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I have an early morning flight (05:30) from Sacramento International Airport. Security at the airport opens at 04:00, rental car office opens at 05:00 but rental car company says out-of-hours drop-off is available.

Question is about practicalities of drop-off so that I can evaluate whether it is better to drop off the night before and rely on hotel shuttle or drop-off early morning. Two questions:

  1. I've never used out-of-hours drop off at any US rental location. Practically, how does this work? I am guessing that one drives into the lot. Leaves keys in some drop off box, takes luggage and walks. Net: time for this should be even less than normal drop-off. I'm using Hertz if it makes a difference to the answer.

  2. What is the early morning shuttle like at Sacramento Airport, any experiences? I understand that this is a common shuttle across all rental companies and other transit. The shuttle is documented as running 24h, but I failed to find any frequency information.

My current thinking for early morning drop-off there's no point in arriving much before 04:00 and I could allow 30 minutes for transfer to Terminal A, should nicely make 05:30 flight.

On balance I think it would be simpler to drop-off the night before, only reason I can think of not to do this is that Holiday Inn site says that shuttle availability is limited.

  • I already rented cars from National in other airport. They have a place (a box, for example) in the service desk that you put the keys there. Did you try to ask for the them how it will work? – Marcel P. Apr 26 '17 at 17:29
  • I'm really looking for the practical experience of how long the process takes. And to be honest I'm dodging the cost of an international call to Sacramento. – djna Apr 27 '17 at 6:49
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    Check with the hotel before, if they provide a shuttle that early, how crowded it usually is and if you can reserve a seat before. I once had to use a hotel shuttle in Newark that early and the shuttles were so overcrowded I almost missed my flight. – Simon Apr 30 '17 at 10:02
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No rental car company will want you to leave keys in the ignition after hours. They all have a box or a drop slot at the office, where you deposit your keys. I always make a note of the mileage and gas tank readings to be safe.

Sacramento has a shared shuttle for on-airport car rental companies. I don't know it's operating hours, but would guess that it runs only when the car rental offices are open.

If you are staying at a hotel by the airport that last night anyway, it might be easier to drop the car the night before and use the hotels airport shuttle in the morning. You would do good to call the hotel in advance to make sure they do shuttle that early.

  • Thanks, yes a key drop makes sense. The airport says "The airport provides free shuttle service at both terminals 24 hours day to and from the rental car terminal, the Daily Lot, and the Economy Lot." which is better than we might have expected, but I'm wondering how long one has to wait at 4:00 AM. Hence I'm asking for any experiences. – djna Apr 27 '17 at 6:54
  • Even a single van would take 20 minutes maximum to do the entire loop of the rental car and terminals. I have seen one airport where it was necessary to call, but there was a handset for the purpose at the stop. – Andrew Lazarus Apr 27 '17 at 20:49

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