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    A guide to returning your car rental
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    A full guide to dropping off your car hire

    There are many things to consider when renting a vehicle, such as price, insurance, add-ons and the type of car you might need for your journey. You’ll also need to make yourself aware of where the car hire pick-up point is located (is there a shuttle bus involved?) and of equal importance, where to drop it off.

    When you’re in a rush to catch your flight home, dropping off a hire car can be the most stressful part of a trip if you’re not properly prepared – so we’ve compiled the following guide to help you return your vehicle as quickly and seamlessly as possible, because the secret is to be very well prepared in advance.

    Things to do before dropping your car rental off

    Plan your route

    The first thing to do is plan your route thoroughly and leave plenty of contingency time in case something happens on the road to slow you down, such as heavy traffic (very common during rush-hour), a breakdown, bad weather, etc. Rental companies often charge a fee for late returns, so it’s important to be fully aware of the time your vehicle is expected back at the car hire station.

    Online resources such as Google Maps can help predict journey times, but they don’t take into account road works and other motoring hazards, so if you’re unsure of how to reach the car hire drop-off point, just give your supplier a call and they’ll be happy to guide you (you’ll be able to find their number in the rental paperwork). The best time to get such information is when you arrive to pick up your car on arrival at your destination. Drop off points at airports and train stations usually have a dedicated area, so look for signposts indicating Car Rental Return, or something similar.

    Find a nearby gas station to fill up the tank

    Besides asking for directions to the drop-off point, it might also be a good idea to find out where the nearest petrol stations are located, which can help save you even more time in the rush to catch your flight. Most car rental agreements include a ‘full-to-full’ fuel policy, which means that because the tank is full when you pick the car up, you’ll need to refill it just before returning the vehicle. Some maps and other online resources can help you find a petrol station close to the drop-off point, but it’s a good idea to check these things with the supplier at the beginning of your rental period.

    When paying for the fuel, always ask for a receipt in case you need to prove that the tank was full when you dropped the vehicle off. Other fuel policies such as ‘pre-purchase’ mean that you don’t have to bring the car back with a full tank, which is one less thing to worry about at the end of your journey. To find out which fuel policy applies to your rental, just look at the terms and conditions in your car hire voucher, a copy of which will also be included in the confirmation e-mail.

    Make sure the car is clean and tidy

    Another important thing to remember is the car’s cleanliness, which these days can be part of the supplier’s ‘expectations’ when signing the vehicle off at the end of the rental period. Although car rental companies don’t expect their cars to be returned sparkling clean, you won’t find yourself arguing about a cleaning fee if the car is returned in a reasonable condition.

    Such aspects as the location, weather and length of time the car was in your possession will generally be considered by the supplier on return of the vehicle. For instance, a little bit of sand on the floor will usually be tolerated in a beach destination, for example. However, if the car is returned excessively dirty then you're likely to find yourself stuck with a cleaning fee, which will be used to cover the cost of having the vehicle thoroughly cleaned prior to the next rental. To be on the safe side, it's always a good idea to hoover up any crumbs or sand off the seats and wipe smudges or finger prints off the windows whilst giving the car a quick wash. It’s also worth taking into account that all rental cars are now non-smoking, so an additonal cleaning fee will almost certainly apply should a client choose to smoke inside the vehicle during their rental period.

    Take photos

    Don’t forget to take as many photographs of the vehicle as you can should any marks or scratches come to light that are not of your making. Most people carry a mobile phone with a decent camera these days, so collecting photographic evidence to use in case of a subsequent dispute is no longer a problem. Taking photographs of the car’s chassis, interior, fuel gauge and mileage, for instance, can prove particularly useful when the vehicle is dropped off out of hours when no one from the rental company is present to sign it off. Having these photos will certainly help if the rental company tries to charge you for something you didn’t do. Please note that this applies as much to the process of picking up the vehicle as it does dropping it off.

    Pack up your things

    Besides cleanliness, you should also be mindful of forgetfulness. It’s always a worry driving to an airport to catch a flight, and having to drop off a hire car first further exacerbates the stressfulness of the situation. In addition to checking the vehicle for damage and taking photos whenever possible, it’s also very important to make sure that none of your possessions are still in the car. Always check under the seats (things often fall out of our pockets when driving) and in the glove compartment where the car documents are often stored. It’s also a good idea to have another look inside the boot before handing over the keys, just in case something has been forgotten. Also be sure to take the policy documents you signed at the beginning of the rental with you.

    The drop-off process

    Check over with a rep from the supplier

    Handing over the keys is only part of the vehicle drop-off process. A representative from the local supplier will want to inspect the car for any damage that might have occurred during your rental period, such as dents or scratches, chips on the windscreen and scuffs on the wheels etc. If any new damage is found that you are sure you didn’t cause, then the best thing to do is ask the supplier to have another look at the original damage report to confirm whether or not it had already been documented. It’s also wise to look at the photos you took yourself at the time of pick-up, because the best way to resolve such a situation is to make sure that your vehicle is thoroughly documented on collection. Naturally, if it was you who caused the damage, then it’s only fair that a repair fee will be taken from your deposit, or as an alternative you will be sent an invoice.

    Once the vehicle has been fully checked, you will be given the necessary paperwork to confirm the end of your rental, which is often referred to as the ‘check-in form’. And once the supplier is satisfied everything is in order, they will unblock or refund your security deposit, although the time taken to do this can vary according to which credit card company you use.

    Drop off without a rep – key drop box option

    If you´ve requested out of hours drop off, you’ll need to find the company’s box in which to drop the car keys (it will have their name and logo on it). If you can’t find the appropriate box for your keys, then check on the office door for drop-box related information or look for a phone number to call.

    Frequently asked questions about car hire returns

    Contact Auto Europe for help with your car hire reservationBelow we have gathered some of the most frequently asked question that our clients ask with regards to the rental drop off process. Should you still have concerns or need help with your reservation, please don´t hesitate to contact our dedicated reservations team per phone or email. You can also consult our handy Travel Tip Guide with a vast array of different car hire related topics covering things such as coverage options, age requirements and how to modify a booking.

    What happens if I return the car hire later than agreed?

    Unfortunately, in these situations there is very little we can do to help. As an intermediary between the supplier and the client, we can't influence the supplier’s decision to charge you an additional fee for the late return of their vehicle. If you know you are going to be late returning the car, it’s important to inform the supplier as soon as you possibly can. Once that is done, the situation can go one of two ways: either the vehicle isn’t going to be used straight away and the supplier agrees to waive the fee (depending on their policy) or another customer is waiting to collect the car and, seeing that you won’t be able to drop it off in time, you’ll most likely be charged for returning it late.


    What should I do if I know that I will return the rental late?

    The correct thing to do is contact the rental company immediately to inform them of the delay. What happens next will depend on their general policy in these situations and whether or not there is another customer waiting to pick up the car. It also depends on exactly how late you will be delivering the vehicle to the car rental station. Taking all these factors into account, you may be charged an extra fee or not. It is our policy at Auto Europe to always advise our customers to book the drop off for their vehicle as late as possible in order to reduce the risk of something like this happening.


    If I bring the car rental back early, do I get a refund?

    Unfortunately, as stipulated on the T&C, the difference for unused rental days is almost never refunded. The only exception may be an early return due to medical conditions. If this is your case, you will need to provide supporting documents from the hospital or your doctor, after that, your case will be referred to Customer Support, and the decision will depend on the supplier's policy. You will need to be patient, as these cases take a bit of time.


    What if the car hire counter is closed when I drop off the car?

    If your plane leaves late in the evening or at night, chances are that the office of the rental company will already be closed. This issue is often easily resolved. Before making a reservation on our website, it is better to clarify the information about the availability of a "drop box", since not all companies provide this option. To be safe, you can contact our reservations department by phone or email and inquire in advance if there is such offer with the company that interests you. More specific information about the location of the parking lot and the key box should be specified at the supplier's counter at the time of picking up the car.

    If the desk for some reason is closed although it should be opened you can contact Auto Europe over the phone and we will help you out.


    Can someone else return the rental car?

    Yes, all additional drivers, named on the contract, can return the car without any problems, even without the presence of the main driver. Another important information - the same system does not work when you pick up a car. To add the additional driver to the contract, the main driver needs to be present at the counter, since it's their credit card that will be used to block the safety deposit. After completing the contract, all drivers who were included in the contract can return the car on their own without the presence of the main driver.