputing the cleaning fee with your credit card issuer: If you paid with a credit card, it is recommended that you dispute the charge with your credit card company. This can be helpful, especially if the car rental company has a mediation clause.
  3. File a complaint: Filing a complaint with the Attorney General where you rented the car may also work. But the legal process may be too lengthy to address your concerns quickly.

Related: Can Rental Cars Have Tinted Windows? (Solved)

Are You Expected to Take a Rental Car Through a Car Wash?

It pays to take your rental car through a car wash if it is too dirty and you think you may be charged for cleaning.

The amount you pay at the car wash will most likely be far cheaper than what the rental car company will charge you for cleaning.

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