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Years ago when you rented a car, there was some grace. You’d get a full hour or two after your car is due before getting hit with another day’s worth of charges.
But that’s changed over the last several years, and grace periods aren’t as generous as they used to be, with some companies offering none at all.
Still, some are more generous than others.
And most have two parts to their grace period: a first period with no charge at all, and a second period where you’ll be charged a discounted hourly rate before getting hit with the full day rate. That discounted rate varies depending on the terms of your particular contract.
It can get confusing quickly, so to help you get the most out of your rental, here’s a rundown of the grace period policies of each of the major rental car companies.
We’ve linked directly to the policies when available.
One more caveat.
Even if you’re only charged a discounted rate of an extra hour or two, you’ll still be on the hook for a full day’s worth of taxes and fees. The government gets its full daily cut the second any rate is charged, no matter how few hours.
But knowing the rules above, you’ll be better prepared for your next rental.
No frills companies like Dollar / Thrifty leave no room for error with no free grace period.
But no informed traveler should be renting from them – they don’t even offer a free option to avoid the rental car counter by joining a frequent renter program like all of the big guys do. Their frequent renter programs make you go to the counter first to sign a contract.
You can get better rates elsewhere by shopping around with sites like CarRentalSavers.com, and it’s rare the savings for the no frills guys are substantial.
AutoSlash is also a helpful site that will track your booking to see if the rate falls after you book, so you can change to a lower rate for free.
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