Should I settle this damage claim with National?

By | May 17th, 2012

Should I pay or not?
Mike Kay needs your help.

A few weeks ago, he rented a car from National in Washington. When he returned the vehicle, an agent showed him a scrape on the passenger side panel (see image, above).

“We were positive it did not happen on our watch,” he says. “The car had been parked in ways such that that damage could not have occurred.”

But he admits he had a weak case. He failed to check the car before renting. It was late at night, and his kids were cranky. No time for an inspection.

“Now they are demanding our credit card number without telling us first how much the repair will be, and threatening a collection agency otherwise,” he says. “Can they get away with heaping that insult on the initial injury?”

No they can’t, I replied. I told him he shouldn’t give National his credit card until it sent him a bill, and until he agreed with the bill. And I said I’d help him if National unleashed a collection agency on him.

I talked about the problem of questionable damage claims in a recent article for the trade publication Auto Rental News. The bottom line is that while they’re bad for consumers like Kay, they’re probably worse for the car rental industry.

National followed up with a $267 repair bill, plus charges for loss of use and diminution of value. But when Kay pushed back, it offered to settle the claim for half the amount and to drop the extra charges for loss of use and diminution.

“We’re inclined to accept the offer to rid ourselves of this nuisance,” he says. “Unless you suggest otherwise.”

Related story:   No one does fees like a European car rental company -- no one

Here’s a copy of the invoice (PDF).

In order to help you with this decision, here’s the second photo of the damage.

My response? If Kay thinks he is or thinks he might be responsible for the damage — in other words, if it could have happened on his watch — he ought to pay. But if he’s certain this was a pre-existing condition, he shouldn’t.

But I agreed to put this out to you, dear readers.

Look at the pictures. Check out the invoice. Consider the circumstances.

What would you do?

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