Are car rental companies double dipping on damage claims?

One of the most common complaints I get from car rental customers is that they’re being charged for damages that they weren’t responsible for. They wonder if the companies are double-dipping — charging multiple customers for the same repair — as at least one franchisee has admitted to doing. But proving that kind of behavior is difficult.

Not to Cynthia Plume, a reader who I advised on her recent damage-related grievance with Thrify.

When she picked up her rental car at the airport late at night in Sarasota, Fla., there was no apparent damage to the vehicle. “We drove it several miles to our home,” she says. “The next morning, as we walked into the garage to leave, we noticed that the front end of the car had been damaged.”

She called Thrifty to report the condition of the car, and was told not to worry about it. The damage was pre-existing, and a representative assured her that anyone reviewing the file would see the report and she wouldn’t be charged.

That didn’t happen. After she returned the car, she received a $700 bill for the dent.

She called me to find out what to do next. I urged her to send a cordial but firm email to Thrifty, asking to substantiate the charge with repair records.

Thrifty backed down almost immediately, sending her a letter that her case had been “closed.”

Plume phoned the company to find out what had happened. “A customer service representative looked up our reservation, and she could not explain it because the file did, in fact, show a damage report prior to our rental,” she says. “It also showed our phone call and the customer service rep’s notations related to the previous accident report.”

The Thrifty agent went on to say she had “no idea” why Plume received a claim.

“Strange, huh?” she adds. “Double dipping? Maybe. Bogus claim? For sure.”

If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a double-dipping scam, send me a or leave your comments below.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Fog Geoge

    Once the car is accepted by the rental company at check in that should be the end of the rental. Why would it take two to three months to contact someone to say there was damage when the check-in clerk did not see it? How could they possibly know it was me that caused the damage after many rentals before the damage is located? I am sure they charge all the customers who rented the vehicle since the damage was found but not found by the customer.

    I rented an older car from Budget and drove it home and then to the airport (no accidents, parked in my own driveway all night) but there was some damage on the left fender I did not notice.

    Even the clerk who checked the car in said it looked “old”. It had rust on it and I live in a dry climate so I knew I didn’t do it. Two or three months later I got a call from them saying they wanted $550 to repair it. I knew I didn’t do it and yelled at them and they finally backed down. I am sure they tried to get money out of as many people as they could.

    There should be a website that rental companies must post all information about a vehicle (VIN, make, model, etc) that has had a payment from a customer for damages That way if you rent a car you can check to see if there was any previous attempts to collect money for the same damage.