I’ve written about the early-return rule imposed recently by car rental companies, where you return your rental before your contract is up, and get charged more for the car. But I haven’t found a good workaround — until now.
A reader wrote in today with a strategy that’s absolutely brilliant. He asked me to keep his name out if it, for obvious reasons.
So here, without further delay, is the secret for getting around the early-return rule. It all starts at an Alamo rental counter somewhere in the United States:
“When I got to the counter and they told me I’d pay significantly more for the rental,” he writes. “I said, ‘Forget it. I’ll just keep the car till the end of the contract.'”
And that’s exactly what he did.
“I drove the car off the lot and parked it on a street with no parking restrictions, just feet away from their entrance gate. I put the keys in the glove box and locked the car. I got on the airport shuttle and flew home,” he recalls.
On the morning the car was due, he made a phone call.
“I called roadside assistance, which is included with my auto insurance, and told them where the car was, its make and model, and license plate. I told them I locked my keys in the car and to tow the vehicle for me, since I wasn’t there.”
The truck showed up, towed the vehicle to the car rental location, and the story had a happy ending.
I think it’s time the car rental industry abandon this misguided policy of “recalculating” its rate when there’s an early return, once and for all. Otherwise the parking areas around their rental locations could soon be filling up with early returns that are waiting for a tow truck.