Sometimes whenever you’re renting a vehicle you have to cut things a little close.
But just how close can you cut it when returning a rental car? And what will the penalties be if you are a little bit late dropping off your vehicle?
Below, we will take a look at the rental car grace periods when returning your vehicle. You’ll see exactly what the cut-off times are and how you might be penalized if you exceed them.
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What are the rental car grace periods?
Many rental car companies will allow you to return your vehicle up to 29 or 30 minutes late without any additional charge. Some rental companies even extend this to up to one hour late!
After that, you could be charged an hourly rate and if you are a few hours late you could be charged an entire additional day.
Keep reading below for an overview of how the grace periods work and the specific policies for some of the major rental car companies.
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How rental car grace period return policies usually work
The 24 hour clock for each day of your rental typically begins at your scheduled pick up time.
So if you scheduled your pick up time at 10 AM but you don’t arrive to the rental car station until 10:30 AM, the 24 hour clock will probably still start at 10 AM.
Tip: If something comes up and you will be really late, you can notify the rental car company and sometimes make a last-minute adjustment to your pick up time so that your 24 hour clock does not start until later.
The first grace threshold that many rental car companies have of 29 or 30 minutes allows you to return your vehicle late without any additional charges.
There’s usually a no questions asked policy for this. For example, you don’t have to explain that a bad traffic jam kept you late.
If you return the vehicle after that initial grace period, you will probably get charged by the hour until you meet a second threshold.
The hourly rate will depend on the rental car company but you could be looking at some thing like 1/5 of the rental rate. (Keep in mind that some rental car companies don’t charge by the hour and will simply add a full additional day to your charges if you exceed the grace period.)
This second threshold where hourly charges will no longer apply could be anywhere from 90 minutes to a few hours after your scheduled drop off time. If you exceed this threshold then you may be charged an entire day rate as if you rented the car for an additional day.
Keep in mind that sometimes the grace period may not apply to additional add-ons for your rental such as protections and extra equipment.
So the rental car company may charge you a full day charge for your add-ons even if you are able to take advantage of grace periods or hourly rates.
In addition to that, you could also get hit with a daily late fee such as $10 per day. (Taxes are usually added to all of these additional fees as well.)
And if you had mileage rates those rates could increase if you are dropping off late.
If you decided to return your rental car “after hours” such as when the rental car station or building is closed then your rental will not be checked out until the next business day.
It’s worth noting that you are still responsible for the rental car until that business opens up and checks out your vehicle.
So for example if you were to leave the car overnight at a rental car building and something happened to the vehicle overnight, you would be responsible for it.
Be aware that the policies above are just how things are supposed to work on paper. In the real world, you might be able to talk to your way out of late fees based on your specific situation.
Rental car grace period policies
Below are the rental car grace periods for various major rental car companies.
These were all accurate at the date of publishing but if you see something that has changed let us know and we can update the article.
Also keep in mind that these are the general policies for the rental car companies. Always verify what your rental car agreement states because that will be the binding language in the event you arrive late.
Ace’s policy allows for a 59 minute grace period. After that, they don’t have a second hourly threshold and will charge you a full day.
So while the grace time is a little bit longer the penalty for exceeding that one hour timeframe is stricter than other rental car companies.
Alamo’s policy “generally” allows for a 29 minute grace period for daily rentals.
Pay close attention to the word “generally” because some rental car agreements may not abide by this 29 minute grace period.
After that, hourly charges will apply up to a threshold of two hours after your return time. If you return the vehicle two hours or more from the time it was rented on the subsequent day, they will charge you for a full additional rental day.
Avis’ policy states that most of the rental car agreements are based on a 24 hour rate. If you return your car beyond that 24 hour timeframe you will be charged an additional hourly rate.
This makes it sound like Avis does not have a grace period, although you may want to check your rental agreements because I’m pretty sure that many of them will have a grace period. Remember, it comes down to the terms of your specific rental agreement!
Related: Guide to Rental Car Age Requirements
Budget’s policy states there is a 29 minute grace period for returns. After that, an hourly rate will apply until you meet the second threshold of being 90 minutes late.
After that, you could be charged a full day. Also, if you return the vehicle seven hours late or more, and you did not extend your rental car agreement, you could be charged with an additional $10 a day late fee.
They also state that “There is no grace period for rental fees, surcharges and optional equipment or protections charges. Full-day late charges will apply for these items.”
Enterprise’s policy states “there is generally a 29 minute grace period for daily rentals.” Once again, make sure you note the use of the word generally since that does not guarantee a grace period for all rentals.
After 29 minutes, Enterprise will charge you an hourly rate which can be found on your rental contract. If you return the vehicle 2 1/2 hours or more from the time it was rented on the subsequent day, they will charge you for a full day.
Fox’s policy states that a rental day is defined as a 24 hour time period beginning with the date/time indicated on the rental agreement (contract) at the time of rental.
Fox provides a 59 minute grace period for returns. If you exceed that timeframe then hourly charges may apply. And if you are three hours or more late, a full day charge could apply.
Hertz’s policy states that they allow a 59 minutes grace period.
After that, Hertz will hit you with an hourly fee which will be charged at 1/5 of the daily rate. But that will only trigger up to a maximum of five hours. After you are five hours late, you will have to pay a full day rate.
National’s policy states there is “generally” a 29 minute grace period for daily rentals.
After that, hourly charges will apply until you are 2 1/2 hours late. After 2 1/2 hours or more from the time it was rented on a subsequent day, they will charge you the additional full day rental.
Silvercar’s policy offers one of the better grace periods of 59 minutes. Beyond that timeframe, the amount you will be charged will depend on how late you are based on the following rates:
- 60 – 119 minutes = 25% of the daily rate
- 120 – 179 minutes = 50% of the daily rate
- 180 – 239 minutes = 75% of the daily rate
- 240 minutes or more = 100% of the daily rate.
Sixt’s policy states that they have a 30-minute grace period. However, they don’t publish different hourly rate thresholds. Instead, it looks like if you or over the grace period or perhaps over one hour late, you could be charged an additional full day.
Thrifty’s policy states that “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.”
After that, you could be charged an hourly rate until the vehicle is returned. They also know that if mileage rates are applicable those could increase if you return the car more than 24 hours after the scheduled return time.
Turo’s policy allows for a grace period of up to 29 minutes where you will not be charged for a late drop off.
If you are between 30 minutes and one hour and 59 minutes late, you will be charged 1/2 the average daily trip price plus a $50 improper return fee at Turo’s discretion.
If you are two hours or more late, you may have to pay an average daily trip price for one day, a $20 late return fee, and the $50 improper return fee.
Travel can be unpredictable and while I would always suggest trying to return your vehicle at least one hour prior to the rental cut off time, it’s good to know that you can have a grace period of up to 30 minutes or even one hour in some cases.
It’s also valuable to know that if you exceed these grace periods that you could be charged an hourly rate and eventually an additional full day.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.