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Do I Need To Clean a Rental Car? You should know this …

There are many reasons to rent a car. A rental is always clean when you get into it. But do you have to leave it back as you get it? In this article, we’ll look at the do’s and don’t of car rental.

A rental car does not need to be thoroughly cleaned before returning, however, it must be returned in close to the same condition you received it. For example, remove candy wrappers, etc from the interior. If not deemed clean, the hiring company may add a cleaning fee to your bill.

Nobody wants to incur extra charges when renting a car. Read on to find out what will generate extra charges on your account.

Car washing

Picking Up and Returning Your Rental Car

Whether you are picking up a rental for a couple of days as part of a trip or a longer rental due to your own car being unavailable, the first thing you should do is take some photos.

This is proof of the condition you received the rental initially. Your rental should be clean, inside and out. It shouldn’t have any trash and there shouldn’t be any nasty odors. Especially cigarette smoke. If there is then you need to inform the rental company immediately.

On returning your car, you now know how the rental company expects to receive it. All trash should be removed. If possible give the car a quick wash. This is not 100% necessary, it really depends on where you have been. It’s best to do this the night before returning it so you’re not under any time pressure that may incur an extra cost.

I advise that you use a hand wash facility as opposed to a brush wash. A brush wash can leave marks on the paintwork that can also incur an extra charge on return. Again take photos inside and out. This will future proof your case if charges are added.

Items that Will Add a Charge

Interior cleaning

There are certain things that are not allowed in your rental or there may be conditions attached to them.


Pets are permitted in most rental cars but you should check on your rental agreement first. Don’t just assume it’s allowed. All pets should be placed in an appropriate cage or housing if permitted. All hair, fur, or animal mess from a pet must be removed before returning the car.

You generally don’t need to give advance notice about carrying a pet but best to check with your rental company’s website as to their exact pet policy.

If you return a car with hair/ fur or any pet-related mess you will be charged a Valeting Fee / Cleaning Fee. This is quite the expense, as most companies charge up to and above $250 for a pet clean.


Smoking in a rental car is an absolute no-no. As I said if you sit in your rental and smell cigarette smoke you need to notify your rental company immediately. The valeting cost for the removal of smoke odor can be up to $400. If you are a smoker, I strongly advise you to step out of the vehicle if you are going to light up.

Sand / Leaves / Bird Poo / Tree Sap

The last items that will add a cleaning charge to your bill are dependent on where you are traveling and where you park overnight.

If traveling to the beach, sand is going to be an issue. It gets everywhere! Try and limit the amount that enters the car. Not always that easy I know. If your rental has a lot of sand you definitely need to remove it. The same goes for mud and leaves (which are easier to remove than sand). The content is owned by moc.sotuaytsur. Sand and leaves can incur a valet charge of up to $250 (Avis / Thrifty and Budget) and SIXT can charge up to $350.

This is also the case for tree sap and bird poo. Try not to park under trees overnight or for long periods of time. Tree sap can be difficult to remove and sometimes won’t always disappear with a regular car wash. However, this can also add a hefty fee to your rental agreement, so definitely worth removing.

Advanced Valeting Fee

Rental companies are all about making a profit. All the suggested extras are there as a way for them to make extra money. Advanced Valeting Fee is one of these extra charges. All rental cars are cleaned regardless of how you return to them, and you will only be charged extra if a deep clean needs to be done. So paying in advance for that is not something I would advise, as they are not going to reimburse you if you bring the car back clean. They will claim they had to do a deep clean regardless.

I would advise against agreeing to this unless you are traveling to the beach. Sand is very difficult to remove from the car carpet.

Extra Charges

What I will say about renting a car is that you must read the T&Cs. It can take up to 6-8 weeks for charges to appear on your credit/debit card. So as I said at the start, make sure you take plenty of photos on receipt of your rental car and also as you return it. If you have no proof that your car was clean then you have no comeback if you have a valeting/cleaning charge slapped on your account.

Covid 19

The last small thing I’ll say is in this current Covid pandemic all rental companies are ensuring that after each use they are completing a deep clean of each vehicle. This may well be the case but you don’t know for certain. To be on the safe side bring some anti-bacterial wipes with you and clean all the most commonly used parts – steering wheel, transmission, door handles.

In Conclusion

It’s a good idea to give your car rental back in the same condition as you received it. Rental companies will have all your payment details on file and have no problem adding a couple of hundred bucks to your bill if they feel they have more cleaning to do than necessary.

You may find the following posts helpful:

Car rental- Things you should and should not do

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Avis vs Budget

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Why are dollar rental cars do cheap?