RENTAL

A rental car bill I don’t think I deserve

Zhu/Shutterstock
Zhu/Shutterstock
After a grill falls off her rental car, Alamo sends her a bill for $669. Does she have to pay?

Question: I’m hoping you can give me some advice about a damage claim that my car rental company states I am financially responsible for. I rented a car from Alamo in Reno, Nev., recently. The paperwork was signed and initialed as the person at the counter indicated. Then I was escorted to the garage where the cars were kept.

My husband walked around the car and didn’t notice any damage. I drove from the airport rental location directly to our hotel in Reno, where the car was parked for two days. Several days later, when we left Reno to drive to Las Vegas, I noticed that the plastic grill on the front of the car was uneven. My husband inspected and found that it was loose but still connected.
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My Hawaii vacation rental is infested with ants – can I get a partial refund?

Irin-K/Shutterstock
Irin-K/Shutterstock
Maybe David and Mary Sue Conner didn’t tell their rental homeowner they were in Oahu for a family vacation of a lifetime. But when you drop $25,000 for a one-month stay in Hawaii, and the whole ohana is there, that probably goes without saying: this is a special event, and everything needs to be perfect.

It wasn’t. The problems ranged from minor, such as a faulty air conditioning unit and a broken dryer on the owner-managed rental, to something many guests would consider a real deal-breaker: insects. Lot’s of ’em.

“We noticed as we were unpacking that there were ant traps throughout the house,” remembers Mary Sue Conner. “We didn’t give it much notice since we were in the tropics and bugs come with the territory. But on the second morning my husband noticed that the window sills in the great room had piles of ant hills across the entire length. It’s almost 30 feet long. We found ants everywhere.”
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A shabby vacation rental and a missing refund

Ed/Shutterstock
Ed/Shutterstock
When Carol Swartz tries to check in to a condo in New Hampshire, she finds the unit in a state of disrepair. Now the site through which she booked the rental is refusing a refund, despite a written guarantee. Can it do that?

Question: We just had a frustrating experience with HomeAway and I need your help. I recently rented a condo in Laconia, New Hampshire, that we found through the site. It was advertised as a “luxury” condo, and we paid a total of $1,886, which included $49 for HomeAway’s “Carefree Guarantee Rental” program.

When we arrived at the condo, we found the exterior was in a sad state of disrepair. We did not even feel safe climbing the stairs to find our unit. The unit was clean but shabby and clearly not luxurious.
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What will your next rental car know about you? Everything

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I had a chance to see the car rental of the future yesterday, and it’s a smart set of wheels.

The preview, which was part of the unveiling of Hertz’ upgraded location at San Diego International Airport, was meant to show off the first of several new facilities designed to bring you a “completely new” car rental experience.

The changes are impressive. Hertz is streamlining the rental process to prevent long wait times for rental vehicles with “virtual” kiosks that videoconference you with a representative in an Oklahoma City call center. It released a new app that send you shuttle wait times and is installing recharging stations and printing facilities for business travelers.
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“What should I have done in this situation?”

Patryk/Shutterstock
Patryk/Shutterstock
The car rental insurance scam is a fairly well-known “gotcha” for international renters, and it’s a trap Doreen Murphy believes she walked right into when she rented a car from Budget in Northern Ireland recently.

Murphy wants my help in sorting out a surprise upcharge from Budget, but I’m not sure if I can — or should — try to unravel this for her.

Northern Ireland has its own pecular car rental insurance requirements, and apparently only one brand of MasterCard coverage meets its strict criteria. In other words, if you’re not renting with a MasterCard, you have to buy extra insurance.
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Help, my car rental company is charging me for a burnt clutch

bumpy roadQuestion: My husband rented a car from Hertz in Madrid last summer. The car broke while he was on his way back to the airport, and he had to abandon it by the side of the road in order to make his flight back to the States.

He informed the Hertz people at the airport what had happened and they told him it was fine and the car would be retrieved. Three weeks later, we received a letter that there was 850 euro charge for a burnt clutch on our credit card. We tried to contact Hertz Spain, both before and after the bill, to ensure the car had been collected and everything was fine but they didn’t answer the phone or respond to emails.
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Can I fix this Avis “fantasy” rental charge?

Marci Scheuer/Shutterstock
Marci Scheuer/Shutterstock
Harry Good recently prepaid for his rental car through a Swiss company called HolidayCars, which makes sense, since Good is an American expatriate who lives in Switzerland.

But what happened next doesn’t make any sense. When he picked up his car from Avis in Phoenix, where he planned to rent it for three months, all seemed well. Then, a few weeks later and without any warning, he found a $6,742 charge, in addition to the $3,711 he’d already paid HolidayCars.

Not good.
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6 best car rental companies of 2013

This year’s race for best car rental company wasn’t even close. Hertz took a commanding lead from the beginning and never let go, crossing the finish line first. (Note: Here’s the latest best car rental company list.)

Readers voted Hertz the agency with the combination of best service and prices. They also lauded it for it conservative approach to damage claims, noting that it pursued only cases where it was certain the damage was caused by a customer.

It was followed by Enterprise, the largest car rental agency, and Avis. National and Alamo, two other brands owned by Enterprise, gave that company a dominant presence in this year’s top 6 list of car rental companies.
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Forced to buy car rental insurance that didn’t cover her

Aleksei Potov/Shutterstock
Aleksei Potov/Shutterstock
From time to time, a case comes across my desk that gets me turned upside-down, because it doesn’t make sense on so many levels. Julie Yu’s dispute with Dollar is one of them.

A few weeks ago, I shared a problem of one reader’s mandatory car rental insurance charge in Mexico. Basically, her vehicle ended up costing a lot more than she thought it would, even though she’d purchased insurance through a third party.

Turns out this happens often. But Yu experienced the same problem — with a dark twist.
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How can you be sure I damaged my rental car?

Haraldmuc/Shutterstock
Haraldmuc/Shutterstock
Question: My husband and I rented a car from Hertz in Munich last summer. The rental process was incredibly time-consuming and after 45 minutes at the rental desk, a five-minute walk to the garage and then another 30-minute wait in the garage, we finally received our vehicle.

It was parked in the travel lane, so we hurried to load our luggage and ourselves into it and get out of the way. We were not offered the opportunity to examine the car. It was also dark in the garage and the car was black.

When we returned the car an attendant took a flashlight and examined the underside of the car bending down so her eyes were about six inches off the ground. She stated that there were “scratches.” She also pointed out a depression near the right side of the back window.
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My rental stopped running and now they want me to pay $6,523!

Ep Photo/Shutterstock
Ep Photo/Shutterstock
Everything seemed fine with the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that Vitor Soares rented from an independent rental company called Super Car Rentals in Aruba. But it wasn’t.

On the second afternoon of his two-day rental, the vehicle broke down.

“We tried to engage the reverse gear to get back to the correct path; the car simply stopped moving,” he remembers. “After that we immediately called Super Car Rentals, and they sent us a third-party towing truck to take care of the car.”

That’s when the trouble really started. The tow truck driver handed him a bill for $400, which he refused to pay, since he hadn’t dispatched the truck, and he considered it to be the car rental company’s responsibility.
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Do I really have to pay for this broken windshield?

1-IMAG0070Accidents happen. Even freak accidents, like the one Jonathan Perkins experienced in his Dollar rental car.

He’d rented a Ford Taurus in San Antonio. It wasn’t in the best shape, with 50,000 miles and a coat of grime on it, but it ran just fine.

“I drove the car two hours west, to a small town called Sonora, and stayed the night in a motel,” he says. “The next morning, I walked out to the car and got in, followed by my mom. As she closed her door, the rear window cracked, and fell into the car.”

The result? Well, see for yourself. The image above was taken right after the incident.
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Oh no, Budget had second thoughts about my discount

Maria Scaldina/Shutterstock
Maria Scaldina/Shutterstock
Question: I’d like to share my recent Budget Car Rental experience with you that has me committed to never doing business with them again.

A couple weeks ago I received a voicemail saying the Budget at the Kansas City airport would be charging me an extra $104 because an “internal audit” found they gave me too much of a discount. My receipt shows the $85 discount, which seemed right since there was an advertised discount.

So, they billed my credit card without my authorization, and then added in all the additional taxes and fees to bring the amount up to $104. I called Budget corporate and the franchise, but nobody would help fix the issue, even though I had a receipt to prove we “agreed” on the lesser amount.
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Would you rent a car from this company?

cancun roadYou don’t have to read this site every day to know that fraudulent car rental damages are a big problem, at least as far as customers are concerned. If you’re a car rental agency, you might call it something different, ranging from “no problem” to “profit center.”

But at least one car rental company says it’s on our side. It’s Bandago, a San Francisco company that specializes in van rentals. After I wrote a story about the problem of fraudulent claims for Auto Rental News, a trade magazine, last year, I got an unexpected call from its CEO, Sharky Laguana.
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