Why do I have to pay for the flat on my rental car?

When Alicia Reise and her husband rented a car from Hertz in England recently, they had no reason to believe the car was in less than perfect condition.

But there were two little problems. First, Reise thinks one of the tires was faulty. And second, the car didn’t have a spare tire; instead, it came with a canister that could be used to fix a leaky tire, she says.

“We had a flat tire and called the emergency roadside number,” she says. “A person came out and replaced the flat with another tire.”

Problem solved? Not exactly.

“When we returned the car the Hertz people told us we would be charged £150 for the tire. Apparently we were supposed to fix the flat with the canister and take it somewhere – but when you are traveling between small villages, where would you take it?” she asks.

Good question.

It’s no secret that car rental companies have been more aggressive in charging customers for damage to their vehicles. But a flat tire is not an open-and-shut case. If you’re off-roading, for example — and I’m not suggesting that Reise and her husband were — then the tire damage would be on the customer.

Reise insists she drove the car responsibly. What’s more, if she’d had a spare tire, she could have spared Hertz the expense of servicing the vehicle. She’s more than capable of changing the tire on a car.

I tried to find a reference to Hertz’ policy on damaged tires on its UK site, but could only turn up references to its insurance, which covers tire damage.

Incidentally, Hertz isn’t the only car rental company renting cars without spare tires. Here’s another recent case involving Dollar.

Reise believes it’s a scam.

“They could be sending people out with faulty tires and then wait for it to blow, or go flat and then charge the customer,” she say. “Very shaky.”

I decided to ask Hertz about her flat tire. It contacted her and offered to split the difference on her bill, reducing it to £75.

I asked her if she was happy with that outcome.

“No,” she told me. “I am very disappointed. I think they should pay for the tire.”

She wonders how many people realize that if something goes wrong with the vehicle they are liable.

“This practice is so one sided — geared to the corporation only, not the consumer,” she adds.

I agree that the damage claim process could use a little democracy. Also, spare tires are a good idea in all rental vehicles.

But I’m glad Hertz met her halfway on this claim. Question is, did it go far enough?

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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