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What Happens if You Don’t Return a Rental Car

What Happens if You Don’t Return a Rental Car?

Car rental offers several benefits that you can take advantage of. Although most people use rental services conscientiously, there are cases where rental vehicles are not returned on time. The reasons for this phenomenon are different, such as theft, collision, damage, etc. So, what happens if you don’t return a rental car, and what measures will the rental company take?

Read on as why rental cars aren’t being returned and all the legal actions the rental company can take and what your options are to consider. 

What Happens If You Don’t Return a Rental Car?

Before renting a car, you should be familiar with the rental company’s rules. If you do not comply with such rules, there are several consequences for not returning a rental car. In order to know what happens if you don’t return a rental car, we have prepared a short guide that will clarify things for you.

If the car is returned with a delay of 24 hours

This case is the most common among rental companies and is the easiest to handle. There is usually a 29-minute grace period where you are not subject to any charges from the rental company.

However, if you return the car 24 hours late, you will have to pay late fees established by the rental company. These fees vary with each rental company, so it’s best to read their return policies before renting the vehicle. Also, remember that the prolonged return of the rented car can lead to criminal charges from the rental company.

If you return the car after a long delay

If you still haven’t returned the rental car after 24 hours, the company will continue to charge you late fees. However, up to a certain period, the rental company will have to take measures that could lead to you being criminally charged

Namely, if the delay lasts longer than 5-7 days, the company will try to get in touch to find out the reasons for the delay and inform you about the fees that you must pay. If you do not contact the rental company, they may report the rental vehicle as stolen, and you may be prosecuted.

Reasons for Not Returning Rental Cars

Several reasons will lead to a late return of the vehicle. In the following, we will consider the most common ones:

Forgetfulness: Poor time management is one of the reasons for late rental car returns. In this case, contact the rental company and learn about the additional costs you must pay.

Financial difficulties: In addition to poor time management, poor financial management can be a reason for the rental car being late. If you face financial problems, contact the rental company and find out if they offer deferred payment services.

Car theft: If your rental car is stolen, you should notify the local police immediately. Besides, you should contact the rental company and report the stolen vehicle. Additionally, you will need to contact the insurance provider that covers costs in case of theft of the rental car.

Car crash: You should contact the rental company immediately if you are involved in a traffic accident. In such cases, you will also need to exchange information with other participants in the accident in case the damage needs to be covered by the insurance companies.

Steps to Take If Unable to Return the Rental Car

If you find yourself in a situation where you return the rental vehicle late, you should take several steps. These steps will help you avoid additional charges and avoid potential criminal liability:

Contact the rental company

Whether the delay is a collision, theft, damage to the vehicle, or other reasons, you should contact the rental company immediately. After making contact, explain in detail the reason for the delay and find out the company’s regulations and policies for a delayed rental vehicle.

Find out the additional costs

When you contact the rental company, find out about all the additional costs. As we mentioned above, the rental company charges a fee if you are late for the rental car. If you are familiar with the additional costs, you can more easily plan the return of the car and the budget you have at your disposal.

Ask for an extension of the rental period

If you cannot return the vehicle on time, you can request an extension of the rental period. Note that the rental company may charge you a higher rate than usual. However, extending the rental period can save you from further measures that the company may take, including criminal charges.

Inspect the vehicle before returning it

Carry out a thorough inspection of the vehicle before returning it. The rented vehicle should be in the same condition as when you picked it up. If there are any damages or irregularities, notify the rental company. Ensure that all accessories and equipment are in good order as well. Such accessories include a jack, spare tires, child seats, etc.

Document the vehicle’s condition

Before returning the rental vehicle, take photos of its condition. In addition to late return fees, rental companies may charge additional costs for the vehicle’s condition. Therefore, this kind of documentation can be useful if companies try to charge you extra.

Ask for confirmation and keep the documentation

After you return the vehicle, keep all receipts that the company gives you. Such confirmations refer to the rent paid, late fees, and confirmation of the returned vehicle. Some of the rental companies may charge you extra costs. That’s why these documents can save you from further problems.


Hopefully, you have it clear what happens if you don’t return a rental car. Please note that you must report the rental car delay to the rental company. You should be aware of all the additional costs you will have to pay if you delay the rental vehicle for a long period.

Finally, before renting a vehicle, familiarize yourself with the company’s policies and possible hidden costs and fees.

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