How to Rent a Car If You’re Only Going One Way

car rental sign

When you travel, it may not look like the typical trip. It’s possible that you may need to use a one-way car rental. You might be medically unable to return home by air or cannot afford flights two ways for the whole family. You might also have a mechanical breakdown on your trip or precious cargo or more luggage than airlines allow on one part of your trip

Whatever the reason, some car rental companies allow one-way car rentals so you can get to your destination or home more easily. One-way rentals aren’t a service that all rental agencies provide. The major factor that prevents car rental companies from offering one-way rentals is the expense to return the vehicle back to its original branch.

Smaller, regional car rental agencies are unable to provide such a service. A major car rental agency such as Enterprise Car Rental has tens of thousands of vehicles in its rental fleet nationwide. One-way rentals are driven all over the nation and dropped off at locations hundreds or thousands of miles from their original branch.

  • Warning: One-way rentals are much more expensive than rentals returned at the same location. The agency assesses a drop fee based on distance which may be several hundred dollars. For example, renting a vehicle in Minneapolis, MN and dropping it off in Waco, TX will be assessed a drop fee of approximately $425 on top of regular rental charges.

Part 1 of 3: Find a rental company that offers one-way rentals

Step 1: Research online. Search online for rental agencies in the city you want to rent in.

You may need to search in the closest major city in order to find a major car rental agency. Regional car rental companies will not offer such a service. Look for major names such as :

  • Alamo Car Rental
  • Avis Car Rental
  • Budget Car Rental
  • Dollar Rent A Car
  • Enterprise Car Rental
  • National Car Rental
  • Thrifty Car Rental

Step 2: Look for one-way rental offerings. Check their online reservation services for one-way rental service.

You might need to look for a service indicating that you are returning the car to another location.

enterprise site
Image: Enterprise

Step 3: Complete a reservation. You can fill out the reservation online or call the rental companies reservation hotline.

You will need to provide your personal information, a credit card, and your desired drop-off location in order to book the rental.

If you do not indicate that you plan on dropping off the vehicle at another location, there may be large penalty charges assessed, prohibiting you from renting from that agency in the future.

  • Note: Your vehicle selection is reduced when you choose to obtain a one-way rental. Large SUV’s and trucks typically are not allowed for one-way rental choices.

Part 2 of 3: Rent the vehicle

Step 1: Go to the agency. On your reservation date, arrive at the rental agency location you chose on your reservation form.

  • Tip: Arrive up to a half-hour early for your reservation time as there may be a line to speak with an agent.
Image: Rental Agreements DiY

Step 2: Complete the rental contract. You will need to provide the credit card you used to reserve the rental car and your valid driver’s license to rent the vehicle and finalize.

Step 3: Verify the rental is one-way. Confirm with the rental agent that it is going to be a one-way rental.

Your reservation will have this information on it, but be sure to mention it so the agent can properly fill out the contract.

  • Note: Your rental car insurance can vary from state to state, so inquire if you need to purchase extra rental car coverage. Depending on the rental agency, it may be mandatory to purchase the extra rental car insurance for one-way rentals.

  • Tip: Check your travel distance against the allowable mileage for the rental to make sure you aren’t going to be hit with extra over-mileage charges.

Step 4: Confirm your drop-off location. The drop-off location is the airport in many cases as it is usually the branch with the most resources, most staff, and longest hours.

Part 3 of 3: Return the rental vehicle

Step 1: Bring the car to the branch. Bring the rental vehicle to the drop-off rental branch by the time you’ve indicated on your rental contract.

Step 2: Complete the vehicle condition report. Complete this with the rental agent to confirm the rental is in the same condition as when it left the rental facility.

  • Warning: Return your rental with the same amount of fuel you left with or you will be assessed a refueling charge on your credit card.

Step 3: Finish your rental. Sign off on the rental and continue on with the rest of your trip.

Renting a car one-way is the right option for many people, because of their unique needs and preferences. It doesn’t need to be a hassle and the drive can be something you enjoy in a new and different way. If you have any questions or concerns about your own car when the trip is over, or if you think your car is doing something it shouldn’t, Ask a Mechanic for quick, helpful advice.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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