Rental Car damage that I didn't cause... how weird is this?

lowsparkApril 12, 2010

Last month we rented a car when we were visiting my son in New York and took a LOVELY drive to the finger lakes where we visited multiple wineries and met up with Jo and Diane. Everything went swimmingly. We returned the rental car and flew back home and everything was fine. Or so we thought.

I got a letter from the rental agency that there was damage to the car and that since I'd declined their coverage, I owed them over $550, and did I want my insurance to pay for it or would I just be giving them my credit card number. I was shocked!! There was absolutely no damage to the car and I was just completely horrified! Five hundred and fifty dollars is some chunk o' change!

So I called the number on the letter today, multiple times and waited anywhere from six minutes to fifteen before giving up. I just kept thinking, ok, send me a bill, make it so I can't reach you, then accuse me of not paying! What's up with that!!??

I finally called the customer service line and got through almost immediately. They gave me a different phone number to call, got through to a live person on that line quickly as well. And THAT person gave me a direct phone number for the person handling my case. And then believe it or not, that person answered on the first try! Whew!

I was all ready to argue and stomp my foot and ask how they could send me a letter AFTER the fact and why didn't the check in person point out the damage and what proof did they have that there even was damage and how could I be sure they even did repairs at all??? But after a three minute conversation with her, she removed the charges and sent me a confirming email that the case was closed. Boy, what a load off my mind!! So it all turned out well.

But I just can't help but wonder how many people just assume there was damage they didn't notice and pay without pursuing it further, or give up after too long on hold. I have to wonder how long I would have remained on hold had I not hung up, and if they EVER would have picked up.

Whadaya think of that?

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Wow. That would have made me so made I could spit! I've heard of taking a picture of the car with your phone before you leave the lot, but having to take a picture when you return seems over the top. I agree with you they should have brought it up when the car was returned! What a total waste of everyone's time.

I'm glad it turned out well for you. The best part is you have a lovely drive and a good time!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 6:02PM
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The last I we rented a car was when I went to my spring regional in the Orlando area. When we picked up the car, it was a new car, I was only the 2nd person to rent it. We walked around it checking every little mark on it. When I returned it the next Monday, we did the walk around and determined that there was no damage on it that had not been there at the first walk around. They also refunded my cash deposit when I returned the car.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 6:13PM
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Please tell us the name of the rental car agency.....
Pure and simple they were trying to scam you....when you weren't an easy mark the charges were dropped.
Tell us who it was!!
Linda C

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 8:11PM
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I always walk around and check a rental car before I drive it away. I make sure they note any damage, even if it's small. That way I know if anything is damaged while I have it.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 8:52PM
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Yup, we walk around before we take a car out and when we return it, and make sure the slip is signed by an agent both times.

Also we learned that if there are damages, you will still be charged 'Loss of Use' - what they would have made while the car is being repaired. Most of your own insurance companies won't cover this little beauty - USAA (ours) wouldn't when I inquired for our next rental.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 10:17PM
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That's scary!
Jessy & Pam- What rental agent? The last two cars we have picked up were from airport parking lots with a the kiosk far, far away. Sometimes in the terminal!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 11:18PM
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Whenever I rent an uninsured car (i.e. not covered thru company account) I'll inspect the car and won't be shy to insist that every ding is notated on the paperwork.

ONE time I failed to do that and it bit me in the @ss. It was a rain storm, I was on the road with my family, lost my steering, waited for hours for a tow and a lift to a rental place. The car was a virtually brand new Infinity and at that point in the rain I just wasn't thinking. Got to our destination and noticed that the rear bumper had some issues. It also looked like someone had already done a vert shoddy repair on it so I didn't think about it further.

A week later I returned the car and they noted the damage. I argued it, they told me maybe it's on the computer and that I'd have to take it up with Corporate. Got a letter asking for $850. Left a voicemail for the case worker explaining how there's no way it was my fault. Got a second letter demanding $850. Tried to reach the case worker in person, couldn't, and finally I just ignored it. I never heard back from Enterprise. I wonder if they'd rent me a car again? I don't really care. It doesn't show up on my credit report and that's all that matters.

I suppose I'd have a tough time proving my case if they ever came after me. But Lowspark, in your case I would NEVER accept responsibility for damage that they didn't point out to me at the time that I returned the car.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 7:25AM
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we walk around before we take a car out and when we return it,

Yup. Did that. That's why I was so incensed and shocked. I knew the car was in good condition when returned. What worried me was that it was somehow going to come down to their word against mine. And my only defense was, how come your check in agent didn't say anything?

And yes, Loss of Use. The actual repair amount was $299. The rest was Loss of Use and administrative costs. I don't have the paperwork with me now but IIRC Admin costs were something like $94! Which brings loss of use to something like $160. The whole thing is set up so that if you DO damage the car, you'll make sure to take out THEIR insurance next time. Of course, if you want to rent a car, I guess you're at their mercy. They'll get you comin or goin if they can!

I don't feel comfortable naming the company but they are traditionally #1 in the business which is why I'm even more shocked by this event.

The reason she closed the case was that the damage was discovered "after I'd returned the car" which I assume means in their lot before the next rental. So, what happened, probably the employee who drove it back to the lot wrecked it. And I was supposed to pay for that!! Like I said, I wonder how many people just pay. I think they count on the fact that when you return a car, you're on your way to catch a flight and your mind is elsewhere.

I've traditionally rented with Avis and had no problems. I switched this time for a silly reason, and something which actually never came to fruition anyway, so it was doubly stupid for me to switch. I'm going to stick with Avis from now on. My employer has a relationship with them and employees get a discount even on personal rentals so I usually get a pretty good price.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 10:16AM
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Ellen: Hertz. Hmmmm, same company that oversold on Christmas Day in New Orleans, leaving many customers with reservations without cars. Guess 'reservations' means nothing. The only people who had cars were ones who prepaid. We literally got the last car on the lot.

"The last two cars we have picked up were from airport parking lots with a the kiosk far, far away. Sometimes in the terminal!" - why does that matter? Just curious. We're used to sometimes taking a shuttle.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 10:45AM
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Only that I'm in a hurry and there's not an attendant nearby. Just go find your car--far, far away in airport parking. I'm not arguing that I should do a check and after reading this I certainly will! We also normally rent from Avis or Enterprise. I did have a problem with an Avis rental car once. Someone hit me in a parking lot, not noticed until I returned the car. My car/credit card insurance--USAA took care of it all!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 10:58AM
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I guess I've been lucky, I haven't had any problems.

I rented a mini-van from Hertz once, drove it to Florida when the kids were young. We drove through a tornado near Kissimmee and there were a lot of things bouncing off the side of that van. When I returned it in Michigan I handed the agent the newspaper with a front page story about the storm and my AAA insurance card and walked away, I never heard from them after that.

Recently, Elery rented a car from Enterprise, the local Big Rapids office which is out of a car dealership. My Jeep was being repaired and his Bravada was in the shop at the same time. We rented a Ford (Focus, I think) and promptly hit a deer with it. He gave the rental place his State Farm Insurance information and we never heard any more on that either, so it appears that our insurance companies covered any "loss of use" or whatever.

With Budget we've never been left without a car, but we've sometimes not gotten the car we reserved. In California we got a Toyota convertible instead of the mid-sized sedan we reserved because they were all gone. I hated that Toyota, I know why it was still on the lot. Absolutely the most uncomfortable car I've ever driven and no "get up and go" at all, I'm amazed we didn't get rear ended by someone as we merged onto expressways because it took forever to get up speed.

In Texas at Budget we also didn't get the mid-sized sedan, we got a Ford Mustang convertible with the opposite problem. Breathe on the gas pedal and you'd squeal the tires. I'm amazed we didn't run over someone or get a speeding ticket with that one!

Definitely check with your insurance agent as to what is covered before you assume a rental car will be completely covered, though.

Elery, bless him, has a lot more experience with rental vehicles than I do and he takes pictures of any damage before he takes the car off the lot.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 11:40AM
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You should always have a rental agent with you when you walk around the car checking for damage, both before accepting the car and when you bring it back...point out every ding and dent, make sure it is noted on the rental contract before signing it. I wouldn't leave the lot until this is done, it is part of their job and your duty as a consumer.

Jessy, they can charge loss of use ONLY if they can prove there were no other cars to rent out at the time of repairs.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 1:45PM
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Another thing to be aware of - while credit cards such as Amex claim to cover rental car damage, that varies by state law. Another incident I had: Rented a truck in MA. Returned it and it was damaged. Cleary it happened under my watch (must have got hit in a parking lot), so I accepted responsibility. Called up Amex, and they told me that under NY law they only pay what my insurance wouldn't cover. So that ended up being $795 out of pocket because I wasn't about to put that through insurance and pay for it in raised premiums for the next however-many years.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 2:27PM
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In my past life as a corporate travel agent I have had the experience of many rental vehicles, mostly good I have to say. Got a brand new Grand Am in San Francisco for $5.00 a day! Rented a Jeep in Maui and when I returned it they had no record of my having it at all.....could have kept it if I decided to live there permanantly and become a beach bum!

The only bad experience was in LA. The company was Payless (like the shoes!) and they didn't even have a lot to store the cars. They were lined up on both sides of a public street. We got a Ford Escort that smelled like baby powder..very strong baby powder...and you know LA...want to drive 3 miles...takes about 3 hours LOL! God I hate LA! Anyway retured the car and get on the shuttle bus. A lady comes from the office onto the bus saying that the little Ford emblem was missing from the hood. Okay, this is about a 2.00 part anyway...and she says she has to charge be $500 or something ridiculous. I scream bloody murder on the bus and in the office. I return to the bus fuming. Next thing I know she came back out of the office on to the bus and told me they were waiving the charge. Go figure. I would never rent from them ever again.

Last 2 times I have rented from Budget in Florida. Not cheap but very professional and brand new cars.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 9:19AM
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Good, timely information for me. I just booked our rental car for Florida. I always go through Priceline because I like to set my own price. I got a mid-size thru Avis for $15.00 a day. We will have it for 8 days.
I'll be sure to make note of any damage and take pictures (if there is any) before I ever leave the lot. I'm usually way too trusting.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 11:42AM
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Remember when Kathy (Mustangs) threw the keys to the rental car into a corn field? I never pass a rental place without thinking of that story.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 5:43PM
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A little off topic, but I found a website about rental cars near Disney that has discount codes for several different car rental companies, and it is updated about weekly. Most of the codes are good for places other than Orlando, also. I've used these codes several times in other places like Seattle and San Francisco, and gotten great deals. It's worth a try when booking your car to compare these rates to the other rates you get. They also have discount codes for other things like airlines, park admissions, etc., but I have never tried any of the other stuff.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mousesavers discounts

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 5:59PM
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How weird is this is right....

how did this thread come up? I don't see a current post.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 1:18PM
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Because there was a spam post, and that was wiped out by The Powers That Be. And very quickly, too.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 1:21PM
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Yes, I saw the SPAM post this morning, agreed that we'd been SPAMMED, and now it's gone, along with my post and the one before me noting that it was SPAM.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 4:54PM
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I missed the spam, as I am just now reading this.

Kevin used to work for a rental car agency, and so he knows all the ins and outs. He had the job in Austin, and it made it easy for him to move here and transfer his job at the same time. I had him quit that job as soon as I was able to cover both of our expenses so that he could get something different.

On Maui, we bought the total coverage insurance from the company, and it was not that expensive. One of the guide books we had said that there were hostile natives on certain parts of the island, and so we didn't want to be bothered with worrying about parking in a sketchy parking lot. Plus, we were used to Venice Beach and were aware of all the incidents that happen there. Nothing happened on Maui, however.

I made a claim on my insurance a few years ago, and my rates did not go up at all, and they are extremely low because my car is not worth anything. I pay less than
$200 a year to State Farm for car insurance, and that includes coverage for damage from uninsured drivers. In California, insurance companies cannot raise your rates if you make a claim for this type of coverage, but in my case, I had run into someone's bumper and did a small amount of damage.

We take pictures of cars that we rent, but have not had issues. If we did, I would probably make a scene, something short of throwing keys into a cornfield, however. I also would not hesitate to allow my insurance to handle it. If you have not made a claim in a long time, you do not have much worry from rates going up.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 3:57PM
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Keys in the cornfield -- I remember that story. Good one.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 4:35PM
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Wow, lars, $200 a year? My Jeep insurance for full coverage, $500 deductible is $1400 a year and the Jeep is 12 years old.

In my 40+ years of driving I've never had a single ticket and only one accident that did not involve a deer, that accident was over 10 years ago.

And my insurance goes up every single year. I switched from AAA to Auto Owners to State Farm, and I even get a multi car discount, a good driver's discount, a discount because I drive less than 7 miles to work. It still never goes down.

I wish I only paid $200 a year...


    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 12:54PM
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