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Early return fee? The most absurd rental car policy ever

As many of you know, I gave up my car when I moved to the city in 2014. I primary walk or use mass transit to get around, but there are times when I do need a car. There are a few car options available where I live: Car2Go, Enterprise CarShare, Zipcar and traditional car rental agencies.

I decided to book a car a few weeks ago to take a day trip about 30 miles from where I live. The rates were especially low on this particular weekend, which was the primary reason I decided to travel.

When I arrived at the airport to get my car, I let the agent at Budget know that I only needed the car for a few hours and would return it later that day. To my surprise, she informed me that the rate I secured with my reservation through Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards would not be available if I did not keep the car for 24 hours, the full duration of the one day rental.

In other words, Budget will assess a penalty if you return your car EARLY.


As I was discussing this policy with the agent, she told me everything would be okay if I returned the car at 10:30 the next morning. I said, “What if I return it at 9?” She replied by telling me that my discounted rate would not be valid. She told me to return the car at exactly 10:30 a.m.

I decided to take the car anyway because I had somewhere to be. On the way out, I asked the man who checked my ID if he had heard of this policy. He said that he did not think I would be charged for an EARLY return, only a LATE return.

The rental terms and conditions for Budget confirm what the agent told me:

“If you return it [the car] earlier or later, a different or higher rate may apply and, if returned later, you may be charged late return fee.”

To avoid paying the fee, I ended up garaging the vehicle overnight, which cost me $30. The rental was only $18. I am pretty sure that I ended up paying more than any sort of fee that Budget would assess, but I did not want to take chances.

This policy is not fair and makes no sense. If someone flew into town for a funeral and returned the car the same day in order to catch a flight back home, they would be charged the fee under this policy.

I truly hope that Budget does not enforce this policy on a regular basis, but I have learned my lesson. I will not be renting from Budget again.

Read more about Budget’s policy: http://www.budget.com/budgetWeb/html/en/customer/commonquestions/

One comment

  1. Having worked for a broker and therefor having dealt with most of the major car rental company’s i absolutely agree.

    apart from point 6 “Car rental companies often go to great lengths to make customer happy” they certainly do not..and they love scamming people, they do not just try to sell you some insurance you never need, once they have your credit card details be prepared to find on your next statement money missing for things you have not even signed up for.

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