Answer: Enterprise is both right — and wrong. Yes, you are responsible for the car while you rent it, so either you or your insurance company should pay for any damage to the SUV during your rental.
But I don’t believe the manager who claims he could have never missed the roof damage. If your account is accurate, and he had to climb up into the vehicle to see the dent, then it’s far likelier that he missed the damage during the first inspection.
A solution isn’t obvious. I mean, even if you’d photographed the car — which is something I always recommend — you probably would have skipped the roof. I know I would have.
Incidentally, I’ve also heard of a few damage claims resulting from dents to the undercarriage, which is, of course, completely absurd. Who would take pictures of the underside of a rental car? Who would even check it, pre-rental?
In order to make the system fair, a car rental company must photograph every vehicle from every angle both before and after a rental and ask you to sign a form acknowledging the condition of the car.
Car rental companies tell me such a system would be too expensive and time-consuming, but the alternative is even worse. It is the guilty-until-proven-innocent system we currently have — one that favors the car rental company and punishes too many blameless customers. There must be a better way.
It’s too bad Enterprise just repeated the same line, which is basically that you were guilty unless you could prove otherwise. If this ever happens to you again, you can appeal this to someone higher up at Enterprise. Here are some names.
I contacted Enterprise on your behalf. The company dropped its claim.
(Photo: shaun wong/Flickr)