There's a reason rental car companies rarely offer after-hours returns in major cities today; rental car theft. When allowed, a renter returns keys in a dropbox but -- per the contract -- the renter is responsible for the vehicle until it's checked in by staff the next morning. The renter is also responsible for any extra day charges until the site reopens! We're not fans of unattended returns and a story out of Amherst, Massachusetts reiterates one reason why. The story starts on February 1, when an individual breaks into the dropbox for returns and makes off with a car.
The selection of keys in the Amherst Enterprise dropbox was either paltry or the thief was really worried about fuel efficiency, as off he went with a 2017 Hyundai Accent. However, the theft wasn't reported for six days, which is reasonable in the rental car industry. In fact, six days is comparatively quick for reporting rental car theft; Enterprise's Richmond International Airport location didn't notice an OnStar-equipped vehicle was missing for more than two years and we recently wrote about the City of Chicago's request that rental car companies report cars stolen earlier (in lieu of the city incarcerating a group of four who had more than 160 combined arrests).
However, there's one not-so-secret component of rental car contracts -- there's often a charge printed on the agreement provided at checkout for "Extra Day" and a description that the "Rate is Valid Until (date)". Why? Renters keep vehicles late frequently -- most call in about the late returns to at least get a revised price total but some don't call in; others make the mistake of accidentally keeping a car longer than anticipated.
Eventually, someone (the customer or rental car company) noticed the Amherst contract hadn't been closed and the vehicle wasn't where expected. And being a Hyundai Accent, the vehicle didn't have GM's OnStar product to easily identify the vehicle's location. The car and driver were gone, and his whole world began and ended with that Interstate 90 ride. Until the driver got bored a month later in Missoula, Montana. After all, it was just after midnight in Missoula and there wasn't much else to do.
A winter overnight in Missoula? Don't need that rental anymore!
The police weren't impressed with the voluntary surrender process, and Enterprise Amherst was ever so peeved about their vehicle being stuck over 2,500 miles away!
The thief is still facing charges of "larceny of a motor vehicle, breaking into a depository and breaking and entering into a motor vehicle". And the local Enterprise location hasn't learned their lesson; they've repaired the key drop and even reservations made today are still eligible for after-hours dropoff service and renters remain responsible for a rental vehicle until the vehicle's checked in.