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How to Clean Your Rental Car Before Returning It
January 18, 2022

How to Clean Your Rental Car Before Returning It

Renting a car is a convenient way to travel, whether you’re flying to a new city to explore or setting off on a road trip directly from your hometown. One of the best things about getting a car rental is opening the door to a freshly cleaned vehicle as you’re ready to hit the road. But when it comes time to return the car you may wonder, “Do I have to clean my rental car?” While you’re not responsible for a total detail job of your rental, there are some tips to follow to avoid extra charges. Here’s what you need to know.

Do you have to clean a rental car before returning?

The answer to “do I need to clean my rental car?” depends on two things: your rental agreement and the condition of the vehicle. Some rental car companies outline exactly what condition they expect the car to be returned in. Otherwise, you’ll likely be charged with an excess cleaning fee, which can be as high as a few hundred dollars depending on the mess. You don’t need to pay to get the car detailed by any means, but you should return it in approximately the same condition it was in when you rented it.

How to keep a rental car clean

These four easy tips help you avoid cleaning fees without spending any significant amount of time or money at the end of your trip.

#1: Get rid of trash

It’s not a big deal if you leave a few small items in the car, like a water bottle or an empty McDonald’s bag. But you should definitely make a little effort to clear out the mess if you’ve accumulated a large collection of trash in the vehicle. Head to a gas station and just unload take out containers, stray French fries, wrappers, and other items that have collected in the seats and on the floor. The car will automatically feel a lot cleaner with this one easy step.

#2: Vacuum the interior

You don’t always need to vacuum your rental car before you return it. But it can be a good idea if the mess seems extreme. For instance, maybe you had your kids in car seats and the seats underneath are covered in crumbs when you remove them. Or may you take the rental car to the beach and the interior has become covered in sand. These are some extreme scenarios where it may be worth a handful of quarters to quickly vacuum the inside of the before you take it back to the rental counter. 

person cleaning a rental car

#3: Wipe up spills 

In a similar vein, damaged upholstery can be an expensive add-on if the rental company has to use specialty products to get the seats and floor clean. Avoid the issue altogether by cleaning up spills as soon as they happen. It may even be worth keeping a paper towel roll in the car. Or you could avoid eating or drinking anything besides water in the car. 

#4: Fill up the gas

This isn’t a cleaning tip, but is still an important reminder before returning to your car. Head to the gas station and fill up before you take the car back. Check your rental agreement to see how much gas you need to purchase. Sometimes, you don’t need a full tank. The rental agent usually marks where the gas tank was when you rented the car. You only have to put in enough fuel to reach that mark. Otherwise, you’ll be charged an expensive per-gallon rate for any missing gas.  

woman refueling rental car

What to skip before returning your rental car

Remember, you don’t need to go overboard on cleaning before you return your car. Here are three things you can usually skip, assuming there’s no extra wear and tear on the car.

Car wash. Don’t bother paying for a car wash. This service is provided by the rental car company before they rent the car out to someone else. An exception may be if you have excessive mud on the car’s exterior.

Dusting. A layer of dust isn’t enough to trigger an extra cleaning fee. Skip the microfiber and just return the car as-is. 

Bottom line

Do you have to clean a rental car? At Avail Car Sharing, we don’t think you should have to. We make sure each driver has a clean, enjoyable experience without worrying about chores at the end of a trip. 

Book your reservation with Avail today.