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How to avoid car rental cancellation fees
June 24, 2021

How to avoid car rental cancellation fees

Travel plans can change quickly, whether your work schedule changes, you suddenly get sick, or you simply don’t feel like getting away. But cancelling plans may incur fees & non-refundable charges, including your car rental. Avoid the expense of costly rental car cancellation fees by following these seven tips.

1. Understand the rental car cancellation policy before reserving

All car rental cancellation policies come with their own unique details. Find out what they are before you make your reservation, since some are stricter than others. Unless you are booking a car for the next day and have a very low chance of cancelling, then it’s crucial to use the cancellation policy as one of your selection criteria when making a reservation. Each company should have a “policies” link on their webpage that outlines the terms of the rental agreement before you actually reserve a car.

person looking at phone and car rental late fee

2. Select the pay later option

In order to get a car rental free cancellation, you typically need to opt to pay later instead of pre-paying for your reservation. In most cases, you’ll just enter your contact information to make the reservation without giving out your credit card number. By making a reservation without using your credit card upfront, you’ll avoid paying any cancellation fees should you change your mind; after all, there’s no way to charge you with no payment method on file. And while you may see a lower rate with a prepaid option, the savings should exceed the rental car cancellation fee in order to be worth it.

3. Cancel at least 24 hours ahead of your reservation

Many car rental companies’ cancellation fees only go into effect if you cancel within 24 hours of your reservation. As long as you cancel before you enter the 24-hour window leading up to your reservation, you may be able to avoid the fee. Of course, not all car rental companies have the same policies. Check before making any plans and see how long you have to cancel without getting charged.

4. Change your date instead of cancelling

If you’re already in the territory of being charged a fee, consider modifying your trip instead of cancelling it. This can help you avoid a cancellation fee. However, you typically don’t have a guarantee that your rate will be the same. It may not make a difference if you’re picking dates further out, since a larger lead time typically results in a lower rate. But if you’re changing the day of the week or modifying to a holiday weekend, you could end up paying more.

5. Avoid not showing up 

When you’re a no-show, you’re not charged a cancellation fee — you have to pay for the entire reservation. So no matter how little notice you’re able to give, cancelling is still usually better than simply not showing up for your reservation at all. 

6. Ask to have fees waived

In some instances, you may be able to get your cancellation fee waived by simply calling the car rental company and asking. For example, if you’re sick or had a family emergency, you may find some sympathy from a customer service rep. There’s no guarantee with this tactic, of course, but it is an option if you’re in a sticky situation. If the customer service rep doesn’t have the authority to waive a fee, ask to speak to a supervisor. Just remember that kindness goes a lot further than yelling — be nice to the person on the other end of the phone, no matter how they handle your request.

7. Get travel insurance

Getting a travel insurance policy can protect the cost of a car rental both before and during your trip. Most policies cover both trip cancellations and trip interruptions. The former covers your travel reservations in case you have to cancel your trip before it even begins. So if you’re within the period in which you’ll be charged a rental car cancellation fee, your insurance will reimburse you for the cost. With trip interruption insurance, you may be reimbursed for changes to your reservation in the event you have to cut your trip short.

8. Use a car sharing service

Another way to avoid a rental car cancellation fee is to use a car sharing service instead. Avail car sharing, for instance, lets you reserve a vehicle at our convenient neighborhood locations in Chicago and Denver. And on top of that, cancellations are always free. You’ll find a wide range of vehicles available, so you can always find the exact ride you’re looking for, with the flexibility you need for a worry-free trip. Try car sharing with Avail today.