Normally, the advice about renting a car in a hurricane generally consists of: don't.

However, if you're bound and determined to fly into the path of Hurricane Matthew and rent a car, here's some helpful advice about picking up your car. (If you've already picked up and need to know about returning it, we've got you covered here with some information on that.)

First, if you haven't yet flown in and gotten your rental car, check with your airline. Hurricane Matthew is affecting a stretch of the East Coast ranging from Miami all the way up to South Carolina. If you're not on the ground yet, there's a chance you might not be for at least a couple of days.

If you'll make it in on-time and ahead of the storm, you should be fine. The rental companies at major airports, train stations, and cruise ports are currently indicating that they'll be open as normal, as long as the transportation facilities remain open. For local offices in the path of the hurricane, you might want to call the office ahead of time and see what their forecast is. (Once you get your car, though, be sure you head to safe, higher ground. Be aware that rental car insurance may not cover flood damage.)

For those with flight delays, you may need to do some checking. Generally, if you'll be arriving within two hours of your reserved pick-up time, you don't need to do anything—pretty much every rental outfit considers that effectively an on-time rental.

If you'll be in later than that, or want to delay your trip until the storm passes, here are some helpful guidelines for how long each company will hold your reservation:

  • Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz, National: no published hold restrictions, but unofficially, you should be safe as long as you arrive by the end of the night. Some of these companies will guarantee a car will be available up to 24 hours after your scheduled pick-up. These companies usually have the highest level of customer service and should be pretty easy to work with if you're delayed.
  • Dollar, Thrifty: will hold your reservation up to 6 hours past your scheduled pick-up time. If you'll be later than that but still picking up the same calendar day as reserved, you can call them and provide your flight number, and they'll automatically adjust your pick-up time to match without affecting your price.
  • Enterprise: no published hold restrictions, but if you'll be more than two hours late picking up, a quick call to the local office directly should ensure your reservation is honored.
  • Sixt: Sixt's phone recording says no notice is necessary as long as it's the same calendar day, but it might not hurt to call. Changing the pick-up time only (and keeping the date the same) won't change your price. Note that changing the date—even moving the pick-up from 11:30pm to 12:30am—will reprice the reservation, which could end up costing you a lot of money.
  • Advantage, E-Z, Fox: Assume you'll be OK up to two hours late, but a call may be helpful if you'll be later than that. Be prepared for lengthy hold times, though.
  • Payless: Unfortunately, the outlook isn't quite as good here, which is just one of the many reasons we (and the New York Times ) don't recommend booking with them. While two hours is usually considered on-time in the rental industry, some Payless agents have been known to tell people even just a few minutes late that their reservations can't be honored, and Payless phone agents often tell people that they can't change their reservations at all, even for delayed flights. We suggest trying to call and provide your flight number to them, though, in the hopes it helps.

    As always, feel free to contact us —we're always glad to help. If you have a booking with us that you need to make a change to, for the fastest response, you can click here for a new price quote—you might be able to find a great deal yourself through there. Or let us know via email and we'll be glad to walk you through the best way to make the change.

And if you haven't yet booked your car through AutoSlash, make sure you check now for the best rental car prices on the Internet!
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