I need a car for roughly 2 days and an hour, and if I rent it online with those times, I get charged for a full extra day.

Would it be possible to show up early, or return the car an hour late? How much would I be charged in fees for doing so? I've never had this issue come up at previous rentals, but I've never deliberately pushed the limits of doing so.

  • 5
    If you reserve for 11AM but show up at 10AM, you'll probably get the car but the rental will be expected back at 10AM on the return day. In the past, I was told that there was a 30 minute grace window for returns, but I don't know if that's still true or for what companies. Look around or call the company, you may be able to get an hourly rate for the additional hour. Expect that after 2 hours, the hourly rate will change back into a full day rate.
    – DoxyLover
    Oct 22, 2014 at 21:02
  • As far as I know, they're not flexible. They have a machine determining the time you come and it automatically calculates the extra they will charge. However, it may depend on what company and location you pick (small companies and locations are more likely to be nice with you). I think that picking the car usually takes a while, so I would say you'd better say you pick at e.g. 10AM if you plan on coming at 9-ish, and the real time you'll have to bring it back will likely be the exact minute the contract is printed. But these are my thoughts, I'd rather ask at the counter when picking the car.
    – Vince
    Oct 22, 2014 at 21:07
  • 1
    This probably depends a lot on where you're picking up the car. Some places will have an un-manned car return facility--you park the car, and drop the keys in a box. Obviously such places won't have any record, to the minute, of when you returned the car. Your best bet is probably to contact the local rental agency office directly and ask about their policy.
    – Flimzy
    Oct 23, 2014 at 3:05
  • 2
    Hey Kevin - I'd say the broad answer is, these days they are very stringent. It used to be you could "get away with" an hour here and there. Then they had an official "30 minutes leeway!" policy. It's basically now very stringent.
    – Fattie
    Oct 23, 2014 at 7:52
  • Quite right, Doxy. "two hours" seems to be the point where they charge you a new day.
    – Fattie
    Oct 23, 2014 at 7:52

1 Answer 1


My experience in the USA is that you can usually collect a car early, but there is no guarantee of this - if you want to be sure best call. It's also worth pointing out that your hire will start from when you collect the car, even if this is before the time you booked. So a car collected at 10am is due back at 10am.

They are very strict about late returns. Most commonly a 30 minute grace period is provided, and returns after that are charged the extra day. With some companies it is possible to extend a booking at an hourly rate for some hours (most commonly up to 2) but if you don't call up and extend ahead of the return time, you will be charged the extra day.

I returned a car 45 mins late in SFO and was charged the extra day, and there was nothing I could do about it.

  • Would it be possible if one has a 11:00am reservation but arrives at 10:30am to ask to complete enough paperwork as possible before the rental starts, so that once 11:00am rolls around one will be all set to go?
    – supercat
    Feb 6, 2022 at 20:48

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