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Do You Have to Clean a Rental Car Before Returning It? 

  • Car Care Tips
  • Gerard Stevens
  • 6 minutes

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Often we do rent a car. At times, renting a car is an unavoidable necessity. But, many apprehensions arise each time we rent a car. The most common of them is whether do you have to clean a rental car upon returning? Since we get a rental car in a cleaned condition, it is obvious that we will think about rental car cleaning before returning. Well, you need to understand that no rule demands us to clean or wash the rental car upon return. You only have to be careful about returning the car in the same condition you received from the rental company. So, even if it isn’t mandatory, do you have to clean a rental car? What are the things you need to notice while picking up and returning a rental car? Keep reading. Our blog has all that covered!  

Should I clean my rental car before returning it? 

No. You don’t need to clean or wash a rental car before returning it. However, ensure that you return the car in the same condition you received from the rental company or haven’t made it too untidy. Another customer may have rented the car while you return it. So, the car will undergo a deep cleaning if you return it in an untidy condition. The company will also charge you an Advanced Valeting Fee. Make sure you return the car clean and avoid additional cleaning charges!  

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What to do while picking up and returning a rental car? 

You opt to rent a car when your car is unavailable or while going for long trips. The initial thing you should do is take some photos of the car, which is proof of the original condition of the rental. Every rental company expects the rental cars to be returned neat and clean. So make sure there is no trash in the vehicle. If needed, give a quick car wash so that the rental car will be neat when you return it. Also, don’t forget to take photos of the car’s interior and exterior before returning.  

Tip: All rental companies provide you with a neat car. But, ensure to check if it has any trash or nasty odors like cigarette smoke. If there is, you must notify the rental company immediately. 

What is a cleaning fee/Advanced Valeting Fee? 

Rental companies follow different ways of making a profit, and Advanced Valeting Fee is one such way! You get a cleaned rental car always. The company will always charge you if you return the car in a messy condition. The car will require deep cleaning, charging the hefty Advanced Valeting Fee. 

Do you have to clean a rental car: Items that can make the car messy  

Certain things are not allowed in a rental car. However, some companies allow them in a rental car based on a few conditions. Even if they’re allowed, you should get the car cleaned before returning. After all, we all love to avoid hefty extra charges! 


Never assume that pets are allowed in a rental car. Check the rental agreement at the beginning to know whether pets are allowed. Ensure that pets are placed in a cage while traveling and remove the pet’s fur or mess before returning the car. Returning the car with the pet’s fur or mess is sure to incur you a cleaning fee/Advanced Valeting Fee. Be aware that the majority of the companies may charge up to $250 for a pet clean. So, it is better to clean your car before returning if you’re going on a trip with your pet.  


Do you have to clean a rental car? It would be yes if you smoke in a rental car. Smoking is one thing that you should strictly avoid while using a rental car. If you feel like smoking, it is wise that you park your car, step out of the car and light the cigarette. The cost of removing smoke odor can go as high as $400. Also, you should report immediately to the rental company if you experience cigarette smoke odor while picking up the car. If not, you will have to bear the hefty cleaning fee while returning the car. 

Bird poo/Sand/Mud/Leaves/Tree Sap 

A few items add extra charges based on where you travel or park overnight. Avoid parking your car under trees for longer periods. Brid poo and tree saps make your car look horrible. Tree saps are sometimes difficult to remove and may not even disappear with a normal car wash. It can add a hefty cleaning fee to your final bill. Sand will always be a headache if you’re visiting a beach. Even if you go to a beach, try to reduce the amount of sand entering the rental car, which is never easy! If a great amount of sand enters the car, it is good that you get vacuuming and cleaning done before returning. Even mud and leaves enter the car but are easier to remove than sand. Leaves and sand can incur a cleaning fee of around $250.  

COVID-19: Do you have to clean a rental car while picking it up? 

All rental companies will rent you the car only after completing a deep cleaning. So, you don’t need to clean the car while picking it up. For a safer side, you can use car sanitizer, anti-bacterial wipes, or a car disinfectant to clean regularly used parts.  

Can you do a car wash on a rental car?  

Rental car wash

Yes, if the car requires so much cleaning. However, you will be responsible if any damage happens to the car. If you’re planning a car wash, it is best to do a hand car wash with shampoo and vacuuming.  

Does Enterprise charge a cleaning fee? 

No. Enterprise (according to their website) rents you a car after following thorough cleaning processes. But, ensure that you return the car in the same condition you rented. On returning, if the car needs a deep clean or special cleaning product, Enterprise will charge you an additional cleaning fee to your total rental cost.  

Do you have to clean a rental car: Essential info 

  • It isn’t mandatory that you should clean a rental car on retuning.  
  • Make sure that you take some photos of the car, which is proof of the original condition of the rental while picking it up. Also, take the car’s interior and exterior photos while you return it.  
  • Ensure there is no trash or foul odor while you return the car. Do a quick car wash before returning if the car is messy. 
  • Never park the rental car under trees for a longer period. 
  • Strictly avoid smoking in a rental car.  
  • Returning the rental car in an untidy condition will add a hefty cleaning fee to your total rental bill.  

Here’s more info on top-rated airport parkingbest parking spots in your city, the most affordable insurance for your car, and top-rated car washes near you.


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