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Pick up time for rental car at Heathrow (Terminal 3)

I am flying into Heathrow via Delta on Friday, October 14th arriving at 12:05pm, which arrives at Terminal 3.

I currently have a rental car (through Budget) reserved to pick up at 2pm (LHR Heathrow Airport T234,LHR) , and am wondering if this is a reasonable amount of time to get to the rental counter, or if I should push things back to more like 3pm.

I'm tempted to change the pick-up time to 3pm because I am returning it exactly one week later and would like to be able to return it slightly later without having to pay for an extra day, but of course would love to get going from the airport once I land.

Any advice is appreciated!

Posted by
858 posts

It will take about 15-20 mins to get off the plane and walk to immigration (depending on seat location). Both times I have used the e-gates at immigration this year we were on the other side within 10 mins. No real lines. Customs should just be a walk-through. If your flight is on time, I see no reason why you would not make it for a 2:00 pm pick-up. Just be careful how far you drive on your first day. Driving anywhere near Heathrow is stressful and hectic.


Posted by
9587 posts

Check the Rental Agreement, but I have a foggy recollection that BRAC has a 59 minute grace period, before they assess late fees or charge for additional time.

I believe the clock starts running when you check out the car not the 'reservation' time

Posted by
7380 posts

I’d push it to 3pm. LHR immigration time can lengthy unless you are able to use e gates.

I remain bemused by travelers who find traffic daunting around LHR. Its the same near LAX or Logan or JFK or Charles DeGaulle.

Traffic is traffic.

Enjoy your trip

Posted by
619 posts

I thought it was the practice at airport car hire companies for them to ask for flight number and estimated flight arrival time. They can then hold or cancel as appropriate.

Posted by
299 posts

I would think you'd have enough time IF your flight arrives on time. But, it would be safer to move the rental car reservation back to 3:00. The main thing I want to add to this thread is that my understanding is that all the car rental location centers are off site, so a bus ride from the terminal is required (certainly the case very time I've rented a car at Heathrow in recent years). It could involve a 15 minute wait for the bus plus a 10 minute ride. I couldn't tell from your posting whether you have rented cars at Heathrow before and already know this.

Posted by
7380 posts

What weird signage? Its in English.

Sorry but been driving since LBJ was in office. Have driven across the States, around Ireland and NI twice, in Italy and in the UK. Once got off an overnight flight LAX to Heathrow, got my rental and drove to Lyme Regis. Didn’t rent GPS. Instead used Google Maps street view and made note of street/road signage before hand….never made a wrong turn.

Friends from the UK who arrive here in LA, never complain about driving on the “ wrong “ side of the road.

From my POV the only adjustment needed is understanding Kilometers instead of miles. Play follow the leader out of the car rental property. Mental adjustment takes seconds.

Posted by
22 posts

I appreciate everyone's responses and thoughtfulness for answering!

I ended up changing the pick-up time to 3pm.

I've never rented from Heathrow (or driven in England!) before and had been wondering about the various steps from the gate to the rental car counter, which someone helpfully addressed (and which I should have clarified was my primary question).

My main rental car experience is from the Atlanta airport (Hartsfield-Jackson) where there is a train involved in getting from your gate to where you leave the airport and then another train to where the rental cars are. Not hard to do, but takes some time to play out.

My experiences with Heathrow have been really stressful in the past! It's my least favorite airport, though the staff were lovely. I've not flown internationally since maybe 2004 and so I can't remember all the steps... I have never had to wait long in line for customs but it seems wise to anticipate/prepare for a long wait.

I was thinking about why it would be stressful to drive in an airport area and I feel like yes, the signage is usually confusing* and then people tend to be stressed, tired, and even angry getting off the plane, waiting for luggage, waiting to be picked up, and once they leave the airport might not be the most relaxed and patient drivers. (The states of mind of my sister and I after flying from Atlanta to San Francisco with two young kids, four suitcases, and four cats was not stellar.)

*I am in the San Francisco area and still get confused leaving SFO, though I've done pick ups from there dozens of times!

Posted by
299 posts

i understand your feeling somewhat anxious. Even if you will be using a Satnav, I recommend knowing in advance what your route will be exiting Heathrow. What is your first destination?

You also mentioned time required to go through passport control. Americans can now use e-gates, which usually reduce the wait time. You place your passport face down on a screen, have your photo taken, then the gates open.

Posted by
22 posts

We're headed to Kingsclere, which looks to be about an hour away...

re: SatNav -- that was actually another thing I was wondering about -- if I should pay extra to have access to the SatNav that is already installed with the rental car, or just rely on my phone. Since I'll only be renting a week, it's not inordinately expensive to pay for the SatNav but of course I want to try and save money where I can.

EXCELLENT idea to have the route already worked out -- I believe I will print out the directions to the various places beforehand.

Posted by
299 posts

I have rented a car/driven in England many times. For planning purposes before I leave the US, I find (website of the English version of AAA) more helpful than google.maps because is geared towards driving in the United Kingdom. On that website, just now I clicked on "route planner" then entered "London Heathrow" and "Kingsclere." It shows little difference time wise between Option 1: M25 south then M3 , exit at Basingstoke vs. Option 2: M4, exit onto A33.

I recommend that in your advance route planning you find out the exact location of Budget at Heathrow (for example, some of the car rental companies are located on Northern Perimeter Road).

Also, you are likely to encounter heavy traffic leaving Heathrow mid-afternoon on a Friday. Pack some patience!

Frequent contributors to the Travel Forum have differing views on type of Satnav to use while overseas. MANY use an app on their phones. Although I use my I-phone's map app while in the US, I choose to use a Garmin while in the UK (I ordered online a chip that includes European maps to insert into the Garmin).

Also, regarding driving in England, I find the most difficult aspect to be the narrow parking places. I try to park in a space where there are two or three adjacent open spaces.