The Penalty For Dropping Off a Rental Car at a Different Location

The Penalty For Dropping Off a Rental Car at a Different Location

Changing plans or dropping off your rental car at an unexpected location could incur severe penalties from rental car companies, known as an unauthorized drop off – violating your rental contract!

Sara drove three hours through the night after Avis accidentally changed her drop-off location from Knoxville to Nashville and hit her with an almost $1000 fee.

Unauthorized Location Dropoffs

Penalties for dropping off a rental car at an unapproved location may differ based on the company policy and local laws, with renters usually incurring extra fees and legal ramifications due to violating their rental contract terms.

No matter the cause – be it an unexpected family emergency or just wanting to do something you haven’t before – road trip plans often change, leaving us scrambling for solutions when life throws us curve balls and necessitates an alternate return destination for the rental vehicle we rented from. 

Rental car companies understand this reality, offering several solutions when your plans require alteration.

These options typically include one-way fees, additional mileage charges, or costs of transporting the vehicle back home base. Fees can add up quickly if traveling between multiple locations within a state, especially if various trips need to be taken within that same day.

Before booking your rental car, it’s advisable to consult the rental car company’s website or app and review their one-way dropoff policies in detail. They may offer waived fees for Gold members or special rates for rentals in college towns with high demand. 

If your plans change unexpectedly, notify them as soon as possible by phone and politely explain what happened to prevent extra fees from being assessed or becoming legally problematic later.

Damage Charges

Car rental companies have policies that, if broken, can lead to fines for violators. One renter was fined over $932 after dropping off their vehicle in an incorrect location. Customers sign a contract that details when and where it should be returned – changing these details after taking possession can incur penalties, such as extra mileage fees.

Customers who don’t return the car at its proper dropoff point could become responsible for damage done to it by unapproved drivers and having it marked as stolen by their rental company – potentially leading to fines and even legal action against them.

If you face unreasonable damage charges, it’s wise to immediately contact your bank or credit card company and dispute them. They should help you dispute them and get your money back. 

In addition, make sure that you read through and follow all rental agreement clauses carefully and choose a card that offers one-way fee waivers; additionally, taking check-in/check-out photos may help guard against unfair claims made against you.

Unexpected Dropoff Fees

No matter the circumstance, returning a rental car to its original location can sometimes prove impossible. That is why reading up on and understanding your car rental company’s policy is crucial before making a reservation. 

Though unexpected fees cannot always be avoided altogether, here are a few expert tips that may help reduce them significantly.

Your company may charge an “unauthorized return location fee” in certain situations to cover the costs associated with transporting the car back to its original location, such as fueling up, mileage charges, and staffing expenses. 

These fees discourage renters from altering their dropoff location by preventing them from changing it and returning it to its agreed-upon destination.

If you notify the rental car company about your planned location change, they may waive one-way fees altogether. Some companies even provide Gold member status that covers this automatically! 

In addition, if returning to a popular tourist attraction or during peak season (when demand may be greater), calling ahead and informing the company as early as possible about your plans is recommended to prevent extra charges from being levied against you.

Legal Consequences

When renting a car, you must abide by specific terms and conditions, including when and where to return it. If your plans change once the vehicle has been delivered, penalties and fines could result.

As soon as your plans change, inform the rental company immediately. Furthermore, comparing each company’s one-way rental policy, which may differ from their usual round trip rate, is a good idea. Some offer one-way rentals without additional charges, while others impose an administrative fee depending on the distance traveled between the rental and destination locations.

Your best bet for avoiding these fees when renting a car may be to book pickup and dropoff locations in advance, although this is not always possible. For instance, if you book a standard round-trip rental and return it at another location without making arrangements with the rental company in advance, penalties could become substantial as they must transport it back home to make up for lost revenue – this can amount to hundreds of dollars in some cases!


In conclusion, dropping off a rental car at a different location may incur additional fees, known as one-way rental fees. 

Understanding the penalty for this convenience ensures that renters can plan their journeys effectively and make informed decisions about the most cost-effective and convenient options for returning their rental vehicles.


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