After returning a car hire, you don’t want any unwelcome surprises when you get home. So, here’s our guide on what to do when returning a car hire


For some people, the car hire experience sours after the return of the car. And it’s usually as a result of unexpected charges. These can, unfortunately, be challenging and take a while to settle. The best way to avoid them is to make sure you understand what you’re booking in the first place and also to make sure you understand what you’re signing when it comes to collecting a car hire.

You can see more in the following posts:

There are also steps you can take to avoid unexpected charges when you return your car hire…

What to do when returning a car hire

Fill up the tank with petrol

Check the fuel policy for the car hire. In most cases, you’ll need to return the car with a full tank of petrol or the same amount when you collected it. Otherwise, suppliers may charge you extra for refueling costs as well as a service charge. Before setting off to the car hire office, find out where the nearest petrol station is and make sure you give enough time for the journey.

Don’t be late

Most suppliers usually allow for a little lateness but not by much. And you should check this in advance first. As a general rule, you should return the car before the stated end of the rental period. If circumstances mean you will end up returning the car late, it’s best to notify the supplier as soon as you’re aware. They may give you more leeway if you let them know in advance.

For the most part, it’s fine to return the car hours earlier. But don’t expect a refund! If you want to return the car a day or more early, you should contact the supplier as soon as you know so they’re aware. Depending on their policy, you could be due a partial refund. Although do note that you may even be charged for returning it a day or more earlier. Check the terms and conditions in advance.

Make sure you haven’t left anything and you’ve tidied up

As well as making sure you’ve got all your belongings from the car, do also clear the car of any rubbish. Although suppliers don’t expect it to be sparkling clean, if it’s excessively dirty, you could be charged for additional cleaning.

Get the car checked whilst you’re there

If you can, it’s always best to get a member of staff to check the car whilst you’re there. This way, both you and the supplier can agree as to the condition of the car on return. It pays to allow time for this check as it’s the best way to avoid a dispute over damage later on. If you can’t be there, take lots of pictures of the car (including the inside) so you have evidence of the condition of the car.

Returning the car when the office is closed

Many suppliers allow customers to return the car when the office is closed. Check the agreement for instructions on what to do and where to leave the keys. And as above, take lots of the pictures so you have evidence of the condition of the car when you left it. Bear in mind that some car parks can be quite dark so you might need to use the torch on your phone if you have one.

And if the car is damaged during your rental period…

Let the supplier know. If you had an accident, you should let them know as soon possible after it. And if you have additional insurance cover, you should also let your insurance provider know. See our guide on what to do in case of a car hire breakdown or accident for more information.

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