Returning Rental Car After Hours? Read This First

It may have been a while since you’ve traveled or at least traveled regularly, and you’re not alone. However, people are starting to travel again. As travel increases, the convenience of rental cars shines through. If you have a rental car, you may need to return it after hours.

There are many reasons why you may need to return a rental car after the business hours of a branch location. For instance, your flight might be scheduled far too late or far too early to return it during business hours. 

You could have been caught in a traffic jam or forced to take detours that made it impossible to arrive at the time you intended. You might have even just been really reluctant to head home from your trip. 

Whatever the reason, it’s perfectly normal to return a rental car after hours. However, that doesn’t mean you’ve ever had to do it or that you know exactly what to do. So, before you return your rental car after hours, there are a few things you’ll want to know and remember.

Returning Your Rental: Steps For Success

Verify the company’s rules. The first thing you want to do before you think about returning a rental car after hours is to make sure the rental car company allows you to return outside of business hours. Not all companies do, but at trusted companies like Advantage, they offer 24-hour drop-off at their locations. 

Some companies have different policies for their airport locations. 

Consider additional insurance. If you know you’re going to be taking on the added liability of returning your rental car after hours, you may want to consider additional insurance. You may be covered with the insurance policies you already have or the one that comes with your rental agreement, but it’s important to be sure. 

Additional insurance can protect you from unforeseeable events like car theft and property damage. Ask your rental company at the time of check out or consult your insurance provider before your trip.

Know the drop-off procedures. If your drop-off location uses a PIN or a key for the lockbox, you’ll want to know in advance. It’s best to ask when you pick up your rental car, but if you didn’t, it’s okay. If you’re not sure what to do when you return the car, call your rental car company to clarify the procedure for you at your drop-off location.

Double-check for your belongings. When you return the keys to your rental after hours, you won’t be able to get back into the vehicle. To avoid any frustrations or sad passengers, make sure everyone checks the car for their belongings. When you travel, it’s crucial that you keep your money and valuables safe

Clean up after yourself. It’s possible that the car rental company may have requirements for cleaning up after yourself. Tossing receipts and papers that may have accumulated on your trip will help to protect your identity and information. Besides, it’s just good manners to clean up after yourself, even if someone else will clean it again. 

Refuel if needed. You will want to check your car rental agreement or ask at the time of pick up about the fueling expectations for your rental when you turn it back in. There may be a minimum fuel requirement, or you may be asked to match the fuel levels of the car when you got it. Whatever you need to do, make sure you refuel accordingly before you return the keys.

Think about the car’s security. You’re dropping off someone else’s property, so you want to make sure it’s as secure as it can be. Parking the car in the best lighting available and in view of security cameras will deter thieves that might attempt to steal the car. Taking these steps will provide you with video evidence to help prove that you’re not at fault if the car is stolen or damaged after you drop it off.

Capture proof. In the same way, that parking your rental in view of the security cameras can protect you, taking photos or your own 360-degree video of the car at drop-off will provide proof of the car’s condition when it was last in your possession. Be sure to include the fuel gauge and the odometer. 

While you may notice in your rental agreement that you are ultimately responsible for the car between the drop-off and the actual check-in of the vehicle, you will still want to have captured proof if you need to dispute a claim. Speaking of your rental agreement, you will want to capture a copy of that as well in case it gets lost. 

Unfortunately, it’s necessary to prepare for nefarious acts or disputes, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Also, proof of innocence is hard to come by after the fact, so a bit of overly precautious behavior upfront can save you a lot of frustration later on. 

Lock the car. While this may seem like an obvious or natural step, people forget all the time or don’t realize it’s necessary since the keys are being put somewhere secure. Again, you’re leaving someone else’s property unattended, so you want to take the best care of it that you can. 

Place the keys in the dropbox. Since you took the time to learn the drop-off procedures for your car rental company’s location, you should know where to leave the keys and how to access the dropbox. Follow the dropbox steps you asked about when you’re sure you’re ready to leave the car behind. 

Check your email. After you’ve left the car at your drop-off location and turned in the keys to the dropbox after hours, you’ll have to wait until business hours. During business hours, your rental car should be checked-in by the rental car company. At that time, you should receive confirmation through your email that states the company has confirmed receipt of their vehicle.

Be aware that it can take up to two business days to receive the confirmation email of your return.

Verify. If you’ve given a sufficient amount of time for the confirmation email to come through and it has arrived, call the branch directly to confirm. Of course, you trust yourself and the company, but it is a best-practice to verify your check-in.

Risks & Returning a Rental Car After Hours


When you have a rental car checked out, you sign a rental agreement. Most of these agreements state that you, the renter, are responsible for the vehicle from the time of check-out until the company checks it back in. That means that when you return the car after hours, you will be responsible for it overnight until the company opens for business. 

Anything can happen overnight. If it storms, there could be hail damage. If there’s a break-in, the car could be damaged or stolen. For the duration of your sustained liability period, any damage that occurs could be your responsibility and cost you money in the end. At the very least, you could be looking at an insurance claim. You need to be sure you have the right amount of liability insurance coverage

Unresolved issues

When you return after hours, there won’t be anyone available to address any issues or concerns you may have had during your rental. For example, if you want to report damages or gas mileage issues, you’ll be dealing with it after the fact. Plus, there’s no way to fight any additional charges before they’ve already been added unless you follow our advice above. 

Late or additional fees

It’s likely that if you are returning after hours on your last rental day, your rental will be considered late or have an additional day added to your bill. It’s best to contact the rental company as soon as you realize you will be using the after-hours process to return your vehicle. 

Companies like Advantage will let you make changes to your rental for free. Making changes ahead of time can help you avoid a late fee. If you’re fairly certain that you’ll need to use after-hours drop-off when you are booking your reservation, add an extra day to your rental.


If you’re traveling again, you’re probably going to need to rent a car. Whether you’re planning an after-hours return or you’re just dealing with a change of plans as it happens, it’s important to know what to expect and what to do when you do return your rental car. 

Don’t be afraid to ask your rental car company about their policies and procedures. Remember to follow their outlined steps, gather your belongings, secure the car, take pictures, and lock the car before you drop-off the keys. Protect your rental, protect yourself, and protect your peace of mind.


More Americans Starting To Travel Again | CBS News 

How to Keep Your Money and Valuables Safe on Your Travels | Dangerous Business 

Liability Insurance Definition | Investopedia

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