Hiring a Car at the Airport

There are thousands of car rental desks across airports round the world, competing against each other in small spaces. In this guide we’ll explore whether it could be more beneficial to leave the airport before hiring a car for your trip.

Signage at an airport to car rental desk

What's in this guide?

When is the best time to book a hire car?

Is it cheaper to reserve a rental car in advance?

Reserving a rental car in advance does come with several advantages:

Busy periods like bank holidays, summer holidays and even weekends may also mean hiring a car on the day is no cheaper at all. It’s a common misconception that you can get bargain car rental deals by arriving at the desk without a booking. Car rental desk representatives often have discretional discount they can use so you may find you get a slightly better deal - but risk no hire car being available. 

If you do leave it to the last minute, call ahead to check availability.

Using airport car hire comparison sites

Whether at the airport or not, we would strongly urge you to read reviews before you book. Equally, if you’ve had a good or bad experience with a car hire firm or particular rental desk yourself, your opinion is valuable to others looking to book and we would urge you to share your experiences. 

Airport tax charges

In many cases, if you hire a car from a rental desk at the airport, you will find airport tax included in your overall quote. In the US, you’re likely to notice this more as it is charged separately to the car hire. On that basis it could be cheaper to search for a local car hire branch outside of the airport and check their prices in comparison to the rental desks at the airport.

Just remember, you’ll need to factor in the cost of getting around until you pick up the hire car to get a good cost comparison. 

Queues at the rental desk

If there are multiple planes which arriving at around the same time, you may find the rental desk queues to be off-putting.

If you venture away from the airport to a non-airport car rental pick up location, you are unlikely to have the same issue but it would be worth checking their opening hours in advance. Car rental desks at the airport are often open for 24 hours, so if your flight arrives at a busy time, there is no need to worry about the desk being closed. You’ll find that for the most part, hire car collection points outside of airports are subject to stricter office hours.

Airport drop-offs - refuelling your hire car

If you fail to refill your fuel tank before returning the hire car, you will usually be required to top up or pay (an inflated version of) the difference. Conveniently, some airport rental companies even provide their own petrol pumps, but beware that the fuel here may cost you considerably more than if you were to visit a regular petrol station.

In fact, petrol stations surrounding the airport are also generally more expensive so plan ahead to find the most sensible place to top up.

If when dropping the car off you simply have to drop off the keys into a box, keep an eye on your credit card when you get home just in case you are unexpectedly charged for damage. Make sure you call the rental company for a damage report as evidence, as this will be required if you need to make a claim back for your excess.  

Flight delays and car hire

Flight delays can be incredibly frustrating, especially when they reduce your holiday time and you’re left waiting and wandering around duty free. But what happens if your delay is for hours and you have a hire car waiting for you on the other side? 

What are my rights if my flight is delayed and am I entitled to compensation?

According to consumer rights group, Which?, if your flight is delayed or cancelled within the EU (or with a non-EU based airline flying in to an EU airport), you are protected by The Denied Boarding Regulation. This means that you may be entitled to compensation. 

The regulation applies if you had a confirmed flight booking, checked in on time and of course, if your airline was responsible for the delay. Unfortunately, airline strikes and weather-related delays are beyond the airline’s control and you’ll therefore be unable to claim for these. Note that the compensation you receive will not depend on the cost of your ticket. It will depend on the length of your delay and the distance of your flight.

Will a car hire excess insurance policy cover flight delays?

In short, yes. If you incur a late charge due to an unscheduled flight delay out of the rental company’s standard hours, you can claim back up to £50 from insurance4carhire. Just make sure you keep any relevant paperwork to support your claim.

To submit your claim, just follow the simple steps on our claims page where you can download our claims form.

How insurance4carhire can protect you

Insurance4carhire policies have cover applicable specifically to travel which includes flights. All of our car hire excess insurance policies include:

Cover for late pickup charges if your flight is delayed

It’s not uncommon for rental desk staff, whether at the airport or not, to refuse excess protection policies and encourage customers to purchase their insurance instead. As long as you and your hire vehicle meet the terms and conditions of our policy, there should be no reason for a car hire firm to turn down the policy.