When you head out on a big road trip, it can be hard to imagine leaving your pet at home. While there are pet-friendly car rental companies out there, you may encounter strict rules or additional fees when bringing a pet in a rental car. Use these tips to prepare for your trip so you can reduce costs, make the right arrangements and, ultimately, determine whether it’s worth it for your furry companion to come along.
Can you have a dog in a rental car?
When it comes to bringing a pet in a rental car, you’ll find that some companies do allow you to bring domesticated animals. Pets are pets, and as long as they are house pets (the stray cat you’re trying to tame in your backyard doesn’t count), you should be able to bring them in a pet-friendly rental car. That being said, dogs may be more complicated to bring along than, say, your pet hamster. And companies have different requirements for letting your animal ride along, so plan accordingly.
What to know about booking a rental car with pets
1. Research, don’t assume
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 the type of animal may be limited.
Read up on different rental car company policies. To find the info, check out the help page, FAQs or terms and conditions. And if you still can’t find the answers, call the agency directly to ask. Online policies may be out of date or you may have specific questions, so go ahead and talk to a real person.
2. 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 other passengers riding with you.
3. Be prepared for a cleaning fee
The biggest issue when it comes to pets in rental cars, especially dogs, is the mess. Your pup sheds and can leave fur in every corner of the vehicle, or may 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. The worst-case scenario in a car rental with a dog is that it experiences motion sickness or has an accident, which can leave you with some serious cleanup. And then there is the smell.
If you return the vehicle with any evidence of pets 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.
If your pet causes severe damage, like tears or permanent stains on the seat, it’s not a quick fix and won’t be covered, even with 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.
4. Use protective coverings
You need to protect the seats from scratches and mess, especially if you have a large dog. Even a sheet or blanket will work to cover the seats if you don’t have another option, but a waterproof covering is the most effective. Any sort of barrier also helps contain the pet hair.
5. Secure your pet
When you bring a pet in a rental car, it’s a good idea to secure them, even if it’s not required by law in your state. This will keep them safe, limit their movement and avoid distractions at the wheel.
A pet carrier or kennel is a great option for securing your animal. That way, if they 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 your pet 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 include two grilles, which will separate your pet from your luggage. If not, consider bringing your own.
If your pet can’t handle being contained and just needs some more freedom, you can purchase a special leash or harness that attaches to the seatbelt. It prevents them from jumping into the front seat and keeps everyone safe. And hey, just like you, your pet wants to be comfortable. Have water, snacks and toys handy so you can keep them distracted, comfy and happy.
There are some exceptions, though. For example, when it comes to bringing a service dog in a rental car, you may not need to bring a carrier or kennel, and your dog can ride freely if you so choose.
6. Take breaks on long trips
Humans and animals all need bathroom breaks. But keep in mind that 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 when bringing a pet in a rental car.
7. 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 fur. So if you return the car uncleaned, 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 it away.
A good cleanup will cost you less in the end; it isn’t worth the risk of a subjective analysis of the vehicle’s cleanliness upon return. If you’re worried about the post-rental inspection, you can even take pictures of the car before you leave to prove that it was 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.
Leaving your pet at home?
You may decide that the extra steps you need to take to bring a pet in your rental car aren’t worth the effort — and that’s ok! Having pets in rental cars can be distracting, and it may not be in your best interest based on that alone.
If you’re renting a car in Chicago or Denver and don’t plan to bring a pet along for the ride, try Avail car sharing. Since you won’t have a furry companion to keep you company, we allow you to add a second human driver for free. And we make pick-up and drop-off a breeze at our self-service neighborhood lots. Book a trip today, and you’ll also be protected with Allstate insurance coverage and 24/7 roadside assistance so you can enjoy the road with peace of mind.