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-   -   showing up early for a rental car pick-up (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/showing-up-early-for-a-rental-car-pick-up-1082557/)

pavot Dec 31st, 2015 05:00 AM

showing up early for a rental car pick-up
 
Does anyone have experience in picking up a rental car earlier than the reservation lists?

I arranged the rental car before I bought train tickets, and when I went to change the car pick-up time, the price had risen by so much that Auto Europe advised me to leave the reservation details as they are and just present myself at the rental counter ... three hours early.

Anyone else ever done this with decent results?

jan47ete Dec 31st, 2015 05:21 AM

don't know about Europe but in Sept rented a car in Washington, DC for 9am. Traffic was extremely light and I made it to the counter at 830am. They said the system locked any transaction for me because my reservation was for 9am, and 9am it had to be.

Rate was fabulous, so could not rent at 830 or the rate structure would change. So I waited.

joannyc Dec 31st, 2015 05:21 AM

The only time I tried to pick up a car a couple of hours earlier I was told to "come back in an hour or so". But, on the upside, they upgraded me to a gorgeous new Mercedes sedan. This happened in Munich.

StCirq Dec 31st, 2015 05:25 AM

It's never worked for me unless I call the car rental place the day before and see if I can arrange a different time. That usually works.

kerouac Dec 31st, 2015 05:40 AM

I've done it a few times successfully, but it's never a sure thing. Last time I had reserved a car at a small train station location for 11am because that's when the agency opened. But then I saw that the main agency was only a few blocks away so I walked there and asked. They had to wash and vacuum a car for me, but I had it at 9am instead.

pavot Dec 31st, 2015 05:42 AM

Thanks for all the quick and helpful responses. I hope the counter at the Gare du Nord will be accommodating.

30 minutes wouldn't be too bad, but 3 hours would.

I wish I hadn't made arrangements so far ahead!

pavot Dec 31st, 2015 05:46 AM

I meant to add very belated thanks to you, Kerouac, who assured me back in 2014 that OF COURSE I'd be able to drive out of Paris with a car from Gare du Nord.

It worked out great -- so here we go again.

vincenzo32951 Dec 31st, 2015 05:52 AM

That presents an interesting question. Has anyone had the experience of showing up well **after** the requested time? It's happened to me a couple of times because of flight delays, etc., and I've never lost out on availability or had the price change, but only in the US and never in Europe.

So is it better to reserve a time that's well in advance of your expected arrival?

StCirq Dec 31st, 2015 08:08 AM

I've showed up early, on time, and late. I always time the initial booking in reference to train arrival times. If I'm going to be early, I call ahead. If I'm going to be late, I call ahead. It's that simple. Sometimes I can be accommodated, sometimes not, but more often than not, yes. Everyone's got a cell phone these days - making a call to update your plans with a rental outfit isn't a big deal.

Christina Dec 31st, 2015 08:09 AM

Sure, I've done it and if they have a car, they'll give it to you, in my experience. If they don't, they won't. Why wouldn't they? If they are good, they'll make sure they have one for other reservations first, of course.

I don't know why it would be better to reserve a time well in advance of when you really expect to get there. What would be the purpose of that? I plan my rental times sometimes to meet the daily limits, also, based on when I need to return, so you can't always change them that much earlier, or you'd pay for another day, possibly.

kerouac Dec 31st, 2015 08:40 AM

Gare du Nord is where I rent about 90% of my cars. It is also one of the biggest rental locations in France; it might even be #2 after CDG. They absolutely do not care if you show up early as long as the appropriate car is available (and since the various car rental companies use an entire level of the Gare du Nord car park and a level and a half of the Lariboisière car park, there is rarely a lack of cars). The only thing they point out is "you understand that you will have to bring the car back earlier, don't you?"

Showing up late can be more of a problem if you are not able to call them to say that you are late. But on two occasions, I was <b>very</b> late and it turned out not to be a problem at all -- one time at Gare du Nord when my Eurostar was 3 hours late due to snowstorms and one time at the Marseille airport when my flight arrived 4 hours late due to huge thunderstorms in the Paris area. I was certain that I would be sleeping at the airport because the flight did not arrive until 1:30 a.m. and the rental agencies were supposed to close at midnight -- but they were all open and waiting for the late passengers. I was extremely impressed.

pavot Dec 31st, 2015 09:57 AM

Thanks for all the extra info, all. I think renting cars is my least favorite aspect of travel, but this thread has helped.

vincenzo32951 Jan 1st, 2016 06:22 AM

Christina: >>I don't know why it would be better to reserve a time well in advance of when you really expect to get there. What would be the purpose of that?<<

To ensure a car is there waiting for you, at the agreed price, in case you arrive early. That was the OP's concern.

>>I plan my rental times sometimes to meet the daily limits, also, based on when I need to return, so you can't always change them that much earlier, or you'd pay for another day, possibly.<<

Any time I've rented a car, the charges have been based on when I showed up to claim the car, not based on the time I reserved the car. So, IME, there is no downside as far as charges, if you reserve an earlier time. Maybe others have had different experiences in how the charges have been set.

Dukey1 Jan 1st, 2016 08:16 AM

Whenever i rent a car in the US the time period starts at a certain time on the rental day, usually at the beginning of that day. If you check the car out later in that 24-hr time period you are still charged for it. Same with the return. I am charged the same amount regardless of the time I return the vehicle within a particular 24-hour period.

The only problem I have ever had was availability of the type of car I had rented if I showed up early.

vincenzo32951 Jan 1st, 2016 08:32 AM

>>Whenever i rent a car in the US the time period starts at a certain time on the rental day, usually at the beginning of that day.<<

Really? When is "the beginning of the day"? Does that mean if you pick up a car at 9pm on Tuesday and return it at 8am on Wednesday, you're charged for 2 days?

StCirq Jan 1st, 2016 11:31 AM

Doesn't work that way in Europe, Dukey, as far as I know, and I've rented hundreds of cars in Europe. You pick up the car at 3 pm, and it's due back on Day X at 3 pm...and so forth.

Which is one reason why it's silly to name a time well in advance of when you are actually going to show up to get the car. Why would you want to pay for the extra time or diminish the time you get to keep the car? You DO get charged for the time between when you reserved it and when you actually arrive to pick it up, IME. If you're late, and you inform them you will be, the clock advances on your rental charges.

Simple.

vincenzo32951 Jan 1st, 2016 12:25 PM

>> Why would you want to pay for the extra time or diminish the time you get to keep the car? You DO get charged for the time between when you reserved it and when you actually arrive to pick it up, <<

OK, I'll explain one more time. I have been late for my pickup time in the US, and have paid from the time I picked up the car, not the time I reserved the car. So I thought I answered the question (twice) already.

>> If you're late, and you inform them you will be, the clock advances on your rental charges.<<

I don't know what that means. Does it mean the clock starts upon pickup if you call and say you're coming later? If so, what the downside to reserving earlier?

Simple.

wesleymarsh Jan 2nd, 2016 06:33 AM

I rent a lot in the U.S. for business. I have accounts with several rental companies. I have no idea what Dukey1 is talking about. My U.S. rentals always start at the time of pick-up no matter what the reservation date or time was. I've had flight delays on numerous occasions. Some crept into the next day. I've never had a problem securing my reserved rental car or having the clock start at the minute of pick-up. If I'm going to be late, I always try to call the local agency number, but that isn't always possible.

Europe rentals seem to be less flexible, however, I only know what Auto Europe tells me. Whenever I reserve through Auto Europe before I have a plane ticket - sometimes automatics go on sale 9 or more months in advance of your planned trip - AE has always recommended reserving for a later time slot, just in case. They say, if the reservation time is earlier than my arrival, then I could lose the car if I fail to show up at that precise time. I don't think the risk is worth the trouble. I follow AE's advice.

English is the only language I speak, so calling a counter agent in a foreign country doesn't help much. First, you need to locate the local number, which is often not easy. The phone number on your AE contract is not necessarily the counter number where you'll get your car. Then you have to figure out how to dial the number correctly from wherever you are, perhaps inside a plane. Then you have to wait to see if anyone answers the phone. I've stopped counting my number of fruitless efforts, where no one picked up the phone. If you finally do get someone to pick up, then you have to know how to ask if anyone speaks English.

Informing a counter agent in Europe that your flight is delayed by 2 hours is never as easy as some people claim it is. It's much easier to call AE and let them handle it.

On my recent trip to France, I arrived at the rental counter 2 hours early. My automatic was ready, but the agency's terminal would not accept my credit cards. They offered no reason. I had to wait 2 hours for a manager to arrive so she could override the system and manually type the number in. Ridiculous. No matter how well you plan, you have to be prepared for any mishap when renting in Europe. Some things just happen, and you'll never get an explanation, at least not one that makes any sense.

While waiting for the manager, several customers had reserved their car using a Debit card. This company does not accept Debit cards. I was quite surprised by the number of customers who lost their car and reservation due to this rule. And I have no idea why these customers didn't know about this rule. None of them spoke English.

janisj Jan 2nd, 2016 06:39 AM

I think Dukey may be confused -- when one is booking a special <i>weekend rate</i> then it is often based on full days and the pick up/drop off times don't matter.

But otherwise, whenever I have rented a car (in the States OR in Europe -hundreds of times) not on a special weekend rate one is charged from the hour of pick up to the hour of return precisely. In fact they usually include on the contract the cost per hour the car is returned late.

vincenzo32951 Jan 2nd, 2016 07:35 AM

wesley: Good explanation. I've never used AE, but usually when I book direct with one of the rental-car companies and there's an adjustment I need to make them aware of, I call the 800 number.

True, that rentals in Europe -- and renting a car in Europe in general -- is a lot stricter and less convenient than in the US.


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