Returning Your Hire Car: The Things You Need to Remember

28th February, 2023, in Money Saving Tips, Car Hire Help

That final day of your holiday where you ensure everything is packed, paid for, and prepped is perhaps the worst day of your stay and one part, in particular, stands out. The return of the hire car.

You’ve taken great care of your hire car and are just hoping that the rental company can see this too. So, what should you do to ensure you are not hit by any penalties? The first thing would be perhaps to make sure you have a comprehensive excess insurance for car hire abroad. It goes some way to making sure you are protected from costly excess fees that could suddenly spring up. There are plenty of other things you should also remember so that your car hire doesn’t cost you more than you thought it would!

Return your hire car at the agreed time

There can be quite a fast turnaround on hire cars, sometimes as little as a few hours. This means the hire company will expect their car to be returned to them at the time agreed in the contract. To have the vehicle ready for the next booking means cleaning it, checking it over and if necessary, refuelling it. A late return delays this process which could then lead to you facing additional charges.

In some instances, you may look to return your hire car the night before you fly home, in many cases this is fine but it would be advisable you check with your provider first. Some charge an out-of-hours return fee and you should check this upon booking. If you are returning your car a day or two earlier than planned, you will likely be charged for those days of hire even though you no longer have the car so consider this when booking your hire car.

Fill up your hire car before returning it

Many hire companies advertise a “fill to full” policy where they give you the car with a full tank, so they expect it back with a full tank. You could return it with a half tank and they will still accept it, just understand that in some instances, people have been charged large amounts by the hire company for them to refill it themselves after you have returned the vehicle. A good tip is to get a receipt from where you refuelled so you can show the hire company you filled up as much as you could from the nearest petrol station.

Find the right spot to return your hire car

If returning your car to the airport, look out for signs that refer to rental car drop-off. Some companies have a dedicated area for returns. Whilst others are at the same place you collected from. Knowing this in advance can save you a lot of wasted time and therefore avoid the potential late return fees. If you cannot see any signs to indicate this, then the pickup spot is likely the drop-off spot too.

Return a hire car with minimal wear and tear

It is to be expected that some general wear and tear may occur during the time you have the car however some rental agents may class some minor things as more extreme than you thought. Therefore, take photos when you collect the car, of both the interior and exterior and then do the same when you return it.

These photos should also include the fuel gauge and the mileage so that should any queries be raised; you have further evidence to cover yourself.

Notify the rental agent of any damage

If you were to have had an accident or the car had developed a fault, you will need to inform the rental agent at the earliest opportunity. Returning your car, even if the damage has been fixed, could see you stung with penalties. Remember, this vehicle is theirs and not yours so anything done to it without their authorization could prove costly. Notify them when the problem occurred and then again at the return of the vehicle.

During the return, it would also be worth asking the agent if they could check the vehicle over with you so that you can dispute anything should it not seem right.

Remove all your belongings from the rental car

This may sound like common sense, but huge amounts of lost property accrue at rental car offices. Check the boot, the glove box, the seats, any side compartments and of course, under the seats. Items left behind may be able to get returned to you but at your expense.

Return the car in the same condition you picked it up

Probably the most important aspect, and whilst we mentioned general wear and tear, the overall condition of the vehicle is extremely important. Whilst it is not expected that you give the car a full wash and deep clean if you collected it in pristine condition, it should be returned in as close to that condition as possible. Charges for damage and condition of the car can be huge so endeavour to give back the car in the same state you received it in.


Renting a car is a simple enough process and of course, once you have the keys, you want to enjoy your trip. Just be aware of the potential additional costs as they can dampen the feelings a holiday has given you. Rental car excess insurance can stop that from happening and with it costing as little as £0.12 / €0.14 / $0.16 per day, it provides incredible value when compared to the potential fees you could encounter. With our policies covering both worldwide trips and those where European excess car hire insurance would be necessary, we can keep your trip worry-free. Contact us today and get a free quote. 

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