Is Advantage trying to scam me for damage to my rental car?

You know the ding-and-dent car rental scam? Sure you do.

Rent a car, and the agents tell you “not to worry” about the little scratches and bumps on the high-mileage vehicle. But when you return it, they give it a careful once-over and pressure you to sign an incident report, acknowledging you’ll pay whatever repair bill they send you — usually something suspiciously close to your car insurance deductible.

Well, Chelsey Johnson thinks she’s a ding-and-dent victim. Let’s hand the mike over to her to hear her story.

A few months ago, Johnson rented a car from Advantage in Minneapolis.

“A cranky young desk agent pointed me out to the lot with my rental agreement folder and keys,” she remembers. “The young man working in the lot, at which I was the sole customer, pointed me to my car, but didn’t walk over with me.”

What’s missing?

“Yes, they forgot to do the pre-inspection of the car,” she adds. “I didn’t even think about it before I left. I didn’t think about it until I returned the car three days later and the employee checking me in — the same one who’d sent me on my way — said, ‘What happened to the roof?'”

Johnson was surprised to discover two dents on the roof, right above each of the front seats. She told the representative it was the first time she had seen them and that she was absolutely sure, “it didn’t happen on my watch.”

So how was she so certain? On the first night of her rental, she’d parked the car at a suburban hotel, and then in the driveway of her parents’ home. Johnson is absolutely sure nothing happened to the vehicle while it was under her care.

And that’s when things got interesting. She recalls,

The employee at this point tried desperately to get me to sign an incident report that would have said I acknowledged responsibility for the damage that had occurred during my rental period.

I did not sign this, as I was sure a) it did not happen under my watch, and b) the company had no evidence whatsoever to prove it did — the pre-inspection form had never been filled out, initialed by the employee, or signed by me! There exists no record of the state the car was in when I rented it.

Advantage didn’t let the fact that there was no damage claim or pre-inspection sheet get in the way of collecting from her. It handed the case over to a damage claims company called PurCo, which sent her a bill for $591, a little higher than the typical car insurance deductible.

Advantage and PurCo say it’s not their fault that she didn’t fill out the pre-inspection report.

“You are told to inspect the car,” a representative wrote to her. “The negligence is not with the rental location.”

I reviewed Johnson’s case and I have to be honest, I found it to be a borderline one. Pre-rental inspections are the driver’s responsibility. If the dents weren’t noted on the previous rental, then either Johnson or her insurance company would be responsible — inspection sheet or not.

At the same time, PurCo and Advantage were behaving suspiciously. Dents on the roof? Even if she’d inspected the car, she probably wouldn’t have seen those. A five-hundred-some-dollar bill? Fishy. PurCo wasn’t showing much flexibility, and its correspondence could have been interpreted as a kind of bullying: Pay up or we’ll send this to a collections agency.

“I am tired of being hassled by them,” Johnson told me.

Between the time I received this case and today, Advantage apparently saw things her way and dropped the case. Perhaps not coincidentally, it also filed for bankruptcy protection.

All of which leaves the rest of us wondering: Was this just a scam? Did Advantage know the car had a dent on the roof and has it perhaps billed for the same repair multiple times?

That’s hard to prove, and I’d like to hope it’s not true.

Was Advantage trying to scam Chelsey Johnson?

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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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  • polexia_rogue

    as an Enterprise agent once said “oh, you got our insurance! you can brig the car back in pieces and it will not coast you a dime!”

    IF YOU DO NOT TAKE THEIR INSURANCE- YOU MUST DO A THROUGH INSPECTION WITH PICTURES. i am too lazy i would rather pay $20 a day for piece of mind.

    but if you think you are out smarting the rental agency with “i have MY OWN insurance”- be ready to use it. or be ready to fight.

  • DavidYoung2

    Again, a shameless plug for American Express – sign up for their car rental insurance program. It’s about $20.00 per rental period (not per day) and they become PRIMARY insurance with zero deductible for you.

    Now YOU have a pit bull on your side. “Oh, that flaky damage claim – go fight with Amex and see how far you can bully them!”

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Pre-rental inspections are the driver’s responsibility. If the dents weren’t noted on the previous rental, then either Johnson or her insurance company would be responsible — inspection sheet or not.

    I respectfully disagree. It really depends on the car rental company’s practices. Car rental companies place responsibility for damage on the renter because the renter acknowledges that the car was rented in a damage free condition. Without that acknowledgement, the car rental company now bears the burden of proving that the damage occurred while in the OP’s possession.

  • Cybrsk8r

    There should be a “CARFAX” for rental cars. Of course, the rental companies are not going to participate in this, as it would eat into the dent-and-ding scam. But I’m sure that renters and maybe their insurance companies WOULD submit information on rental damage claims.

    There could be several benefits from this. It would show which agencies in a given area have the most claims. This would not nessesarily mean that those claims are bogus, but a bunch of $490 claims would be a red flag.

    But most importantly, it might detect “double-dipping”, where an agency charges multiple renters for the exact same dent.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I’ve used the AMEX rental insurance. What David says is true, though I think it’s $24.95.

    But be ready for the rental agency to try to tell you that this insurance isn’t any good in THIER state. I’ve had rental agents lie right to my face to try to get me to sign-up for their coverage.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I love that idea!

  • sirwired

    Yes, I think she’s getting scammed… absent paint damage or serious creasing, a pair of dents is not a $600 repair.

    But am I the only one who sees a contradiction in the following statement:? “Johnson was surprised to discover two dents on the roof, right above each of the front seats. She told the representative it was the first time she had seen them and that she was absolutely sure, “it didn’t happen on my watch.””

    The car was parked outdoors for two nights, she never noticed them before, but somehow she is “absolutely sure” they didn’t occur while she had the car? Exactly how does that work? They may not have occurred while she was driving the car, but that’s hardly the same thing.

    And the rental location is correct; the “default” state for every pre-rental inspection form I’ve ever seen (if it’s never filled out) is “no damage.”

  • Justin

    Plus, unless you’re a basketball player or standing on a step stool, the pre inspection wouldn’t help here. Very fishy the employee beelined to a very unusual spot

    I bet any reasonable judge takes into account the lack of inspection and the obscurity of damage. Doubt Advantage had two legs to stand on here.

  • Chris Johnson

    Is this sort of thing really news anymore? Margins are tight in the car rental industry and they’ve gotta make money somehow. All I can say is, thank God for my cellphone camera, with date stamps. The car rental industry has to hate that invention!

  • Cybrsk8r

    Which is why I downloaded my own pre-inspection form. There are quite a few to choose from if you search google images. If the agent doesn’t want to do a pre-inspection, I do my own and then take the form back inside and have the agent sign and date the form. If there’s any damage on the car, and the agent refuses to sign the pre-inspection form, I refuse the car. I actually had to do this on one occasion.

  • piltdownman

    From where I sit, unless this is the car’s first rental after having been lowered off the car carrier, it is not going to be pristine. We all know this; your own new car goes maybe one week before it picks up a parking lot ding or dent. It’s just inevitable. So for car rental companies to claim that any car is rented “damage free” is BS.

    I would add that, in many rental lots, the lighting is horrible. You can’t even tell if the car is scratched or dinged or scuffed or whatever.

    And yes, what if a renter is 5 foot tall? Are they to be penalized for not seeing what condition the roof is in?

    This obviously does not pass the smell test.

    But further, I am just exhausted with the responsibility for this stuff always being on the customer side. The degree to which we are being gamed and scammed by companies is so overwhelming that you’d had to spend all day, every day preparing, learning the law and protecting your rights — when the burden of proof should be on these companies….

  • Raven_Altosk

    SCAM. Period.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Good Lord. Is there a SINGLE person left out there who doesn’t realize what a total scam this is?

    Oh. Right. There is. Some dude who considers himself thoroughly amused.

    Wait for it……..

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Thanks for the shoutout! Truly appreciated.

    What proof do you have that this is a scam? Because the customer says the damage didn’t happen on their watch? Has it ever occurred to you that a customer might know that damage happened while they had the car, then *wait for it* say it didn’t happen/the damage happened was pre-existing? Or do you believe that customers are 100% honest about damage all the time, in every situation? If so, you are even more naive than I could have imagined.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Wow, I can’t believe what I’m reading. Did you guys plan that little exchange?

  • Thoroughlyamused

    When I rent cars I always look at the roof and I can assure you I don’t travel with a step stool. You can open the driver or passenger front door and stand on the ledge (not the seat). Unless it’s a 15 passenger van we’re talking about, that will afford the renter a clear view of the roof. Even from multiple angles if necessary.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    The damage had undoubtedly been there forever, some middle manager decided that this was a good way to raise revenue from customers who often live somewhere else. Most people will just give up after awhile and pay whatever it takes to get them to go away … they count on that.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I’m a little weary of roof damage claims because I know that many rental agents are simply too lazy to actually stand on the ledges of a vehicle to check the roof. Many Advantage locations are franchise operations so it’s also possible that the agent received a bounty for spotting the damage.
    At the same time, I have a serious issue with the renter saying she was 100% sure that the damage didn’t happen while she had the car, esp. since it sat in a hotel parking lot and also in a driveway. She really can’t make that statement and be truthful about it unless she was sitting next to the car observing it 100% of the time. Also, it sounds like she didn’t do ANY kind of pre-rental inspection. To say that the renter has ZERO responsibility to inspect the car beforehand is frankly absurd.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    If a car rental company is asking me to acknowledge there is no damage on a rental car then I’m definitely looking over said car before I sign said acknowledgement. I think it would be pretty stupid not to. I have trouble imagining how this would be different from company to company since all rental companies ask you to sign an acknowledgement saying the car is damage free.

  • Daddydo

    It’s time to realize that car rentals take planning. Pictures, autorizations, checking fuel guages. It used to be just pick up the car and go, and that’s what Chelsey did. If she is a complaning, then she must be a reader and know better. How can she possibly know that the dings did not happen on her watch while in the hotel parking lot, or a neigbor playing a destructive prank. Please drop rental car complaints off of the list unless the client fulfils their obligations. Car companies are scum bags, but they do have a set of “rules”.

  • MarkKelling

    I think we have had this discussion before. ;-)

    No, customers are not 100% honest. Neither are rental car companies.

    That’s why pre-rental damage report forms are available and should always be filled out by the renter. If the company refuses to provide you a form, tell them you don’t want the car.

  • LeeAnneClark

    HA! Thanks for coming through for us once again. ;-)

  • LeeAnneClark

    Maybe easy for you. Not so easy for a 5’3″ woman in stockings and high heels. In the rain. Or for my mother who walks with a cane. Riiiiggghhhttt.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Yes, I 100% agree that pre-rental damage forms should be filled out by the renter. In this case, she didn’t even do an inspection, much less fill out the form.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    You didn’t answer my question LeeAnne. Has it ever occurred to you that a customer might have damage occur while they had the car, and then deny it later? Or do you believe that customers are honest 100% of the time in every situation when it comes to vehicle damages?

  • Deepstardiver

    Deliberatly scam, probably not. Institutionally scam 9 procedures and corporate rules) yes. I have had a few issues in flying into MKE. Car rental on airport in garage on first floor near “middle” of parking structure. At night it is lite but low level.. Get there at 9pm in winter with wind you have a hard time doing a detailed inspection. Even in summer at noon not the greatest light to inspect for”little” detils. (no way I am going to inspect under the car , one of the previous issues). Is this the local agency or a corporate level policy decision ? I am sure the locals did not pick the location. Geoffreys last line sums it all up. Ps on my rental on the Big Island car is outside in great light and agent helped and pointed out stains and scratches and was very very helpful. On return my kids left my Bose earbuds in the car, company emailed me about them and shipped them back (yes i paid for shipping but not unreasonable)

  • Cybrsk8r

    “Bounty” programs of the type you mentioned should be illegal.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I think that’s the issue. People decline CDW thinking that if something happens, their insurance company will magically swoop in and take care of everything. When they realize their insurance company is making them pay a $1,000 deductible and then jacking their premiums for the next 2 years, they don’t want to use their insurance company, and all of the sudden that scratch was actually pre-existing.

    There have been cases on here where people have filed claims with credit card insurance only to find out it is secondary. After they have submitted a claim to the CC company (and all the CC companies state in their T&C that they don’t pay for pre-existin damage) and the CC company pays the deductible, people then try to argue out of the rest of the claim, claiming the damage was pre-existing all along.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Probably. They’re too easily corruptible. But no corporate operation of any of the majors use them.

  • DavidYoung2

    You’re right, but for some reason it’s only $17.95 for residents of California.

  • MarkKelling

    California State Law limits what can be charged for insurance.

  • Tom_Blackwell

    Having read this I would stay clear of “Advantage”

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Do you also get down on your hands and knees to look underneath the car? There is always somewhere that is inaccessible that it would be unreasonable for a renter to search.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Here’s how it would be different. I signed up for the frequent renter program at Hertz. Until recently, I never signed anything else upon taking possession of the vehicle. I suspect that as a condition of being a member of the frequent renter program, I have already agreed that the car is damage free unless I submit a pre-inspection damage report.

    Thus, unlike the OP’s case where there appears to be no documentation where she acknowledges that the vehicle is damage free thus placing the onus on the car rental company, my membership in the loyalty program places the onus on me to show that any damage was pre-existing.

    Burden of proof can be dispositive in a murky, contested matter.

  • Mark Cuban

    Once again renting from a cheapo service. You get what you pay for. Maybe that rental was a few dollars cheaper than Hertz, but was it really worth it?

    I guess it must be, and people pack Spirit Airlines too.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    With regard to the OP, I find it difficult to believe she signed no paperwork related to the condition of the vehicle. It’s possible she didn’t read what she signed and just signed at the X’s, but I seriously doubt that Advantage didn’t ask her to sign anything saying the car was damage free.

    With regards to frequent renter programs, when you sign up, you complete a Master Rental Agreement which specifically lists all T&C’s of the rental agreement, as well as coverage options, fuel options, etc. While your signature remains on file, that doesn’t change the fact that it is still the renter’s responsibility to do a pre-rental inspection.

  • y_p_w

    I once rented a car with 4 miles on the odometer. It actually had a scratch (about 1/8″ wide) on the rear bumper, which looked like it had been touched up. The agent said they only look for deep gouges and not regular scratches, and I returned it without any issues.

    Still – I rented a car about a week ago. It was black and delivered to us just washed but not dried off. I was thinking it could have been a means to hide stuff they knew to be damaged and get me to pay for it. When it finally dried, I noticed lots of swirls and scratches, but nothing I’d call a dent. Upon return I just got a receipt and a thank you. Maybe I’m lucky. OTOH – it was Avis and not Advantage.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I went to Wal-Mart on Black Friday and was painfully reminded that “you get what you pay for.” A 5 to 5S upgrade took well over an hour, and I was the first person in line. After I left I found that Wal-Mart had screwed up the upgrade so badly that they had deactivated the SIM card on one of the other phones on the plan. After dealing with AT&T to get a new SIM cards, I decided that the entire ordeal was definitely not worth the $75 gift card I received.

  • y_p_w

    I actually flew Spirit last week and had no issues. The flights were on time (a bit early actually without the drama of passengers taking time to load lots of carry on), they let a pound over their check-in limit go, and the employees didn’t seem to match their reputation for surliness. I did have to find a place in Vegas to print the boarding passes, since most of the hotels there charge for use of their “business office” compared to hotels elsewhere that will allow you to print something for free.

    Cost doesn’t necessarily equate with quality either. We booked Avis on Priceline for $84/week – not opaque though. Couldn’t find a better price with Fox, Advantage, or Payless.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    So? What’s your point? If a customer is unable to do a proper walkaround for whatever reason and the car comes back damaged, should the rental agency just take the customer at their word 100% of the time? What’s YOUR solution?

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I second that. Chris, please do not take any future cases where the renter fails to even look at the car before picking it up. You risk your admittedly great reputation, since you could very well be helping a less than honest customer get out of paying for damage that happened under their watch.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    You’d be surprised. I once rented a car from Hertz, where the the guy at the guard shack didn’t want to do a pre-inspection report. He just gave me both copies of the form and said just fill it out later if you find anything or anything bad happens. Needless to say I was stunned.

    As far as it being the renter’s responsibility to do a pre-rental inspection, that’s only true to the extent that the renter has acknowledged the condition of the rental car upon receipt. If the car rental company is unable to show that the OP acknowledged the condition of the car, then the car company has to prove that any damage claimed happened while the car is in the possession of the OP.

    The last sentence didn’t make any sense to me

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Perhaps one of the automatively skilled readers can tell us if its possible to get an idea of how new/old damage to a car is? But I must disagree. Each case is unique and we should not prejudge a writer.

  • Tom_Blackwell

    Question: When faced with a rental car transaction where the rental company does not take the initiative to note previous vehicle damage, what is appropriate to write on the rental form(s) about it? Is there vague language about “various wear and tear,” dents, scratches, etc. that will work?

  • Wackiedon

    Sir Elliot, What was the feel of the last Auto ‘Back Patting’ Rental Summit as the final presenter.
    However, You always want to get to your destination as quickly as is possible and just sign along the lines and give the car a once over. But I have learnt my lesson. Take pictures and never accept a dirty or wet rental. Scratches dings and dents love to hide under them.
    Don’t tell me that the inspection is my responsibility I will go over the car WITH the agent present and point out all visible damage no matter how small especially the luggage scratches and marks on the trunk base. Now I cannot get under the car to see any damage so the “honesty” of the agent / company will have to come into play; hopefully. I would expect that I rented damage free car, Avis comes out on top for me here….

  • sunshipballoons

    “On the first night of her rental, she’d parked the car at a suburban hotel, and then in the driveway of her parents’ home. Johnson is absolutely sure nothing happened to the vehicle while it was under her care.”

    I really can’t stand when the consumer makes a comment like this. How can she be “absolutely” sure? Did she sit and watch the car the entire time it was parked? What a lame trip.

    More realistically, she should say that it is “very unlikely” that the incident happened on her watch. Frankly, the “absolute” certainty makes me doubt everything about her story. (In this case, I tend to believe her, but the “absolutely” hurts her credibility.)

  • Joe Blasi

    Most hotels due it for free for guests

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Out of curiosity. How often are they willing to sign your form. I was expect that an employee would not have that discretion

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Are we really splitting hairs over that. Ok. Perhaps it’s not perfectly accurate, but is it really that big of a deal?

  • PolishKnightUSA

    For Virginia, I had the option of getting the AMEX single rental insurance for $19.95 BUT for lesser coverage. The coverage was still good so I opted to save 5 bucks.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Strongly, strongly disagree that it is not that big of a deal. By making such definitive statements, she is essentially saying that she refuses to consider any scenario that would make her responsible. She only will believe the version which would make her not responsible, ie pre-existing damage. It calls her entire credibility into question, and is also simply wrong, since she wasn’t with the car 100% of the time.

  • y_p_w

    I understand that. However, I was in Vegas, where all the major casino/hotels ding you for everything. We had a Keurig coffeemaker, but the only K-cups were in the mini-bar at an $8 price tag for a box with three K cups and sugar/creamer). I suppose I could have bought some since we went shopping for supplies. Our mandatory resort fee ($20/night) included internet access but no printing services. I was able to check-in online and “print” out the boarding passes to a PDF file and then mail to our own email account. Our hotel had a UPS Store (didn’t ask if they had internet access to print out) as well as credit card operated kiosks with a $5 minimum. The kiosks specifically say that they can be used to print boarding passes.

    And I just wanted to check the check-in/boarding pass terminals to see if they might just be considered “free”. I remember printing numerous extra boarding pass copies when we flew Southwest last year. As soon as I selected Spirit, the thing noted that you couldn’t continue without swiping a credit card. So essentially they treat these terminals (that other airlines provide as a free service) as a cash cow if you couldn’t find a place to print before coming to the airport.

    In any case, I found a FedEx Office location and logged into my email. Total time was less than two minutes, although each B&W page was 49 cents. Altogether it was $2.19. Beats the $30 that Spirit would have charged.

    I’m not sure if the concierge at our hotel wouldn’t have done it for free, but I didn’t ask.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Not signing a pre-inspection report does not equal not signing a statement saying the car has no damage on it. Many companies, regardless of frequent renter status, will consider the absence of a pre-inspection report the consent of the renter that the car has no damage on it. They write it into their rental agreements. Also, one moronic exit booth worker making $8 an hour that made a dumb decision doesn’t mean that that is SOP.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


    If we accept that position, we must excise all superlative and absolutes from language. Language becomes tortured with unnecessary qualifications and hedges.

  • Rose Y

    Rented cars twice in recent months at Vancouver International Airport, Alamo and Avis. Counters were located at the airport parking garage. Both times agents just told us to get the cars in the lot, never came out with us to do pre-inspection. Both times both guys in booth told us to keep the forms, they didn’t need to collect them. They were there to inspect return cars only. One exit for all rental companies at the garage, no one to collect anything. It actually also happened to us in both Miami and Atlanta airports last year. It’s like they have stopped doing the pre-inspection with you, and stopped collecting forms.

    What would you have done in that case? Go back inside and grab someone at the counter to inspect the car with you?

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I fail to see how that disputes my position. By making a statement of “I am sure it did not happen on my watch”, she is making a statement that there is no possible way it could have happened while she had the car. The only way she could know this is if she was with the car 100% of the time, which even you admit is inaccurate. So what she really means is, “I refuse to consider any scenario other than the damage was pre-existing.” This calls her credibility into question.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I know that you are responsible for damages which occur while the car is in your possession. I would be interested to see where in the rental agreement it states that you are agree that the car is damage free unless you sign a pre-inspection report. It might very well be there.

    No one is stating that its SOP. That’s just silly. The point is that there is paperwork is not always correctly done up.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Not planned. Someone just can’t get enough of me. I mean, why else would she keep bringing my name up?

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I was curious as well, so I pulled a copy of a rental agreement I signed most recently, which was with Enterprise. In paragraph 2, it says the following: “Renter agrees Renter received vehicle and any Optional Accessories in good physical and mechanical condition.”

  • sunshipballoons

    It’s not about splitting hairs, it’s about credibility. If she *never* looked at the roof of the car (and why would she?) how would she have any idea if the dents came while she had the car. Roof dents can come from bird landings. Apparently, this renter doesn’t think there are birds where she parked. Okay.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s where we disagree. She is merely making a statement of her belief. That’s is where she is at right now. You are jumping to a belief that she will not change her mind should she be presented with new information

  • Cybrsk8r

    Just about every time. It is, after all, nothing more than a statement of the condition of the car. Now, I suppose that I could mark the form in an area I KNEW I was going to damage, but if I was that good at seeing into the future, I’d be so rich that I’d hardly worry about damaging a rental car.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    So was I. Thank you for getting that.

  • Art

    I had a similar experience (though with a different company–Enterprise in Miami). At the check in, the agent and I walked around the car in the near dark at 10p, neither of us checking the roof, and I signed the agreement. When I returned, Enterprise discovered dents on the roof. Since Enterprise did not rent me he model car that I had signed on for and my mother could not get into the jeep they gave me instead of the sedan promised, I told my credit card company not to pay for the rental. Then I told Enterprise that I would pay for the rental if they dropped the claim that I dented the roof of the car. They did, and I paid the rental.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Yes! Otherwise, I would not accept the car.

  • mythsayer

    How about this? We all drive around in our personal vehicles with little dents that aren’t our fault and that we don’t fix. My opinion… Unless that sent is getting fixed, these incidents should be normal wear and tear. And if they are getting fixed, I call it a scam. No one sends a car with a tiny dent for repair and it doesn’t even really affect the value of the car. A repair of $591 is nothing and I don’t buy that it was getting repaired at all. There are risks in doing business. Dents should be one of them.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    If she’s willing to make such a statement that obviously cannot be 100% true, it calls into question her overall credibility and to some extent, the level of sympathy the commenters here will have for her.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The problem is that there are two different expectations. One when its just you enjoying your own stuff. Another when its someone else’s, especially something that we are paying for. We have much higher expectations for a rental car than we do with our own cars. If we are paying good money, we expect a generally pristine car.

    That being said, I agree that dings and dents should be part of doing business. Whether the rental company chooses to fix it and spread the cost over everyone, or leaving it unfixed, is there problem.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I have rented at El Cheapo places twice. Both during last minute trips during Christmas and all the majors were sold out. The experiences were both bad. Its been 8-9 years and I have been able to avoid dealing with the El Cheapo place and hope to continue my long and unblemished street of never renting from then again.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    or perhaps she’s merely given to hyperbole?

  • Justin

    I’m short and have health issues. You can climb around the car like a natural mechanic at your heart’s desire. I won’t and doubt a judge finds these actions reasonable or necessary. You are just an over achiever.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    You can call it whatever you want. As the owner of a vehicle, the rental companies have every right to set parameters with regards to damage. They write the contracts and can decide to hold renters responsible for damage regardless of fault. They offer a way to reduce your responsibility, which you have the option to purchase. If you don’t purchase it, you shouldn’t complain when something happens and you have to file an insurance claim. It’s the risk you take. If you valet your car and it comes back damaged, you aren’t going to care how it happened; all you care about is whether or not the damage was there originally and if it wasn’t, you would expect the valet to pay for it, no?

  • Justin

    I believe thorough is trying to make the leap of faith that absent a signature, an implied verbal agreement comes into play upon taking possession of the car.

    I doubt the assumption to be true. Contracts are a meeting of the mind, correct? Op agreed to nothing verbially or signature wise.

  • Tom_Blackwell

    When faced with a rental car transaction where the rental company does
    not take the initiative to note previous vehicle damage, what is
    appropriate to write on the rental form(s) about it? Is there vague
    language about “various wear and tear,” dents, scratches, etc. that will

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Just because you are short doesn’t mean that the rental company should just automatically forgive any roof damage. Either find a way to look at the roof, or travel with someone who can. As a renter you do not get to pick and choose which parts of the contract you want to have apply.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Most major rental companies acutally have a specific threshold which determines whether something is wear and tear or actual damage. The problem is that some renters want to apply their own standards of wear and tear on their personal cars to rental cars. As the owner of the vehicle, the rental company gets to set these standards. Some renters have a very broad definition of wear and tear. In an article last week where the grill fell off a rental car, some people were claiming THAT was wear and tear.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Actually, I’m not making any leap of the kind. You can put words in my mouth all you want but it doesn’t make your argument more intelligible. I posted an example of one company (Enterprise) which writes into its contracts that the Renter agrees the car is in good condition when received, unless other documentation submitted states otherwise. BTW, I also looked at the Master Rental Agreement I have on file with National for Emerald Club rentals and it says the same. I’m doubting that the OP signed no statement saying the car was damage free. She may not have signed the pre-inpection report, which is exactly my point: many rental agreements state in absence of such a report, the car is to be assumed received in good condition.

  • mszabo

    Seems like a lot of room for discussion with the term “good condition”. I consider my car in good condition, but I can certainly point out a door ding, a paint scratch, and sometimes the locking gas cover sticks a bit. But it runs just fine, and still looks good. I wouldn’t qualify it as “exceptional” but “good” or even “very good” seem reasonable.

    Heck the biggest problem with my car, the rear windshield wiper doesn’t work (I screwed up and turned it on when I had a bike rack attached), but you’d never figure that one out on a pre-inspection.

  • Justin

    I cannot pick and choose contractual clauses, but courts will refuse to uphold unreasonable standards. Notice how quickly Advantage backed down. The last thing rental companies desire is a challenge to their cash cow. Customers willing to raise issue are bound to fight all the way to court. If a ruling is made even a , then these tactics may no longer persist

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Yes, COURTS (not customers) can refuse to uphold unreasonable standards. Show me a court case where the courts have ruled that holding a renter responsible for roof damage is unreasonable. I’ll do one further…most people on here, yourself included, believe that rental companies should never be allowed to charge loss of use. However, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against State Farm, stating that rental companies have every right to charge Loss of Use. Yet people still argue against that.

    With regards to how Advantage backed down, we unfortunately live in a society where if a consumer throws a big enough temper tantrum, more often than not they can get their way. It’s like all the people who cheap out and buy non-refundable plane tickets but don’t want to buy travel insurance. The T&C on the plane ticket are black and white, but by making enough noise and convincing everyone they deserve special treatment, they can often get a refund. So I’m not buying the argument, “Advantage backed down because the claim was BS.”

  • Lindabator

    I think they only backed down because they are in bankruptcy

  • Lindabator

    Now Carver, you KNOW they’ll have it in there under CYA! :)

  • Lindabator

    Can add “various small dents and scratches on driver’s door” or “small dents on left back side panel” – Just a good way to CYA

  • Lindabator

    A little more – like “small dents and dings on rear left panel” usually covers you. :)

  • Thoroughlyamused

    And you know this how? Because the renter said it didn’t happen? I’m not going to bother typing out such simple logic again and again, so see my response to Leeanne.

  • Travelnut

    I stayed at a Hilton in New Orleans in October. They had a kiosk whose sole purpose was to print boarding passes (free). Touch the icon for your airline, follow the instructions for locating your pass, print and go. I thought that was a nice touch.

  • y_p_w

    Several off-airport locations in Las Vegas actually have the official McCcarran Airport self check-in/boarding pass printing terminals. These are identical to the ones at the airport itself. They’re at the consolidated rental car center, the Las Vegas Convention Center, and a few hotels on the Strip.

    However, participation seems to be voluntary. Every airline is available, but Spirit apparently treats using those kiosks the same as if you went to their counter. They charge $10 per boarding pass. I noted that once I selected Spirit that it requested a credit card swipe first. The only way around it is to get on the internet and print from their webpage.

  • Lina @ Divergent Travelers

    This has never happened to me personally- but I know several people who have been screwed by car companies. It goes without saying, examine your car, take photos if necessary and keep a detailed list of what they say was existing damage.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    If you stayed at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, I seriously hope you stopped in at Drago’s for charbroiled oysters. One of the top 5 pieces of food in NOLA-seriously.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree that the standard of one’s personal vehicle is inappropriate for any number of reasons. But the car rental company doesn’t get carte blanche license either. They are still bound by terms of reasonableness. Particularly if those standards are not immediately disclosed to the renter.

    Consider, certain damage accumulates over time, e.g. paint fades, metal fatigues, rust accumulates. The car rental company cannot charge that to the renter. Mechanical problems not due to the renter’s negligence, e.g. the oil wasn’t changed, shouldn’t be the renter’s problem. (Of course, the renter shouldn’t drive once the oil light comes on).

    The question becomes, where is the line to be drawn?

    Personally, I draw the line at unavoidable “damage” which occurs simply from driving a car. For example, there are pebbles on the road. They will hit cars. It impossible to avoid. Can’t be helped. This should be wear and tear and the cost spread out among all renters.

    I also do not believe that if the average person needs to get on their hands and knees, needs to step on something, or requires any other assistive type device, that the car rental company can the usual prima facie case that the damage occurred while in the renter’s possession. Large SUVs, Passenger Vans, etc.

    Accordingly, I only rent from major companies who’s policies are in line with what I perceive to be fair. After dealing with El Cheapo #1 and El Cheapo #2, I said never again.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’d be interested to get a sense on how prevalent this really is. I suspect not at all at the corporate owned majors. Indepedents? Who knows.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I once has another lazy gate agent. He marked everything as damaged. Worked for me ;-)

  • Justin

    I assume some paperwork was signed. Only the Op knows what the paperwork states precisely.

    Let’s assume the default is No Damage. I still believe if taken to court, a judge will question why an inspection is lacking. Also, records pertainging to the vehicle’s history will come into play.

    I’m going to take a wild guess Advantage dropped the claim full well knowing they’d walk out losing. Rental companies don’t mind pulling a ruse, but don’t want their actions questioned through oversight. People willing to kick and scream make poor targets.

  • Justin

    I disagree. Companies resort to turning over deliquent accounts to collection agencies or taking legal action. If a case has merit, companies pursue recovery. The fact Advantage backed down leads me to believe a court wouldn’t rule in their favor.

    Looking at the roof is an unreasonable expectation. I bet Carver (lawyer) agrees. Asking people to look under the car and on the roof makes the rentee an over achiever.

    Rental companies DO NOT want cases to enter a court room where their underhanded practices are open to legislative scruinty. All the easier to swindle people out of money that don’t put up a fight. Yes, some bad behaving individuals work the system. The actions of a few customers don’t overshadow the totality of the scams pulled by rental agencies.

  • davidglass

    Confusing issue.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    “The actions of a few customers don’t overshadow the totality of the scams pulled by rental agencies.”

    You are entitled to your opinion, and as you might have guessed mine is different. On the few days when we were short staffed and I worked returns, I saw customers spray paint, tape bumpers, use krazy glue, place large roller bags in front of (do you really think I’m that dumb), damage. When questioned, they would more often than not become rude, belligerent, and demeaning, sometimes screaming to the point where the police would have to be called. It’s just as much a scam when customers have damage happen on their watch and then lie or try to conceal that fact so they don’t have to take responsibility. And believe me, customers do it ALL. THE. TIME. It’s one of the main reasons I left the industry. I’ve worked in lots of customer service jobs and I was never treated so poorly by customers.

    Everyone has their own biases. I truly believe that customers try to get out of legitimate damage claims far more often than rental companies pursue illegitimate ones.

  • pauletteb

    Are you upchecking your own posts?