Returning a rental car at an airport anytime soon? Here’s what you need to know about it and how it works in major airports like LAX, DFW and more!

If you’re about to return a rental car at an airport nearby, you’re not alone. Airport drop-off is one of the most popular as it makes it easy for people catching a flight soon after to go back home.

Today we’re talking about how airport car rental returns may be different from non-airport locations, how it works in a few of the most popular airports in the US and what are the rules for some rental companies.

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Airport car rental return

As almost all airports in the US (and the world!) offer car rental services, chances are you’ll probably find yourself looking into either picking up or dropping off a rental car at one of these locations.

The first thing you need to know is that there are basically two types of car rental services at airports. Those are:

  • On-site: rental companies are located within the airport grounds, sometimes with specific garage buildings just for rental cars.
  • Off-site: car rental agencies are located nearby, but not in the airport. Sometimes it will take a five to ten minute drive to get to the airport.

Please keep in mind that massive airports may have a mix of the two: car rental companies are available within airport grounds, but because of the airport’s size it may take a shuttle bus or tram to arrive at the terminals. In that case, you can take up to 10 minutes or even more from the rental provider’s office to the check-in counter.

This is an important thing you should pay attention to when booking and/or picking up your rental car as both options may be available at the same airport, but from different rental companies. Not to mention this will also impact how long it will take to pick up and drop off the vehicle — this is particularly important for the car rental return, as you don’t want to be late for check-in!

“On-site” airport car rental return

On-site car rental return is the most straightforward option as most major airports will have road signs pointing drivers in the right direction when you’re nearby. Some rental companies also share the space, so don’t worry if the signs list three or four different providers.

At a busy location, an attendant will be ready to identify the car and check for any damages, mileage and more items as soon as you get to the return lane. If everything’s ok, the attendant will hand you a receipt that proves you’ve returned the car and you’ll be good to go.

Because this is an on-site location, you’ll be able to quickly reach the airport entrance or check-in area. This is the biggest advantage of the on-site airport car rental return!

“Off-site” airport car rental return

As the name suggests, off-site return is made a little further away from the airport. This is no problem at all, you’ll just have to add the time it takes to get to the airport so you don’t be late for check-in.

When it comes to off-site, most known rental companies will likely provide a shuttle service to the airport — that will probably be a van or a small bus big enough for everyone’s luggage!

The actual return process works the same, but depending on how busy it is and the size of the location you’ll need to park the car and ask for an attendant. After that, the rental company’s employee will also check the car for damages, the mileage and more before giving you a receipt.

If you want more on this topic, don’t forget to read our article on car rental pick-up and drop-off tips!

After-hours car rental return

We get it — sometimes you’ll have to check in for a late or early flight. What can you do if you have to drop the rental car off at a time the location isn’t open and there isn’t anyone to help you with this?

The first thing to notice is that if you already know you’ll have to return the rental car at 4 a.m., for example, you have to let the rental company know. Even the same rental company may have different procedures for different locations, so the best is to always check with them to be sure you’re able to return the car after hours.

Here’s the policy for after hours car rental return for a few rental companies:

  • Enterprise: after hours returns at airport locations are allowed as long as you check with the rental location beforehand.
  • Hertz: early or late drop-offs are allowed. You’ll be asked to park the car in the designated Hertz area and return the car keys and rental agreement in the drop box.
  • Avis: car rental return before or after hours is allowed, but should be arranged in advance by calling the rental office.

Main thing to remember is to let the rental company know 🙂

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Major airports car rental return

Below we’ve listed some of the major airports in the US and how to return your rental car at each of them!

San Diego Airport rental car return

The San Diego International Airport offers a Rental Car Center, where shuttle service is available from this area to the terminals. It consists of four floors with enough space for over five thousand cars.

The SAN Rental Car Center is located at 3355 Admiral Boland Way and it’s open from 7 a.m. to 12:30 a.m everyday.

There you’ll find some of the most popular car rental providers on-site, such as Alamo, Avis, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Sixt and more. Off-site, you’ll also find Mex, Silvercar and other options.

In order to return your rented vehicle, just follow the signs that will lead you to the Rental Car Center!

Los Angeles International Airport rental car return

Returning a car at LAX can be a little confusing, but fear not! Most rental companies are spread out near the airport — meaning off-site locations —, so this is why most people get confused. While rental providers are commonly found “clustered” in other airports, this is not true for LAX.

To make things easier, make sure you have the right drop-off address at hand (you can find this information written in your car rental agreement) and look at the directions beforehand or use a GPS. Our tip is to not rely solely on the signs on the road 😉

Near LAX you’ll find cars from Alamo, Budget, Enterprise, Sixt, National, Avis, National and more.

Just like most off-site locations, rental companies will provide transportation from their offices to the terminals.

Dallas Fort-Worth Airport rental car return

DFW also offers a Rental Car Center open 24/7. To return your rental car, just follow the signs that lead you to the facility. After the drop-off, transportation to the terminals is provided, running 24 hours a day and departing every 10-15 minutes.

DFW’s Rental Car Center is located at 2424 E. 38th Street, close to the south entrance.

There you’ll find 12 rental companies: Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, E-Z Rent-A-Car, hertz, National, Payless, Sixt and Thrifty.

Atlanta Airport rental car return

Atlanta also offers a car rental facility located at 2200 Rental Car Center Parkway — connected to the terminal by the ATL Skytrain. The ride takes about 5 minutes.

To get to the Rental Car Center, simply follow the signs indicating the way when you get close to the airport. Please note ATL is currently under construction, so plan ahead for an extra 30 minutes to return your rented car to avoid unexpected delays.

There you’ll find rental cars from Alamo, Enterprise, Sixt, Avis and more.

Banner with extra tip text: compare prices and rent a car in one place with a link that takes you to Rentcars car rental website.

Now, if you’re ready to book your rental car, you can count on to compare the best prices and car rental providers in thousands of airport and non-airport locations. Click here to search or use the widget below to check car rental prices all over the world!

Attention! All efforts were made to validade the information published in this blog at the moment they were written, however, does not take responsibility for inaccuracies or future adjustments that can happen as a result of different offers and conditions. The posts here published, as well as the eventual comments from its readers, are merely informative and it is the client's duty to confirm with and/or suppliers any content that may affect their vacation plans.

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