Hertz rental car
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Be Careful About Returning Rental Cars During Late Hours…

I have already cautioned about returning a rental car after hours during the time when a rental car facility is closed, which is based on my personal experience; but you should apparently also be careful when returning a rental car during late hours when the rental car facility is open as well.

Be Careful About Returning Rental Cars During Late Hours…

No one was available at the rental car facility at Orlando International Airport when the Range Rover vehicle was returned at 10:00 in the evening; so FlyerTalk member CloudsBelow simply followed the instructions on a sign after driving into the area at which rental cars are to be returned: “After 9pm, leave keys in vehicle.”

Because simply leaving the vehicle with the keys in it felt uncomfortable, CloudsBelow wanted some closure pertaining to the rental. “Went to the Canopy area where cars are assigned as I wanted some closure on the rental”, CloudsBelow posted. “Place was busy and the agent said she’d check it in and email me receipt.”

Five days after leaving the rental car facility at the airport, an automated message arrived from the rental car company, which informed CloudsBelow that “the car is overdue and needs to be returned.” Despite explaining the situation to at least three different representatives of the rental car company, “no one seems overly competent nor able to do anything. They’ve left messages for the manager in MCO to no avail.”

After wasting at least two hours dealing with customer service representatives, CloudsBelow recalled that “the laissez faire responses got me frustrated. Told them to find where the car is and close my bill. some manager said she’d take care of it. I asked, ‘how will you know when it was dropped off’. she replies, ‘we have our ways’. I say, ‘why don’t you use those ‘ways’ to validate a car was not returned before you start with the threatening voicemails!?’”

The issue was finally resolved — but with a nasty little twist: “1 week after the car was actually dropped off, I get a receipt saying the car was checked in ~10 hours after i dropped it off. aaannnnd, of course, the miles used was listed at ~75 miles more than I dropped it off at. This triggered 75mi * 75c charge.”

Other FlyerTalk members posted similar experiences in this discussion — including FlyerTalk member missingcolours, whose experience was at the same rental car facility at the same airport.

What You Should Do If You Find Yourself in a Similar Situation

Do NOT use the key drop if at all possible. Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

These seven tips should help you to avoid the experience which CloudsBelow endured.

  1. First and foremost, do everything you can to return the vehicle to a rental car facility during normal business hours if it is at all possible — but keep in mind that if you return the car late enough, you might encounter a facility which is barely staffed.
  2. Never leave the car with the keys in it unless specifically instructed to do so by a member of the staff or an employee of the rental car company. The rental car facility may be staffed — but if no one sees you leaving the car with the keys, anything can happen.
  3. Do not use the key drop if at all possible. Although you will likely have no problem with it, all you need is an inept employee to commit one error which can trigger unexpected problems or issues for you.
  4. Gently rub your finger or use a cloth against a small anomaly, as sometimes a simple spot of dirt or dried mud can emulate a chip in the paint. You do not want someone who works for the rental car company to mistake it for damage, which can cost you money — even if it does not cost the rental car company money.
  5. Take photographs and video of the vehicle, with time stamps imprinted on them. This will not only help to protect you in the event that the vehicle cannot be found; but photographs will also prove the condition of the vehicle upon its return in case employees of the rental car company decide to hold you responsible for any damage on the vehicle which was not caused by you.
  6. Ensure that the vehicle is scanned by an employee, as that indicates that it has been returned to inventory to be prepared for the next customer.
  7. Finally, get a physical paper receipt which shows that the rental amount was paid in full. If you are contacted by a rental car company that the car is overdue and needs to be returned — or for other problems and issues — all you need to do is provide a copy of the official receipt.


Chevrolet Lanos LS rental car in Egypt Avis
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Renting a car is usually uneventful — but when a problem occurs, it can consume valuable time, effort and even money to ensure that it is finally resolved.

Other articles which I wrote pertaining to renting a vehicle which offer potentially valuable information for you include:

All photographs ©2013, ©2015 and ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Brian, great tips, and thank you for gathering all those links. Had a similar “where’s the car?” nightmare – ran off from Avis at SFO in a hurry to catch a flight and didn’t collect a paper receipt. That was and will remain the last time I rented from Avis. But the point applies to all rental companies – do not return the car without getting a paper receipt!!! Should show the time of return and the price to be charged to your credit card. It seems tempting to opt into “e-receipt” programs – nice not to worry about misplacing your paper docs, right folks? Well don’t do it! In my experience National & Hertz will still send you an email receipt even if you collect a paper one.

    1. Why not do both a paper receipt and an electronic receipt, Steve? This way, you have both convenience and hard evidence…

      …and my experience with National and Hertz is the same as yours, as they offer both. In fact, Hertz provides both to me automatically.

      I am sorry to learn that you had a similar experience. I hope that all you lost was only a little bit of time and effort…

  2. Never ever return the car without having an agent to check it and issue a receipt confirming everything was OK. I had a case when it was late night when I returned the car and later on got an email that the car had a dent and I would be charged for the repair. I can guarantee the damage was not there when car was returned.

    1. Don’t leave us hanging, Santastico! What happened next?

      I hope that you did not have to pay anything — let alone spend too much of your valuable time and effort trying to resolve it…

      1. Yes, they backed off and agreed not to charge me anything. Renting a car at night is a big problem mainly if you have to get the car from an open lot. There is not enough light for you to see every inch of the car and take pictures or notes if you see any damage. Once you take the car from the lot whatever damage is on the car and not documented before you left becomes your problem.

        1. What you wrote is true, Santastico — and I am glad to read that you emerged from that situation virtually unscathed.

          While it will not completely resolve the issue, using either a flashlight or the spotlight from a mobile telephone may at least increase the odds of catching an anomaly that could haunt you later…

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