Reader Thomas writes:
I rented a car with Alamo last week. My scheduled pickup time was 2:00pm. My flight didn’t get in until 3:30, and I picked up the car around 4:00. When I returned the car three days later (at 3:00pm) they charged me for an extra hour’s rental. And that one hour cost more than the daily rate.
I complained that I hadn’t actually picked up the car until 4pm, so it was less than 3x 24-hours, so why were they charging me for 3 days plus one hour? They insisted that the reservation started at 2:00 pm. What gives?
This issue has come up before, in a discussion of the decline of grace periods from a few years back. There was one comment in particular, from a reader named Jason, which is particularly prescient, and bears repeating:
A little tip for renters from someone who’s been on both sides of the rental counter. Make sure the rental agent updates your pickup time if you arrive after your scheduled pick up time (i.e. scheduled to pick up at 2pm and you don’t arrive until 3pm). If you arrive early, the computers will likely set your pickup time to the actual time you pickup the car, but if you arrive late it’s up to you and/or the agent to update your pickup time. This little trick has caught a lot of renters who return at the same time they picked up the car, but still get the late fees.
There you have it. Once you drive it off the lot, the timestamp on the contract is the time that counts. So be sure to verify that the time is the time you actually rent.
(Of course, with some companies, you can be handed a contract but still wait… and wait… and wait for the car… If that happens, let the exit gate agent to mark and initial the contract with the accurate time, as a last resort, if you can’t get it updated in the computer.)
As an added heads-up from Jason’s comment, advice for tail end of the rental:
One other nasty suprise of Alamo, if you return the car more than 24 hours early you may be subject to a $15 early return fee. It’s stupid, but it’s on the contract the renter has to initial. Don’t try to argue with the agent, we couldn’t take it off and we never could figure out why it only appeared on some rentals and not others.
Forewarned is forearmed: Watch the clock, and watch your contract.