Rental Car Damage

Over Christmas, I rented a car because mine was in the shop.

When I returned the car, I parked it in the lot, the guy at the counter took the keys and was gone for 5 minutes or so, then came back, printed my receipt, and I was on my way. An hour or two later, I received a call from them saying that there was damage to the car, and they’d follow up.

Several weeks later, I received a notice in the mail with photographs detailing the damage (cosmetic damage to the front end), and an invoice.

I carry only liability insurance, so my car insurance doesn’t cover this. My credit card does have rental car insurance, so I’ve started the process there.

At no point while I had the car did I run into anything, and I never noticed any damage. Nor, I assume, did the employee who checked the car on its return. Do I have a reasonable claim that it’s not my fault or problem?

Looking for guidance from someone who’s gone through this sort of thing before. What’s my best plan?

And, yes, from now on, I’m taking video of a full walk around the car as I return it.

Run a Google search on “car rental damage scam”.

You might be a victim.

I always do a walk-around when picking up a rental car and after returning it. I take photos of any damage I see.

Never had a problem yet.

If you didn’t receive any notice for several hours, I would say they can’t demonstrate the damage wasn’t done in the lot after you dropped the car off. If you don’t believe you did any damage, I would refuse to pay and if they try to charge your credit card dispute the charge.

When you run that search, add in the name of your rental company to see if there have been previous complaints.

That was my experience recently, too - walk around with the rental guy and you both note any damage going out or coming in. When you turned the car back in, it was up to them to find any damage before signing off on you, not calling you up later to say you scratched the front. I’d fight this, too.

A well-known scam is to leave out the basic tools (jack, tire-iron, etc.), which the customer would typically never notice, then upon returning the car, “discover” that the tools are missing.

My cousin had her car shipped from Hawaii to California a while back. I saw the paperwork. The shipping company did a much more thorough inspection than I’ve ever seen or heard of a rental company doing – the paperwork showed every last little dent and scratch on the car, with a diagram showing all sides of the car with every blemish noted. I picked up the car for her when it arrived, and we went over the whole thing, scratch by scratch.

In my experience, the credit card companies are pretty good at dealing with these sorts of things. I recently had a situation where the rental car company came after me for a damaged tire on a car months after the fact. I just turned it over to the credit card company and they dealt with it (even though technically it was past the window to report it).

I rented a car in Florida. While driving at highway speeds a hub cap flew off. My immediate thought was this rental company has a blank, signed credit card receipt. This was in 1990. My mind flashed on an invoice for a $200 hubcap. I turned around and spent too much time looking for it as I was fighting off crocodiles. I gave up looking for it as I was on vacation with the family.
Every month thereafter, I inspected my credit card billings. Fortunately nothing ever became of it.

My advice, as a consumer and as an insurance agent, is to take a video and/or photos of any damage when you get the rental and to a full video walk around when you return it! I also photograph the odometer and gas gauge because I’ve had issues with discrepancies there as well!

Also, the rental agent flies thru their inspection when they’re renting you the car and they always fail to note several exterior blemishes, dents or scratches on the inspection sheet. I do my own quick inspection before I leave and drag them back out to correct it on the paperwork before I leave with the car.

The entire rental industry is pretty sleazy…

I know you’re trying to help, but I’ve already learned that lesson, and I misplaced my time machine.

I’m hoping for suggestions for what I can do now. Glad to know that some other people have been through this and the credit card company prevailed.

I used to work for Budget and I don’t accept a car without checking that everything is present and doing the walk around with the agent, and when we do a return mrAru is usually with me and he sticks with the car while I do the paperwork and he and I also do the damage check on return.

As an odd aside, mrAru, our friend John and I did a pre-rental walkthrough on a flat the 3 of us leased in Virginia Beach, with a polaroid and notepad, and came up with a set of 40 pictures and a listing of all damages found, and gave a set to the rental agent and kept a set, everything countersigned. That was the only place in Virginia Beach/Norfolk that we had absolutely no issue getting our deposit back in full :stuck_out_tongue:

In case anyone is curious, here’s how it turned out.

I filed with my credit card, and I also disputed the charge with the rental company, writing a letter explaining that I hadn’t noticed any damage, nor had the employee I turned the car into. After some back and forth and a few phone calls, I heard today that the rental company is dropping the claim (yay).

And from now on I’m getting a full video of the car signed in blood and notarized when I turn it back in.

That’s good to hear.

I rented a car last year and I had full indemnity cover through the web-based rental broker. The rental company guy (Alamo) said I could have wrapped the car around a tree or under a train and I wouldn’t have to pay a cent, just drop the keys off :slight_smile:

So, no walk a round inspection before or after picking it up.

Good lesson. We’re aware of these scams now and take proactive steps to make sure we’re not one of their victims. In addition to circling any and all scratches, we always pay for the rental on our AMEX, when available, as we’ve enrolled in a very comprehensive premium car rental coverage policy. It’s $25 per rental and makes AMEX the first insurer on theft and collision.

This seems to be a common problem, it almost seems like rental businesses are fishing for someone to fix the minor scratches and dings that occur on a vehicle. On my last rental car they tried to get me to pay for a chip on the windshield, I just told them I was the only one driving and would have definitely heard a rock hit hard enough to make that chip. They dropped the issue without much trouble but I’m sure a lot of people bend over for it.

Fix it? Why would they do that? People don’t often refuse a car because it has minor damage, so repairs would be wasted money. The companies just want to generate a little more revenue.

Several years ago, Budget billed my credit card something like $800 to replace a bumper I supposedly damaged. The pictures certainly showed a scraped bumper, although there was no telling what car it was on. Not only would it have been overkill to replace instead of touching up the paint, but there was no way they would bother even doing that. Disputed it and they went away.

Car rental is a borderline racketeering operation.

Mostly unrelated to the OP, but since we’re also talking about scams… I recently learned that one of the biggest scams AGAINST rental car agencies is people who rent a vehicle that has matching tires to their personal vehicles. They switch the good tires on the rental with their worn out tires; and return the rental.