Is it legal for car rental company to charge extra fees?

November 1, 2017

Dear Consumer Ed:

At what point are all the extra fees I pay for rental cars illegal? I am quoted one price and by the end of the trip I pay 25% more. Shouldn’t rental car companies be required to quote me the total price?

Consumer Ed says:

Businesses are generally permitted to set their own pricing policies; however, if a business tells you that your car rental will be a certain price, they are not allowed to change the amount after the fact. Although rental car fees can dramatically increase the total cost of renting a car, keep the following tips in mind to help you keep the total cost lower:

  • Some rental car companies charge an early return fee if you return the car more than 24 hours before your reservation ends.
  • Many rental car companies have a short grace period that allows you to return your rental car without a fee if you’re late by less than 30 minutes; however, if you are running more than 30 minutes late, it might be cheaper to extend your rental rather than pay late fees.
  • If you rent a car at the airport, the rental rate may be considerably higher.
  • Return your rental car with a full tank of gas to avoid being charged the rental company’s price for gas, which is almost always more expensive than the price at which you can refill the tank yourself.
  • Most rental companies offer unlimited mileage, but daily mileage caps may apply to some types of vehicles, such as some SUVs or high performance vehicles.
  • Some rental companies charge extra fees if you drive the vehicle you rented out of state.
  • There may be additional fees if you drop off your rental car at a location other than where you picked it up.
  • Some companies charge fees to add another driver or a driver between the ages of 21 and 24 to the rental contract.

For more tips on getting the best price on a rental car, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at

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