Rental car services are available at the majority of airports. Many larger airports provide massive rental car garage facilities that house rental operations for all on-site car rental companies. These facilities have streamlined processes that simplify returns and limit the time it takes to return a car. Off-site rental car agencies operate differently, but their policies generally are similar.
To return a rental car to an on-site rental facility, follow the airport signs to the designated return area for your rental agency. In some airports, such as Orlando International, several companies share space on each level. Drive into the designated return lane, where an attendant will guide you to park and turn off the car. Remain standing near the car while the attendant does a walk-around to check the car for damage and mileage. If you prepaid, you will get a receipt and be free to leave. Otherwise, the attendant will direct you to a kiosk or rental counter to settle your bill.
Off-site car rental agencies generally require drivers to return the car directly to the off-site facility. At smaller locations, you might have to park and go inside to get an attendant rather than simply driving into a designated lane. Accompany the attendant on the walk-around, then follow her instructions for settling the bill.
Each company sets its own procedures for returning a car after the business day ends. Some agencies, such as Budget, do not allow after-hours returns. Others, such as Avis and Enterprise, provide designated parking areas and key drop boxes at many locations. Read the fine print on your rental contract to determine whether you are held liable for theft or damages that occur after you drop off the keys but before the location takes possession of the car.
Different rental car agencies have different ways of calculating a standard rental day. Some provide a grace period for late returns, while others charge by the hour or even charge late returns for a full additional day. Airport facilities often are crowded and lines can back up, so allow plenty of time to avoid being late. Always verify the attendant’s damage and mileage notations to ensure accuracy and prevent erroneous charges. If you use an off-site rental location, verify before you arrive that the facility provides transportation to the airport or wherever you need to go after returning the car. Many rental car agencies charge you a premium if you do not return the car with the same amount of gas in it as when you first picked it up.