Many veteran travelers swear by checklists. They help you remember to pack everything you need and ensure you don’t miss any sights once you reach your destination. However, travel checklists are often limited to the planning stage of a getaway, leaving travelers to overlook tasks that must be accomplished as a trip begins to come to a close. The following to-do list should accompany you on any journey that involves a rental car. It will help you save time, money, and unnecessary hassles.
Give Yourself Time
You probably know that you should arrive for your flight roughly two hours ahead of departure. But it can be easy to forget that you need to add a bit of extra time for returning your rental car. It's important to be absolutely sure you understand where to return the rental vehicle and what time it needs to be back. This will ensure you avoid penalties or even worse, a missed flight.
Always Refill the Tank
Locate the gas station nearest to your rental vehicle’s return location and allow yourself plenty of time to refill the fuel tank. Many companies implement full-to-full policies, which means you rent the vehicle with a full tank and return it with a full tank. Pre-purchase policies mean you can return the vehicle with any amount of gas, so it’s important you fully understand the fuel policy in advance. If you return the vehicle without enough fuel, you’ll likely pay a much higher price-per-gallon (sometimes up to $5 more per gallon!) to simply have it filled by the rental agency.
Take Plenty of Pictures
You can never be too safe when it comes to returning a rental vehicle. Take a few quick photos of the mileage, fuel indicator, interior and exterior of the vehicle. This will be extremely helpful if you receive unexpected charges for mileage or damage that you didn’t cause.
Don’t Forget Any Belongings
It may sound like an obvious step, but it’s easy to forget items in a rental vehicle in the rush to make your flight. First, be sure to detach your personal keys from the rental car keys. You don’t want to get home only to discover you’ve left the keys to your house or another vehicle attached to the rental car keys.
Additionally, you’ll want to check all the vehicle’s compartments, including the CD player, if your car still has one, for any items you may have forgotten. The glove compartment, trunk, seat back pockets, door pockets and area under the seats are all must-check places. Connectors and chargers are especially easy to forget.
Don’t Return a Filthy Vehicle
It’s assumed that you’ll take your rental vehicle on some adventures, but you shouldn’t return a car that’s extremely dirty on the interior or exterior. Some rental companies will even charge a fee for an excessively dirty vehicle. Consider driving through a car wash or vacuuming the interior before returning your rental.
Find the Drop-Off Spot
Many airports now offer designated drop-off spots for rental vehicles, and large signs are in place to help you get there. If you can’t locate a designated drop-off area at your departure airport, return the vehicle to the same place you picked it up. Don’t be afraid to call the company if you’re having difficulty finding the correct location.
Find an Agent
You may feel like you’re in a bit of a time crunch when arriving at the airport to return your vehicle. Finding an agent and waving them over to your vehicle can help complete the return process more quickly. Ask the agent to check the vehicle with you whenever possible. This will ensure that both parties are on the same page regarding mileage, damages and fuel use.
It’s important to note that your security deposit may take up to two weeks to be returned, and an immediate refund is not always possible.
Return the Vehicle Without an Agent if Necessary
There isn’t always an agent available at the airport rental vehicle return area or even an individual rental car office. You should be able to locate a drop box with the rental car company’s logo on it. Leave the keys in the drop box if the office is closed or no staff members are present.
Take Notes (and More Photos)
If you must return a rental vehicle after hours, take note of where you left the car and its exact condition, so it can be easily located if you’re called when the office reopens. It’s also recommended that you take additional photos of the interior and exterior of the vehicle if returning it outside of business hours. This helps avoid any misunderstandings that can result if an agent is not present.
Don’t Be Afraid to Call
Always keep your rental car company’s contact information on hand, so you can call it regarding any questions or concerns. Agents are happy to help make the rental and return processes easier for you.
Renting a vehicle is an ideal opportunity to enjoy more freedom or luxury at your travel destination. The process is not meant to be stressful, and rental car companies are constantly working to streamline the check-out and return systems. Simply follow the guidelines above, and you can enjoy a stress-free rental experience that allows you to make the most of your next getaway.
Guest Author: Akira Brown
Akira Brown is the owner of Diplomat Exotic Rentals, a leading exotic and luxury car rental company in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has 13 years of experience in the industry, and currently leads the sales and operations division.