7 Things to Know About Bringing Your Pet in a Rental Car

7 Things to Know About Bringing Your Pet in a Rental Car

When you head out on a big road trip, it’s hard to imagine leaving your pet at home. The great news is, there are lots of pet-friendly rental car spots out there, so you can bring your furry companion along for the ride. 

A rule of thumb when it comes to car rental is to leave the car the same as you found it. So when there’s a pet involved, consider the potential mess and plan accordingly. 

If you’re not careful. It could cost you. 

Can You Have a Dog in a Rental Car? 

Most rental companies allow domesticated animals into their vehicles. Pets are pets, and as long as they are domesticated (the wild bear you’re trying to tame in your backyard doesn't count), you should be able to bring it in the rental car. That being said, dogs may be more complicated to bring along than, say, your pet hamster. And some companies have different requirements for letting your animal ride along. So plan accordingly. 

dog in a rental car

Do Your Research 

No matter what type of pet you’re wanting to bring in the rental car, you’ll need to do your research beforehand. Like we mentioned, it’s not too hard to find a pet-friendly rental car company, but there are always exceptions. Certain companies, regions, and even pets may be limited. 

Read up on different rental car company policies. To find the info, check out the terms and conditions section, or the FAQs. And if you still can’t find the answers, call the agency directly to make sure. Online policies may be out of date or you may have specific questions. So go ahead and talk to a real person.  

Car Size Matters

Figure out what type of car is best for your journey by considering all the passengers, including your pet. If you are just transporting a small cat, for example, you’re probably fine with any style and size of vehicle. But if you’re hauling around a German shepherd, you’ll probably need a larger vehicle— possibly an SUV if you also have multiple passengers riding with you.  

Be Prepared for a Cleaning Fee

The biggest issue when it comes to having a dog in the rental car is the mess. Your pup sheds and can leave hair in every corner of the vehicle, or possibly scratch the seats with its claws. Or maybe it leaves dirty paw prints around, and slobbers all over the windows while enjoying the cool breeze. Worse case scenario is it gets a little motion sickness or has an accident, which can leave you with some serious cleanup. And then there is the smell... 

If you return your vehicle with any evidence of a dog in the rental car, you will very likely get charged an extra cleaning fee. This cleaning fee can be pricey too, sometimes around $125 or more. 

And if your pet causes more severe damage, like tears or permanent stains in the seat, it’s not a quick fix and won’t be covered, even in a hefty cleaning fee. And it’s likely not going to be covered by your rental insurance either. In other words, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for those repairs. 

Luckily, there are some steps you can take to manage the mess and avoid extra costs. 

Cover the Car

You need to protect the seats from scratches and mess, especially if you have a large dog. Even a sheet or blanket is a good option for covering the seats if you don’t have another option, but obviously a waterproof covering is the most effective. Any sort of cover also helps contain the dog hair. 

Secure the Pet

Even if it’s not required by law in your state, securing your pet is a great way to keep them safe, limit their movement, and avoid distractions at the wheel. 

A great option for securing your animal is a pet carrier or kennel. That way, if the animal does shed or get scared and make a mess, it’s all contained and the clean-up is much more manageable. 

You can also ask the rental company about back grilles or safety grilles, particularly for SUVs or certain hatchback models. The back grille keeps the animal in the trunk area and also keeps it from jumping or sneaking into the back seat. Like the kennel, this helps keep all the mess in one place and protects the seats. You may even be able to get the rental company to install two grilles, which separates the luggage and could keep it from falling on your pet. If not, consider bringing your own. 

Both a kennel and grille keep your pet contained so they don’t distract you while you drive. Has your dog ever gotten so excited that he jumps into the front seat? While it’s pretty cute, it’s very distracting for you as a driver. And distractions can cause accidents, putting you, your pet, and the car in danger. 

If your pet can’t handle a kennel and just needs some more freedom, you can purchase a special leash or harness that attaches to the seatbelt. It keeps them from jumping into the front seat and keeps everyone safe. 

And hey, just like you, your pet wants to be comfortable. Keep water, snacks, and toys handy so you can keep them distracted, comfy, happy.  

There are some exceptions. For example, when it comes to bringing a service dog in a rental car, you won’t need to bring a carrier or kennel, and your dog can ride freely. 

Take Breaks

Humans and animals all need bathroom breaks. But keep in mind your pet is possibly in a new environment and may need more pit stops than you do. Try to make as many stops as possible in order to prevent accidents and serious messes. 

Clean Before You Return

At the end of the day, a pet is an animal. And animals leave behind messes, smells, and usually lots of hair. So if you return the car with some weird smells or hair-covered seats, the rental car agency isn’t going to be pleased. 

Avoid potential fees and get the car cleaned before turning it in, even if there isn’t a huge mess. You can even pull up to a self-service car wash and use the vacuum, along with any odor-eliminating services, to make sure it’s in good shape. Or, if the only issue is a little extra fur, snag a lint roller and clean up any remaining evidence. 

A good cleanup will cost you less in the end and isn’t worth the risk of a subjective analysis of the vehicle’s cleanliness. If you’re worried about the post-rental inspection, you can even take pictures of the car before you leave to prove that it's just as clean as when you drove it off the lot. And save the cleaning receipt for proof in case they give you any trouble. 

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To get answers to questions like, “Can you have a dog in a rental car?” or to learn more about rental car protocol and tips on avoiding car fees, check out the Avail blog. Try borrowing a car with Avail and you won’t have to worry about fine print or surprise fees (unless you ignore everything we just told you about cleaning).