Here's a heads-up if you plan on renting a car from Budget: Budget car rental company will not refund money if you return the vehicle early after pre-paying for the rental.

My uncle died last week, so my brother and I decided we'd drive to the funeral home and spend the day with our extended family. Since we have both gotten great use out of our vehicles, we decided to rent a car for Sunday and Monday (the wake was Sunday, the services on Monday).

After I prepaid for the vehicle (by the way, the Budget website was VERY easy to navigate!) for 2 days, my brother informed me that he had to be at work on Monday and couldn't stay for the services. That's when we decided to just return Sunday evening.

When we dropped off the vehicle at the Budget office (we picked it up at 8:08 AM and returned it the same day at 9:18 PM), I asked about a refund on the second day of rental. The (very nice) clerk at the office told me that, since I pre-paid, I'd have to take it up with their customer service department.

I called Budget's customer service phone number this morning and spoke to Donald, and he (very politely) told me that they do not give refunds on pre-paid reservations. That's when I decided to read the fine print:

  • If you return the vehicle before the original return date (early return), you will not be refunded any portion of the payment. - Budget.com

There it is! In the fine print (which, of course, I didn't read until after the fact).

So, the moral to the story is this: take the time to read the fine print before you sign on the dotted line.

I didn't read the fine print because we've rented so many cars over the years, I assumed that the rental agreement would be the same (I had never pre-paid for a rental - via the internet - I usually pay when I get to the rental desk). Lesson learned!

Other than that, the rental was great: we only had to wait 5 minutes after they were open for the rental agent to appear at the desk. They did not have the vehicle we requested, but we did get an upgrade. The walk to the rental lot to find the car was only 1000 feet or so. The drop-off process was just as easy as the pick-up process. The car's exterior wasn't clean, but the interior was clean, it had not been smoked in, and it drove and rode well. It got us to and from our destination without any issues.

The pre-pay rate was great, and I got a discount for being a USAA member.

Am I complaining about not getting a refund for the unused day? No, I am just venting, as I realize it's my fault for not reading the fine print. I also learned, while researching for this story, that some rental car companies will charge an "Early Return Fee" on at-the-desk rentals (at Alamo, it's $15) if you return the vehicle earlier than the stated time (they call it a "Rental Change Fee"). The more you know, right?!?

Circumstances notwithstanding, it was great to see family members that we haven't seen in a number of years, and it was great to take a mini road trip with my big brother!

(Budget)