Fee Detective

Ever pick up a rental car at 9 a.m. and need to return by 9 a.m. the next day? In the rental car industry, this is referred to as a daily rental - the car is booked for a timeframe that's evenly divisible by the 24-hour day. Leaving the hotel a few minutes late, a driver may be concerned about refueling the car and getting the car checked in on time.

Well, the renter who ends up returning the vehicle a few minutes late may partially be in luck. Rental car companies understand that there's sometimes a delay in getting vehicles returned - especially when the site first opens for the day - and thus offer grace periods for the time and mileage charges on daily rentals.

The Basic Rental Car Company Policies

The grace period for time and mileage on daily rentals is consistent at 29-30 minutes among the major rental car companies.

Enterprise Holdings (Alamo, Enterprise, and National)

Alamo - 29 minutes

Enterprise - 29 minutes

National - 29 minutes

Hertz Global Holdings (Dollar, Hertz, and Hertz)

Dollar - 30 minutes
"Late returns beyond 30-minute grace period may be subject to extra hour and/or extra day charges, in addition to any other rental charges."

Hertz - 29 minutes
Special Note: For renters with a Platinum American Express, there's a larger grace period - 4 hours - but only when booking with a specific Hertz CDP code. We can help!

Thrifty - 30 minutes
"Late returns beyond 30-minute grace period may be subject to extra hour and/or extra day charges, in addition to any other rental charges."

AvisBudget Group (Avis, Budget, Payless)

Avis - 29 minutes
"Vehicles are rented on a daily (24 hour) basis. There is a 29-minute grace period for returns. After 30 minutes late, hourly charges may apply."

Budget - 29 minutes
"There is a 29-minute grace period for returns. After 30 minutes late, hourly car rate charges and taxes may apply … There is no grace period for rental fees, surcharges and optional equipment or protections charges. Full-day late charges will apply for these items."

Payless - 29 minutes
"Rental is based on a 24-hour period. The customer receives a 29-minute grace period. If he/she keeps the vehicle after this time, an hourly rate will apply from minute one."

Why would a driver only partially be in luck?

Well, the rental car company might cut the driver a break on the extra hour/day charges. Even with that magnanimous gesture from the car rental firm, there's still other charges that can be incurred. The descriptors provided by Budget, Dollar, Payless, and Thrifty include strong clues as to what happens if a daily rental (those booked for a period divisible by 24 hours) is returned more than a half-hour late.

Late billing is retroactive

The extra hour billing is retroactive to the time the vehicle was originally due. A rental turned in 40 minutes late will be assessed an extra hour, while the vehicle returned 65 minutes late will be assessed an extra two hours (or a full day, depending upon the rental car contract terms).

The government will take their cut

The vehicle at a company like Budget returned 30 minutes late (when there's a 29-minute grace period)? Remarkably, this Fee Detective post started after an AutoSlash user returned a car to Chicago 30 minutes late. There was the extra hour fee added to the rental, which went directly to the rental car company. Then the government came for their revenue.

  • Airport-related taxes? Yes, there's the traditional Concession Recovery Fee.
  • Sales taxes? Yes, there's nothing the city of Chicago doesn't want to tax.

The kicker in cities like Chicago? Per day fees that are not prorated. Chicago has a $8.00 per day Customer Facility Charge and a $1.50 per day Vehicle Licensing Fee. These two fees alone are $9.50 (plus tax) for a 24-hour rental and double to $19.00 (plus tax) if the return is late. Yes, these charges/fees (taxes) are then subjected to other, more traditional taxes.

* It is truly challenging to find "cheap" rental cars in a city that routinely charges more than $150 per week just in taxes and fees on compact cars. We do our best to help you out!

What about Additional/Optional Services?

Well, these items added at the counter are charged per day. As Budget states, there's simply no grace period for additional/optional services on their rentals. All of those services we encourage customers to review carefully before adding - insurance, roadside protection, satellite radio, car seats, extra drivers, GPS, etc. - immediately incur an additional day's fee if the vehicle's returned late, even if still within the grace period. The grace period covers the car (time and mileage) rather than anything else that might be added to the rental. 

Our Take

At AutoSlash, we always recommend picking up and returning the vehicle as reserved. We must do so - the guaranteed rates we send are confirmed by the rental car company as booked; deviating from the reservation can unexpectedly cause an increase in fees that we would no longer to be able to guarantee.

That said, the rental car company will allow late returns - the staff won't be calling the police if you're a little late.* Just ensure that the car is returned before the rental car location closes. In the broader scenario of minimizing costs, it's almost always cheaper for a renter to stop for fuel and return late, rather than pay the rental car company's refueling charge that might be as high as $9.99 per gallon plus tax!

Author Note:

* All of the AutoSlash team have less-than-perfect histories/experiences with rental car companies. I did once get accused of failing to return a car I never picked up (due to a canceled flight) with Hertz in Las Vegas, which led to some interesting communications from the firm ... Not surprisingly, I'm the least likely on the team to rent with Hertz.

Fees, facility charges, and taxes got you confused and/or down? The Fee Detective can explain. Send your query to feedetective@autoslash.com  and we'll feature your question in an upcoming post.

Quote me Track a reservation! Learn how you can save 30% or more on car rentals