When chip happens, who should pay?

By | October 9th, 2015

You’re driving down the road and suddenly, thwack!

A rock flies up and hits your windshield.

It’s such a loud crack that you cringe, thinking the glass is going to spider-shatter at any moment. But no, it’s a chip.

That’s what happened to Robert Kidary in Colorado. He was driving a rental car when it occurred, and the rental car company expects him to pay for it.

“No matter where you drive, there are always little rocks or pebbles from passing trucks, the asphalt breaking apart, or shopping carts rolling into the car you’re renting. Some things are unavoidable. My question is, why should a renter be held accountable for something that is unavoidable?”

Kidary argued about paying for the chip, and the rental car company dropped the claim.

Research online points to one conclusion: The consumer is responsible for damage to a car while they are renting it. And the charges may be higher than if you took it to be repaired at your local shop. The charges could include the following:

Windshield Replacement $150-$500 (sometimes more if the window has a special shape);
Loss of Use (Daily Charge assessed when the car won’t make a profit for the time it is “out of service”); and an administrative fee (which may be at the discretion of the rental car company).

These types of incidents do occur in the normal course of events, and if you were driving your own car and the windshield chipped, you would expect to pay for it. It stands to reason that the same logic would apply to a rental car.

Related story:   Hertz gave away his car -- does he deserve any compensation?

Although Kidary doesn’t specify which rental car company he dealt with, Hertz’s Rental Terms state, “When you rent a vehicle from Hertz, you are responsible for returning that vehicle to Hertz in the same condition it was in at the start of the rental, with the exception of fair wear and tear.” Windshields are not included in “fair wear and tear,” as they are specifically called out as items covered under their rental insurance.

There are a multitude of complaints (including on our forums) about people being unjustly charged for damages to their rental cars. These companies are concerned with their profit and loss, and do not want to absorb the charges, so they may employ whatever methods they can to get their customers to offset these costs; sometimes legitimately, sometimes not. And similar to what Kidary experienced, when customers challenge the charges or ask for proof, many times the rental car companies back off and drop the claim. However, others are worried about their credit being damaged or don’t have the time to fight the claim, and it gets paid.

Kidary feels that rental car companies are nickel and diming their customers. Do you think these rental car companies should absorb damages like chips, dents, flat tires, etc.?

Who should pay for cracked windshields or flat tires on rental cars?

View Results

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  • Alan Gore

    Here again, the moral of the story is you have to use the rental company insurance. When comparing prices, take this into account.

  • Don Spilky

    Once you rent the car from the rental company, All non-mechanical events that happens to the car is your responsibility – just as if it were your own. Either use a CC that has insurance coverage or buy the rental company CDW but definitely have insurance!

  • AJPeabody

    Windshield, yes, just as you argue based on what you would do for your own car. As for tires, if the flat was due to a flaw in the tire at the time of renting or due to the tire reaching “end of life,” it’s not the renter’s responsibility. A nail or broken glass or ramming into a curb or pot hole: It’s on the renter.

  • Blackadar

    No, you don’t. I rent cars all the time and don’t get their insurance. There’s little reason to do so if you take care of the car and protect yourself.

    As for the OP, there’s a difference between damage and “wear and tear”. Wear and tear is on them. Damage is on you. Replacing the tires? Wear and tear. Replacing a clutch on a rental? Very likely wear and tear. Getting a crack in the windshield? Damage. That one was yours to pay.

  • Annie M

    One of these days you might be taking care of the car but someone runs a red light as you are driving by and broadsides you – then what do you do without insurance? Or you are parked in a store and someone clips you? Or stop in a supermarket and someone lets their cart go and dents the car? Just because you are careful doesn’t mean every other driver on the road is going to be that drives or gets near your car.

  • Bill___A

    Long ago, I had something called a “pressure crack” happen in a rental car windshield while I was in a parking lot. I didn’t know about these things at the time and although I objected, they charged me for it and got the windshield replaced.
    The car rental company has long since gone out of business. The local franchise was owned by a local car dealership that it still in business. I have never spent a penny there and never will.

    Although I expect renters are responsible for “big” chips and cracks, I in no way expect that they are responsible for “pressure cracks”.

    There are a lot of things that can happen to a rental car. It is probably best to always make sure you have some sort of insurance.

    And yes, they generally have you buy a new tire when it goes flat. But they seem to get a pretty good price on tires.

  • Jim

    Great point, but as someone who has years of experience selling tires at a major tire retailer in college and as a service manager at an automobile dealership I can tell you that it’s 50/50 if you are able to determine what happened. Sometimes the person driving the car does not stop right away (because they cannot or otherwise) and the tire is destroyed.

    A little hint for those who have a blowout on the road. Look at the hole in the tire and then look at the opposite side of the tire for what caused it, could be a nail or puncture or could be a ding in the rim where debris or pothole was hit. If there is nothing and the tire is not destroyed completely you have an argument that the tire was defective.

    Just a hint to help someone win an argument with the rental company!

  • judyserienagy

    Can’t vote, all depends on the details. sirwired is right, somebody has to pay for the repair. If the rental companies are up front about your responsibility, it’s OK … besides, isn’t this what insurance is for? The problem arises when a renter is charged for damage she didn’t do and the company tries to bully her into paying some huge charge without providing any evidence. A strong credit card is a good tool to have when renting cars.

  • judyserienagy

    I don’t think Blackadar means that he doesn’t have insurance. Like many of us, his own auto policy probably works, plus coverage through his credit card is also a factor. Chase Sapphire gives me primary coverage, so I don’t even have to worry about the deductible on my AAA auto insurance at home.

  • TravelingSalesman

    GET THIRD PARTY INSURANCE.

    It’s cheap. $5.00/day or something ridiculous like $50.00 a YEAR.

    Check it out, It is out there, I have used it (thankfully no claims) and I felt it was clearly worth it..

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