Last Updated on April 11, 2024 by Kristin

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Renting a car is much more flexible than booking a plane ticket. After all, you can make a reservation without getting charged immediately. Still, rental car companies won’t hold a car indefinitely if a customer is late or appears to be a no-show. Here’s how long a car rental company will hold your reservation.

How Long Will They Hold My Car Rental Reservation?

How long a rental car reservation is valid after the scheduled pick-up time depends on the company. Keep in mind: Showing up late may mean losing the promotional rate or the type of vehicle you reserved.

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Airport Pickups

In many cases, customers are late picking up rental cars because of flight delays. In this case, the rental companies typically have clear policies about how long they’ll stay open and hold the reservation. If you are flying, always provide the rental car company with your flight details. Airport locations often stay open later just to wait for delayed customers.

A general rule of thumb: If you know you’ll be late, it’s best to call the company. Or use the rental car app to modify the rental pickup time as soon as possible. (The same goes if you’re returning a car early or late.)

Car Rental Policies

Here’s a quick rundown of major rental car companies’ policies about holding reservations.

Avis: If a customer is delayed due to flight delays, Avis will honor the reservation up to 24 hours after the scheduled pick-up time. Call 800-633-3469 as soon as you know about a delay.

Alamo: Reservations are valid for 24 hours from the scheduled pick-up time. Airport locations will stay open two hours after their scheduled closing time to wait for customers with flight delays. Alamo encourages renters to add flight information.

Budget: Budget locations remain open until the last delayed flight has arrived. Budget will give customers a “reasonable length of time” to clear baggage claim and get to the counter. It encourages customers to provide flight information in advance.

Enterprise: Reservations are valid for 24 hours after the scheduled pick-up time for delayed flights. And locations will stay open two hours after their scheduled closing time.

Hertz: Hertz has a more complicated reservation hold policy, so it’s advisable to call the location before picking up the vehicle to doublecheck. According to the fine print, U.S.-based reservations expire by 11:59 p.m. on the day of the pickup date for non-prepaid rentals, or when the location closes. Reservations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa expire two hours after the pick-up time or when the location closes. If you give Hertz your flight info, it will hold the reservation until the flight arrives or the pick-up location closes. Non-airport locations hold reservations and the selected car for two hours after the reserved pick-up time.

National: National’s policy says it will hold reservations for 24 hours from the scheduled pick-up time in the case of delayed flights. Locations will be open for two hours after their closing time for flight delays. It encourages customers to provide flight information in advance.

Dollar: Dollar’s website says it will hold reservations in the US and Canada for six hours after the scheduled pick-up time, unless the location closes before then. It adds that “Customers with reservations who experience weather or mechanical delays with airlines will be accommodated.”

Thrifty: Thrifty says it will wait for delayed-flight customers, but does not offer more detailed information. It encourages passengers to add flight information before renting.

Sixt: Sixt says it will hold vehicles for 60 minutes after the scheduled pickup time and encourages customers to provide flight information. Prepaid customers will have their reservation honored anytime within their reservation window. But they may not be able to get the exact car they reserved.

What If You Don’t Cancel Your Reservation?

Showing up late to pick up your rental can mean that you lose out on the type of car you want to rent. In some cases, showing up late can also lead to extra charges.

Whether you will pay an extra fee for picking up the car late depends on the kind of reservation you’ve made. Rental companies now generally offer two types of reservations: “Pay later” reservations that do not charge your card before renting, and “pay now” reservations that require you to pay in advance. “Pay now” rates often offer a lower price but less flexibility.

Failing to cancel a “pay later” rental car reservation usually does not incur a cost. But being late or not showing up for a prepaid reservation at all can cost you big time.

Take Hertz, which charges a $100 fee when canceling a prepaid rental more than 24 hours before the scheduled pickup time, or $200 when canceling with less than a day’s notice. Not showing up by the expected time means forfeiting the total prepaid amount of the rental.

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A look at the fine print shows that Hertz now appears to be charging a no-show fee on certain “pay later” rentals, too.  It says the fee will be revealed at the time of booking, so be sure to watch out for this even when booking a prepaid rental.

Other companies including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Payless and Thrifty also charge for prepaid rental no-shows, in some cases charging the full rental price.

So, to avoid extra charges when booking a rental, don’t forget to tell the rental car company about your flight reservation in advance and otherwise change your reservation pick-up time as soon as you think you may be late. If not, the risks run from being stranded at the airport without a car to paying hundreds of dollars for a reservation you won’t even able to use.