Car Rental Dropoff Charges

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At $18 a day you don’t have to be Agatha Christie to figure out that Avis is not making money on the rental fee. We know they make it on insurance and gas (“we will refill for $7 a gallon” – if you are lazy enough). Now – beware the drop-off fee scam. You rented the car at SJC and due to a last minute change return it at SFO. This could cost you more than your flight. They may add a hefty drop-off fee and reprice the whole rental. I was faced with a $500 fee to change a 2 week EWR rental to LGA. I also just paid $250 for a LAX -> SNA drop-off.

While a ACY->FAI drop-off is justified, I think SJC/OAK/SFO or EWR/JFK/LGA or ORD/MDW or LAX/SNA/BUR/LGB/ONT is not – so here is how to avoid:

If you know in advance that your return location will be different:

Step 1 – Compare the price of your real itinerary to the price dropping off where you picked it up. If its not a big difference, pay it. If it is – book the return to the same location.

Step 2 – When you pickup the car make the change and refuse to pay any exorbitant fees. They know that you can just go to the next counter. Check the contract to make sure it is in there. Last week I got a California smile and a no problem and the agent forgot to make the change – which cost me $250.

Step 3 – When you return at the 10 second super duper fast line make sure the price is correct. This is hard with a flight leaving in 30 minutes.

Step 4 – When you see the charge complain – they know they tried and it didn’t work. Ask the guy in India to talk to a supervisor. They are in the states.

If you don’t know in advance:

Call up and ask to change. If that doesn’t work do not expect any help at the return counter. Return where you were supposed to and take a cab or even a helicopter – it may be cheaper.

CAUTION:

a. Make sure your car company has a location at the airport you are headed to.

b. More problematic with in-town locations. Avis has loads of offices in San Francisco but Enterprise has none.

c. May be impossible in remote locations that are franchised.

d. Not a good idea with Priceline or Hotwire

See other posts about Renting cars with priceline, Using Zipcar, Car Rental Refueling Charges, and general Car Rental Scams.


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13 Responses

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