Can You Pick Up Rental Car Early? Your Quick Guide to Early Pickup Policies

PUBLISHED ON Feb, 01 2024


Wondering, “can you pick up rental car early?” The answer is typically yes, but there are some details you should be aware of. Most rental companies offer flexibility for early pickups, subject to availability and specific policies. This article helps navigate the ins and outs of early pickup processes, including potential fees, the best approach to arranging it, and how to ensure a smooth experience with your rental company.

Key Takeaways

  • Most rental companies generally accommodate early pickups 1-2 hours before the scheduled time, but policies and fees vary widely.
  • Direct communication with the car rental company is crucial for arranging early pickups and avoiding potential fees or wait times.
  • Be prepared for early pickups by having necessary documents ready, confirming adjustments to reservation times, and understanding the potential costs and impact on rental rates.

Early Pickup Policies: The Basics

Most rental car companies accommodate early pickups, typically 1-2 hours prior to the scheduled time. However, it is worth noting that these policies and potential fees may significantly vary among different companies. To avoid any inconvenience, it’s always a good idea to book your rental car earlier.

Varying Company Policies

Should your travel plans shift, bear in mind that early pickup policies can differ across rental companies. Most companies aim to have vehicles ready for pickup at least one hour before the scheduled reservation time, but they generally try to accommodate customers who arrive early when possible.

Availability Constraints

The availability of early pick ups can greatly differ, with airport locations often having larger inventories compared to neighborhood locations. The time of year and the rental location’s specific characteristics also influence the availability of cars for early pickup.

Always strive to place an early pickup request at your earliest convenience.

Communication is Key

For arranging an early pickup, direct communication with the rental car company is key. Informing the rental company in advance can help maximize the chances of having the vehicle ready and available, thus preventing wait times.

Major Rental Companies and Their Early Pickup Policies

Each major rental car company has its own set of rules when it comes to early pickups. While most rental companies strive to have vehicles ready at least one hour prior to reservation time, this can vary depending on inventory and location busyness.

We’ll delve into the policies of some major car rental companies, which are among the top rental agencies in the industry, including a prominent rental agency.


Depending on the availability of vehicles, enterprise customers are able to pick up their rental cars early. This option is subject to vehicle availability only. Bear in mind that early pickup at Enterprise without extra charges is contingent upon the specific policies and vehicle availability at that location.


Hertz offers early pickup options as part of their service. However, early pickup at Hertz may involve additional fees that are determined at the local level. Customers are recommended to reach out to their local Hertz rental location for additional details. They can also make arrangements for an early pickup.


At Avis, early pickup of rental cars is allowed, subject to vehicle availability. Customers are advised to contact the rental location directly for information about early pickup options. This is the best way to ensure prompt and accurate assistance.


Budget’s rental policy includes a 29-minute grace period for returns, which may hint at the possibility of leniency towards early vehicle pickups.

Preparing for Your Early Rental Car Pickup

Person holding necessary documents for rental car pickup

Person holding necessary documents for rental car pickup

Armed with knowledge about the early pickup policies of different rental companies, it’s time to discuss the preparation for your early car rental pickup.

Necessary Documents

Primarily, make sure to have all necessary documents such as your driver’s license, credit card, and reservation confirmation ready at pickup.

Confirming Reservation Changes

Confirming the start time of the rental period in the contract is vital after adjusting a pickup time. Also, remember that altering reservation times can impact rental cost and availability.

Arriving at the Rental Location

Upon arriving at the rental location, be prepared for potential wait times if you need to pick up a rental and the car is not ready for early pickup due to cleaning or maintenance.

Potential Costs and Fees for Early Rental Car Pickup

Cost and fees associated with early rental car pickup

Cost and fees associated with early rental car pickup

The convenience of an early pickup is undeniable, but awareness of potential costs and fees is equally significant.

Early Pickup Fees

Arriving before the agreed-upon pickup time may result in an early pickup fee from certain rental car companies. Before your scheduled pickup, ensure to review the terms and conditions. These fees could be a full extra day’s rental charge or an hourly rate, depending on how many hours ahead of the reservation time the car is collected.

Impact on Rental Rates

Rental car rates are typically calculated on a 24-hour period, and picking up the car early initiates the rental clock based on the time you pick up, potentially altering the start and end of the agreed rental period.

Unexpected Charges

To avoid an extra day’s charge due to early pickup, it’s vital to grasp the concept of the 24-hour rental clock. To avoid surprises, it’s crucial to be aware of any additional fees associated with an early pickup.

Tips for Successfully Picking Up Your Rental Car Early

Planning ahead for early rental car pickup

Planning ahead for early rental car pickup

Having covered the early pickup basics and potential costs, we’ll now share some tips for a successful early car rental pickup.

Plan Ahead

Due to potential wait times despite a reservation, it’s imperative to plan ahead for an early car pickup. Changing your reservation in advance can avoid additional fees or longer wait times at pickup.

Be Flexible

If the desired vehicle class is unavailable for early pickup, consider alternatives that still meet your needs. Being open to different vehicle models can increase the likelihood of successfully picking up a rental car early.

Know Your Rights

Comprehending the rental agreement’s flexibility is key to dodging unforeseen costs for early or late pickups and returns. Being aware of the specific policies of your chosen rental company is important to avoid unexpected fees or complications.

How to Handle Changes in Your Travel Plans

Travel plans may suddenly alter. Here’s your guide to navigating such changes.

Communicate with the Rental Company

To circumvent complications, notify the rental company about any plan changes as soon as you become aware of them. For specific types of reservations, changes to the rental schedule are not guaranteed and must be confirmed directly with the company.

Review Cancellation Policies

Cancellation policies for car rentals differ among companies, so understanding these rental car policies before making a reservation is crucial. Some companies have stringent policies that may involve cancellation fees.

Consider Travel Insurance

Should your travel plans unexpectedly change, travel insurance can offer financial cover against car rental cancellation fees. However, it’s important to understand that coverage for rental cars through travel insurance does not extend to incidents involving intoxication or illegal activities by the driver.

Make Sure that Your Car Rental Insurance Covers Your Early Pickup

To avoid situations in which you must pay for the consequences derived from an accident, at CarInsuRent we offer you the possibility of taking out very affordable insurance, which covers vehicles in all types of situations, both on national and international routes.

Our insurance is specially designed for rental services, which is why it covers you in the following cases:

  • Damage due to collision or vehicle theft
  • Theft of personal items
  • Vehicle delivery charges
  • Fuel errors

In these cases, and many more, the Rental Car Excess Insurance policy takes care of the payment up to a limit, which will depend on the policy contracted. When you plan an early pickup, the date of the pickup might change due to different time zones. Thus, it’s important to make sure that your early pickup date is covered under your policy.

See How Much You Can Save on Your Car Rental Insurance

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We’ve covered a lot of ground, from understanding early pickup policies to preparing for an early pickup, dealing with potential costs, and handling changes in travel plans. Remember, the key to a successful early pickup is planning ahead, being flexible, and understanding your rights.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you are early to pick up rental car?

If you pick up your rental car a few hours early, the rental company will try to accommodate you if cars are available, but you won’t receive a refund for unused time. However, you may be charged an extra day if the rental agency charges on a 24-hour basis.

How important is pickup time for car rental?

It’s crucial to ensure the pickup and drop-off time on your reservation is accurate, as hire cars won’t wait indefinitely and may be rented to someone else if you’re late. When booking online, being precise about arrival time is important, and pick-up times are always local to the rental location.

What is the earliest you can rent a car?

You can rent a car as early as 18 years old in Michigan, New York, and the province of Quebec, and at 19 in Alabama and Nebraska. However, in most locations in the U.S. and Canada, the minimum age is 20. Just make sure to have a valid driver’s license in good standing for over a year.

Are there additional fees for early pickup?

Yes, some rental car companies may charge an early pickup fee, but it can vary depending on the company and the specific circumstances. Be sure to check with the company to understand their policy.

What documents do I need for an early pickup?

To pick up your rental early, you’ll need a valid driver’s license, a major credit card with available funds, and your reservation confirmation. International renters may also require an international driver’s permit and/or a passport.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I buy a plan for just one day?

Yes. Insurance for a single day is available.

Can I buy a plan for part of my rental only?

No. We provide a single journey plan. You are covered from the time you pick up the rental car up to the time you return it or on the last date written on your Certificate of Insurance, whichever comes first.

Can I buy a plan when I pick up my rental car?

No. You should purchase a policy before starting your travel.

Find the answers you’re looking for to the most frequently asked car hire insurance questions as well as other questions relating to our products and services.

Visit the FAQ page