Broadsided by Budget’s $422 car repair bill — what’s next?

crash_2

Terry Boyle rented a car from Budget in Edinburgh, and when he got home, he found an unpleasant surprise from his car rental company: a $422 repair bill.

Did Boyle scratch up the Passat he’d driven around Scotland? He denies it, insisting a Budget representative had done a pre-rental check, found the scratches, and noted them. (The photo above is not his car.)

On March 6, 2008, we returned the undamaged (by us) vehicle to the airport terminal at 7 a.m. The slot the vehicle was to be left in was occupied. The rental was left in the next parking slot.

No one from Budget was at the kiosk. We went to the Budget counter. The agent was occupied on the telephone. After waiting for some time, we had to leave to catch our flight back to the United States.

While still on the telephone, the agent indicated we did not need anything else and waived us on. We have not receive a final bill explaining the charges.

In retrospect, Boyle probably should have waited for a sign-off and a final bill from Budget. The best time to resolve any problem is while you’re still at the car rental location — not after you’re home.

I asked Budget to review the case. Here’s what it had to say:

During a full post-rental inspection at the location, it became apparent that Mr. Boyle had returned his vehicle with scratches to the drivers side front and rear doors that were not evident during the pre-rental inspection. As per his signed customer rental agreement, Mr. Boyle was therefore liable for the cost of the repair.

The total charge of US $1,374 to Mr. Boyle’s credit card included the cost of the actual rental as well as the necessary repairs (GBP £274.47 – approx. US $422.)

We have thoroughly examined Mr. Boyle’s case but found our decision to charge him to be entirely correct.

On return of any rental vehicle, we highly recommended that all customers allow enough time to be present for a post-rental vehicle inspection by a Budget representative. This ensures that any issues can be immediately highlighted whilst the customer is present.

So Budget is not budging. What are Boyle’s options?

1. Pay up. He can pay the credit card bill and Budget wins.

2. File an insurance claim. Boyle can file a claim with his auto insurance or credit card, but chances are, he’ll still have to pay $422. These claims are typically just under the deductible to avoid getting an insurance company involved.

3. Initiate a credit card dispute. If Budget’s documentation is inadequate, his credit card company might side with him and reverse the charges. But it’s a long shot, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the rental happened in Europe. Banks often frown on long-distance disputes.

My opinion? I don’t like any of these choices. A car rental repair bill that comes just shy of the typical insurance deductible is highly suspect, and if I had the resources, I would hire an attorney in the U.K. and get to the bottom of this. But it would almost certainly cost more than the bill.

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.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Google Plus