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Running late? Want to tack on an extra day to your vacation? Whether you need to keep your rental car for a few more hours or a few more days, in general, rental car companies will accommodate you as long as you go about it the right way.


Why You Need a Car Rental Extension


You might be thinking that if you need your rental car for an extra hour or two, it'll be no problem. After all, the rental car company has your credit card number, so they can just charge you for the extra time, right? Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

Returning a rental car after the time listed on the rental contract without clearing it with the rental car company is a sure way to get slapped with a late fee that is higher than the fee you'll pay for modifying your contract.

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How late does a car have to be to start accruing fees? Most rental car companies offer a short grace period of 29 minutes from the return time noted on the rental agreement. If you return the car after the grace period ends, the rental car company typically starts charging an hourly rate until the car is returned. If you don't return the car by the end of the late window (two to seven hours after the designated return time, depending on the company), you'll be charged for an entire additional day.


How Extending Your Car Rental Can Affect Price


You need to know that changing your return time will almost certainly mean that you will be charged more. But how you handle it can mean the difference between a little more and a lot more.

First, if decide to you return your rental car at a time other than what is on your rental agreement, the company will likely charge a Contract Modification Fee in the ballpark of a flat $10—but that's less than the up-to-$20-per-day late fee you would get hit with.

Also know that if you extend your car rental, it's possible that your base rate will change. The price on your rental car is locked in for the time period you reserved. So if you reserve a vehicle for a five-day period, the rate is valid for that window only. If you change the return time, you might also change the base price.

Finally, if you are returning your rental car to an airport location, you should understand that changing the return time can impact airport taxes. For example, if you have a six-day weekly rental and extend that by one day, your base rate may not change but you'll need to pay an extra day's worth of airport taxes.


How to Get a Car Rental Extension


Many of the major car rental companies are on the same page in terms of how they handle extension requests in that the preferred way to get an extension is by phone or in person. Only Hertz currently offers an option to extend a car rental online, while several companies—including Avis, Hertz, National and Audi-owned Silvercar—allow customers to extend an existing rental through a mobile app. So if you need an extension, you may have to pick up the phone.

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That said, different companies have slightly different policies if you are returning to an airport location versus a neighborhood location. And be aware that the rental car company may place an additional hold on your debit or credit card to cover any additional expected rental charges. Upon your return of the car, the holds will be released.

If you are extending a car rental by phone, tell the agent how much longer you'll need the rental and they'll be able to quote you the revised amount. Have your rental contract handy, since you'll need the reservation number. If you don't have that number, have the tag number from the car keys handy, as agents can sometimes look up your rental contract with that information.

Here's how to extend your rental with these major companies:

Alamo: Call (800) 462-5266. When prompted by the automated operator, say that you're calling about a rental extension for a car you already have, and you'll be connected to a human.

Avis: Call (888) 897-8448 and follow the prompts from the automated operator. Alternatively, you can extend your car rental on the Avis app.

Budget: Call (800) 824-6287 and follow the prompts from the automated operator.

Dollar: Call (866) 434-2226, then press option 1.

Enterprise: For airport locations, call (844) 515-1345. If you rented from a non-airport location, contact the renting location directly. The phone number for the location is at the top of your rental contract.

Hertz: Call (800) 654-4174. You can also extend your car rental online or extend your rental from the Hertz app.

National: Call (844) 393 9989. When prompted by the automated operator, say that you're calling about a rental extension for a car you already have, and you'll be connected to a human. Alternatively, you can extend your car rental on the National app.

Payless: Call (800) 729-5377, then press option 1, then press option 2 to be connected to an agent.

Silvercar: Call (855) 359-2227, then press option 2. Alternatively, you can extend your car rental on the Silvercar app.

Sixt: Call (888) 749-8227, then press 1 for English, then press 2 to extend your rental.

Thrifty: Call (800) 847-4389, then press 1 for English, then press 1 if you're renting in the U.S. or Canada, then press 3 to extend your rental.


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