A rental car bill I don’t think I deserve

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.

About an hour outside of Las Vegas there was a scraping noise and I heard something drop off the car. Assuming (correctly) that it was the plastic grill, I drove back to retrieve the piece. The next day I called the Reno Alamo location to tell them this piece had fallen off the car.

I explained that until we drove from Reno to Las Vegas the car had been in the hotel garage, that I was the only driver and there were no accidents to account for any damage. The Alamo representative said there was nothing she could do other than to tell us we were responsible for any damage to the vehicle.

It was obvious that a previous driver had damaged the vehicle and managed to hide that damage. When I pulled into the drop-off lane at Alamo, a representative with his handheld computer loudly asked what we had done to scratch the car up so badly. At that my husband and I got out of the car to ask him to show us what he was yelling about.

He pointed to some swirls in the paint finish that looked like car wash wear. We weren’t even aware of any scratches so we were quite shocked. Then he wrote up an “Express Incident Report” in which we reported the damage.

Now Alamo wants to charge me $669 for the damage. My credit card covered the $250 deductible, but my insurance company won’t cover the rest, saying that I shouldn’t have signed the incident report. How can I reverse this decision? — Mary Okincicas, Chicago

Answer: This isn’t an easy problem to fix because you signed a form acknowledging your responsibility when you returned the vehicle.

Of course, there were a few things you could have done to prevent this from happening. A pre-rental inspection is always a good idea. Take pictures of the car from every angle and also inside, and if there’s any damage, fill out a pre-rental report before you leave the lot. Make sure you get an employee to sign off on the form, and keep the paperwork in a safe place in case you need to refer to it later.

Had you done any of those things, then you wouldn’t be faced with a $669 bill for random scratches and a loose grill.
By the way, you can appeal a bill by sending a brief, polite email to one of Alamo’s executives.

Just for the record: The terms of your rental are clear. If you take the keys, you accept responsibility for the vehicle. But as it turns out, Alamo had the same problem you did — iffy paperwork. When it sent you the bill, the photocopied pictures of the damaged vehicle didn’t appear to be the one you rented. I thought that was enough reason to ask Alamo to give your case another review, just to make sure it had the right claim.

Alamo offered to zero out the remaining balance on your bill, an offer you accepted.

Did Mary Okincicas deserve to get the bill for damage to her car?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

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 chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus

  • Cybrsk8r

    Alamo. What a shock. But I’m confused by this: “Now Alamo wants to charge me $669 for the damage, saying it was pre-existing.” Wouldn’t “pre-existing” mean that the damge was there before she took possesion of the car? Is Alamo now finally admitting it tries to charge customers for pre-existing damage?

  • $16635417

    Why does just Alamo surprise you? Hertz, Avis, National and all the others…they all have had cases exposed by Chris.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Yeah, that’s confusing. I’m going to edit the letter to clarify.

  • sdir

    Whether or not she signed the report, why is her own insurer refusing to cover the difference? Is it because she has only basic coverage or is there some other reason? And if the whirls in the paint aren’t really scratches and are very minor, how will taking a picture help? Any photos I’ve taken of a rental will barely show small scratches, let alone faint scuffs or tiny dents that take a certain angle and lighting to see.

  • Justin

    Alamo made out nicely, seeing a payment of $250 dollars was received. Even with Mr. Elliot’s help, Alamo managed to bamboozle someone out of money, be it the credit card company.

    Whenever I rent a car, I meticulously take 360 degree pictures. I had an pre inspection agent tell me during a rental not to worry about minute blemishes and dings. I replied, let me worry and you notate.

    Moral of the story, the rental industry is comparative to a used car salesman. If steps aren’t taken to protect oneself, be prepared to face scams.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Ugh. I want to find the convention where all these scam artists go to learn how to trump up fake damage and blow it up with a rocket launcher

    (Note: the above is hyperbole. I do not actually own a rocket launcher)

  • BillCCC

    I just wanted to vote yes without the caveat but I could not. We are all aware that rental companies will sometimes take liberties with damage claims but there are also customers that damage rental cars and then do not want to take responsibility.

    My vote is Yes but I am glad that you were able to assist.

  • Charles

    The real takeaway from this case is to not sign anything acknowledging responsibility. Whenever you have an incident that may result in an insurance claim, they tell you not to admit responsibility, even if it is your fault, and not to sign anything not from the police or the insurance company. I would not have thought of that had I had some damage to a rental car and been asked to sign an acknowledgement of the damage, but now I will know not to sign anything they have where they claim there is any damage. Learned something potentially valuable today!

  • tomjuno

    It’s getting so you’d be wise to travel with a team of contract lawyers to rent a car nowadays. I’ve become increasingly wary of renting cars, and try to avoid doing so if I can, even if it means relying on public transport (which is no fun in places like Las Vegas when you want to get away from The Strip). Like Charles, I’ve learned NEVER to sign anything when I bring a rental car back. And if I’m ever unfairly accused of causing damage, I’ll simply ask the rental company to prove it – to my lawyer’s satisfaction.

  • emanon256

    This is a tough one for me. If the grill wasn’t damaged when she rented the car, but three days later appeared damaged, and then fell off on her road trip, I would believe the damage happened under her watch and she should be responsible for the grill. I don’t know how one would hide a fallen off grill as she claims. I was driving to Vegas once and some road debris flew up and took out my grill, it looked like tumble weed and I didn’t think anything of it hitting the car. When I stopped, the grill was hanging by a thread and there was a nice swirl in the paint from the tumble weed.

    It sounds like Alamo were just interested in the swirl on the paint, which the OP said is normal car wash wear. I honesty don’t know what she is talking about. I tend to keep my cars at least 10 years, and wash them regularly, and have never seen a swirl of any kind appear without cause, let alone “Car Wash wear”.

    However, the fact that Alamo doesn’t seem to even be mentioning the grill, and the fact that the Alamo gave her pictures of the wrong car, makes me think Alamo screwed up and should probably let her off the hook as a cost of doing business since they didn’t seem to keep appropriate records. However, I am leaning towards yes, thought I don’t think Chris had no business helping her.

  • Jim Zakany

    Having a plastic grill fall off a car may not be any renter’s fault. It’s more likely just a shoddy design and/or improper manufacturing.

  • MarkKelling

    Yeah, her statement that the car was in the parking garage for 2 days, but then when they drove back to Vegas “several days later” the grill was damaged bothers me. So where did they drive the vehicle the days between the 2 it was parked and the several days later when they drove back to return it? And just because it was parked in the garage at the hotel doesn’t mean no one backed into it or damaged it in other ways.

  • MarkKelling

    True, but if it happens when you are the registered renter you pay to have it replaced.

  • MarkKelling

    So they missed (possibly) charging the previous renter for damage and now want to stick it to the current renter because it is convenient? Wow.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Sorry, but the OP is trying to find any way she can to not take responsibility for damage that happened while she had the car. I actually believe the damage happened while the OP wasn’t in the vehicle, but that doesn’t make her any less responsible, no matter how much she whines to a consumer advocate. Let’s review the facts:

    -OP did walkaround and made no mention of any pre-existing damage
    -OP freely admits there was damage on the car a few days later
    -Upon return of vehicle, a return agent promptly pointed out the damage

    All other parts of the story (the car was in the garage, a previous renter managed to hide it) are irrelevant and are an attempt to wriggle out of paying for damage which happened while the OP rented the car. Was the OP with the vehicle 100% of the time when it was in the garage? Was the OP present and did she inspect the car when the previous renter returned it? Of course not.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I read the article again and no where does anyone claim that the damage is pre existing. The OP does manage to concoct a theory that the previous renter caused the damage and then hid it (even though this is inconsistent with the OP’s statement that she found no damage on the initial walkaround), which to me is nothing more than a sad attempt to get out of being held responsible for damage which happened while the car was in her care.

    No one likes being held responsible for rental car damage, but when you decline CDW, you are taking a calculated risk that if something happens, you agree to pay for it, even if it wasn’t your fault. It doesn’t surprise me that the OP is stooping to such low levels in an attempt to not be held responsible for something she legally agreed to.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Alamo has every right to hold renters responsible for what they agreed to in the rental agreement. Having worked in the rental car industry, I can say with confidence that just because a renter says the damage didn’t happen on their watch does not make it so.

  • polexia_rogue

    long story short- take the car rental location’s insurance.

    Hertz, Alamo, enterprise, etc- after many instances of getting shafted for tiny dents i came to realize- IF YOU TAKE THEIR INSURANCE THEY WILL BE NICE TO YOU.

    as one rep said (as he was taking me to my rental car location) “oh, you have our insurance! you can bring the car back in pieces and not pay a cent.”

    then one day it actually was worth it, when i hit a dear. I totaled the car. But when i called they said “that’s fine. we’ll send a tow truck with a new car for you.- all for free.”

    you can be a perfect driver, BUT what if you hit a pebble on the road? that will leave a dent. what if you park in a parking lot and a someone keys your car?- not your fault at all, but you will have to pay. (both of which happened to me)- get their insurance and you can enjoy your trip in peace.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Here’s a radical solution: don’t rent a car if possible.

    My wife and I went to Pompano Beach last spring. Rental car prices were high ($50 a day). I asked myself whether we needed to spend $350 for a car we’d use maybe a few times to go to the hotel and shopping. So I googled public transportation.

    The bus took about an hour and a half from the airport to the hotel (driving would be about 45 minutes) BUT we also didn’t have to drop off the car which saved us time. No trips to the gas station either. Total cost back and forth from the airport was $12.00. We spent about twice that on various trips to the grocery store and got some good exercise. It was weird though that we were the only people at the resort using the bus but when others griped about the cost of the ride-sharing shuttle, they loved the bus and used it as well.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I’m sure our resident attorney can weigh on this, but mechanical issues shouldn’t be the renter’s fault since they cannot be determined reasonably from a pre-rental inspection. It’s like demanding renters pay for damage from a bad oil filter.

  • omgstfualready

    Ah, well, perhaps, however I’m not a huge fan of being blackmailed (essentially) to use their insurance over my own which is equally capable of meeting my needs.

  • omgstfualready

    I don’t want to agree because of how much of a mess renting a car has become in under 10 years. But, I do agree. If someone was to use my car and took it after it seemed fine and brought it back without a grill I know I’d hold them responsible too.

  • omgstfualready

    Is a grill mechanical?

  • Cybrsk8r

    I saw someone on here make a great suggestion, once. If the agent doesn’t want to do a walk around (and why would they if they plan on scamming you) then you note any damage on the rental agreement yourself and take it back inside and tell the agent you won’t accept the car unless he counter-signs it.

  • Cybrsk8r

    That’s because you read the corrected article. See Chris’ comment above. Don’t jump to conclusions.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Why do I think you still work there?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Agreed. If Alamo can’t keep their cases straight, I think she probably deserves to be let off free.

    But her story does a great job of illustrating why nobody ever wants to own a used rental car. They see the grill ready to fall off and…just wait until it does fall off!

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I see your point, but I guess I mean that if the grill is held onto place with screws and the screws came loose, that’s mechanical. Proving it becomes an issue, of course, when the grill comes off and obfuscates other damage.

    I dinged a rental cars doors once. My fault. I quietly paid a small amount and got it fixed. No harm no foul. In the case of the grill, the woman should have notified the rental agency immediately that it was coming loose and gotten a name.

  • emanon256

    I am so scared of buying used rental cars, I stay away from them like the plague.

    I remember my first car, it was an old junker. It had a plastic grill that was cracked when I got it. Eventually it got loose, so I removed it and put it in the trunk. Can you imagine if that had fallen off on the highway and not only scratched up my car, but potentially flew up and hit someone in the windshield? Very scary that the OP left it alone. It could have been a lot worse.

  • tomjuno

    Allow me to dispute one of your points: namely, that it’s your fault if you hit a pebble on the road – which causes a ding to the car body. I would argue that it’s normal wear and tear on our roads nowadays. Just as sustaining a flat tire is normal wear and tear. Such problems should be folded into the car rental company’s cost of doing business. As it used to be. But the past few years, not so much – such niggling problems have become a profit centre, along with the so-called loss-of-use. If some car rental outfit tried foisting such charges upon me, it’d have a fight on its hands.

  • Mark Carrara

    I agree. We drive on vacations so we avoid both airlines/TSA and rental cars. In the end we calculated it saved us money. Of course on our trip next summer to Hawaii driving there might not be the best idea.

  • emanon256

    If the car was sitting in the rental lot would a pebble on the road have caused a ding? If it was sitting in the rental lot, would a road hazard have popped the tire?

    Also, if you were driving your own car and a pebble dinged it, and/or a road hazard caused a flat tire, who would have to pay for it then?

    Don’t get me wrong, I hate the rental companies and think they are trying to rip people off. But I fail to see how damage that occurs to the car while it is being used by a renter is not the renters responsibility. Ill give you hail damage, if the rental lot is out doors. But otherwise, its the road the driver took that caused the damage, and that is the drivers responsibility.

  • Jason Hanna

    The grill fell off. How is that ‘fake damage’?

    The saving grace for the customer here is that the rental company sent documentation for the wrong vehicle. Otherwise.. They would and likely should be on the hook for that damage. If it was ‘obvious’ that the damage was done by the previous renter, then it should have been ‘obvious’ when they rented the car and they should have noted it.

    However.. If the rental company can’t provide accurate documentation, they shouldn’t be sending a bill.

  • Jason Hanna

    A tire doesn’t go flat during normal usage. I’m much more apt to agree with you on the pebble on the road thing, but not on a tire. BUT.. If you take responsibility for the car.. You’re responsible for the nails on the road and the pebbles that might hit it.

    Technically.. If you rented a car and a plane fell out of the sky and crushed it.. That’s not your fault, either.. But, you’re responsible for the car.

    The weird part here.. If you had rented a car and parked in the garage of WTC1 on 9/11/01.. Not only would you be responsible for the loss of the car, but your insurance likely wouldn’t cover you, because most policies have an exclusion for terrorist attacks/acts of war. Though.. I think those are pretty loose exclusions. Any insurance company that pulled that exclusion would probably be worse off from a PR perspective than any loss they might have paid.

    huh.. Re-read that.. Sounds bad.. Let’s phrase that as “not only would you be responsible for the cost of replacing the car.. ” You can be fiscally responsible for something while not being responsible for the cause of the loss.

    Where it REALLY could get weird.. Let’s say that an engine on a rental blows due to oil starvation (You run it without oil).. The oil loss was caused by the drain plug not being there. Now.. Drain plug was there when it left the rental lot.. Did it fall out because the shop didn’t put it back on good? Did it fall off because you ran over a parking lot hump? Does it matter? Because a fair argument could be made that if you drove the vehicle with the engine light on/low oil pressure light on/overheating… Then you are not responsible for the condition that caused oil starvation, but you are responsible for the damage it caused.

  • MarkKelling

    Yep, that thing called the Pacific Ocean makes it kinda difficult to drive to Hawaii. ;-)

    Depending on where you go in Hawaii, you might be able to get away without a rental car. I took the bus around Honolulu last time I went. You can get anywhere on Oahu on the bus for only $2.50 each way. This year I am going to Maui and will be staying in a condo which is walking distance to everywhere I want to be (once I get there from the airport, of course) so no rental car there either. I might rent a car for a single day if I get the itch to sight see, but probably will take tours where they pick you up and drop you off at the hotel if I want to get out and about.

    Of course if you want to get around on your schedule or see sights that are out of the way and are not part of the offered tours, a rental car becomes necessary.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I have no idea, as I’m not a mindreader. Is it because I don’t take the position of, “If the customer says it didn’t happen, I 100% believe them despite all evidence to the contrary, and any attempt by the rental company to collect for damage is a scam!”?

    Sorry to be blunt, but after years of working in the industry, I have noticed that customer lie. All. The. Time. They lie about damage, they invent fairytales to get lower rates, and they fill up at Costco where gas is $0.10 cheaper 50 miles away from the airport than try to argue when the gas tank isn’t quite full. It’s the main reason I left the industry. Customers lie and treat you like crap, management berates you for not selling enough CDW, and work days are 10+ hours. No fun.

  • Justin

    Rental Car companies are oft deceptive, too. My mom drove a rental car from Enterprise straight home and parked it into her driveway. Nothing more for the day. She started the car up the next morning, drove to the end of the block, and the transmission blew.

    Enterprise, being the “upstanding company” accused my mother of being the culprit and proceeded to file a 2500 claim against her.

    I’ll venture on the customer’s side 9 out of 10 times when it comes to repair damages. The lady acknowledging damage and signing the form was a POOR DECISION. Never sign a paper unless you want to be on the hook.
    However, I’d bet ample amounts of money that either the prior customer or Alamo tacked on the grill, hoping the next sucker gets stuck with the bill. Bingo. Cue the customer shocked at it falling off on the highway.

    Luckily, I’m not a fool and nor is my mother. I wrote the CEO of Enterprise and after using some common sense, the company apologized and wiped away her claim.

  • Justin

    Your post is why I photograph a car from every angle. If you can’t see it in the picture, than it can’t be claimed later on by the company. Pictures are worth a thousand words and one NEVER signs any papers if not at fault. Even if at fault, never sign, unless you’re prepared to accept full responsibility without negotiating powers.

    Maybe her insurance didn’t have a rider for rental cars or is liability only with exclusionary clauses?

  • Alan Gore

    Aaaah, Alamo, the “At least we’re not Dollar” car rental company.

  • tomjuno

    You’re quite right. A tire doesn’t ordinarily go flat under normal use – if the tire is in good shape to begin with. I’d say the rental company should have to prove the tire was fit for the road – show us its records, which it’s invariably reluctant to do. Otherwise, the decision goes to the renter. Just because the rental company gets to write the rental contract, and the renter signs it because he/she doesn’t have the hour it takes to digest its lawyerly phrases, doesn’t mean the renter is bound by each and every word. There’s such a thing as reasonableness, and courts will often side with what’s reasonable under the circumstances – despite what the one-sided contract says.

    Ah, the good old days. Just five or so years ago, I sustained a flat in an Alamo rental in Las Vegas – I suspect construction materials sloppily strewn across the roadway during the city’s construction boom at the time. Alamo arrived immediately with a replacement vehicle. It recognized that such things happen in the normal course of events. I’m doubtful if such a reasonable remedy would occur nowadays. It’s up to the renter, if he/she has a reasonable case, to press the matter.

  • Helio

    I check my tires at least once a month, and usually I need to fill 2 or 3 psi each time.

  • Jason Hanna

    A tire would have to be in such poor shape to have a blowout, which I assume we’re talking about here, that the car would probably be returned before it blew out because it would be driving so poorly. Excepting tire manufacturing defects of course, which are actually quite rare.

    Now.. Do I agree that a tire should probably fall into the ‘cost of doing business’ category? Yes, in most cases. A sliced sidewall of a tire doesn’t ‘just happen’ or come about from road debris. Hitting a curb is the normal cause. Should ‘normal’ road damage, such as picking up a nail be charged to the customer? I don’t really think so, but, at the end of the day, is the renter responsible for it? Yes.

    I had an experience like you did 8 or 9 years ago.. Somewhere in the US is all I can recall as I was traveling all over the country for work.. But, I came out of the hotel in the AM, flat left front. Unlike your situation.. I put the spare on, which from what I hear couldn’t happen today, either, and called them up and asked what they wanted me to do.. They wanted me to bring it back to the rental location and trade it out.. I was working about 40 miles from the airport location where I rented it.. Told them I’d take it across the street and see if the tire could be patched.. It could, cost me $5 or $10 or so.. They were happy, I was happy.. Now.. had I NOT done that, might I have gotten charged $100 for a new tire? Perhaps.. and, rightly, i’d have been pissed, because there was no need to replace the tire. But.. When all is said and done, I was responsible for it.

  • Jim Zakany

    Yes. It is a cosmetic item held in place by mechanical means.

  • Jim Zakany

    I would disagree that I would (or even could) be held responsible for malfunctioning rental equipment.

    I’ve had rental cars break down on me and was not held liable for their repairs. Having the car literally fall apart on you isn’t different.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Agree with you that the whole industry is a mess. It needs to change somehow. Unless you want to pay sky high prices and rent from a company that has an expedited rental process, you have to deal with pushy employees who are vastly underpaid and who depend on selling a product many consider unnecessary to make a decent living.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    It is true that MECHANICAL issues are not the fault of the renter. I fail to see how a grill falling off is a mechanical issue. It seems more likely that:

    A. Someone hit the rental while it was parked, causing the grill to become dislodged
    B. OP is lying and hit something herself and doesn’t want to pay for it

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Sorry about your mom’s experience. If it really happened the way you described, that’s totally unacceptable. All I have to go off of are my own personal experiences. In that, I saw people tape bumpers, spray paint, place large roller bags in front of, and do shoddy home jobs. I can honestly say I never saw a situation where we deliberately rented a damaged car to someone to get them or their insurance to pay up. There was an article on here not too long ago where a customer claimed that Budget owed him a discount when in fact the return agent accidentally keyed in a discount which he was not entitled too, which to me is no different than a bank teller giving you too much money in error. That didn’t stop this particular customer from lying to Budget and then writing/lying to Chris saying Budget was scamming him so he could save $100 on his rental. And yet, after Budget realized their mistake, many posters (some of whom have also posted on this thread) commented that Budget had no right to the money, even though the customer had obviously lied and deceived to get the discount.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    OK, thnx for clearing that up. It’s good to know you reached your conclusion based on an error in the original article. Maybe you should try following your own advice?

  • Cybrsk8r

    And exactly how did I do that, oh wise one? I ask a question when something doesn’t make sense. Apparently, something you never learned to do.

  • Justin

    Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but what I wrote was a verbatim account of the agony my mother endured. When Enterprise tried scamming my mother out of 2500 dollars, she was livid. Luckily, I’m tech savvy enough to find all the corporate emails and lobbed off a letter to every executive at the company. One took the time to listen and after a brief investigation, determined the claim was bogus. We didn’t get much of an apology, but the action was dropped. Right or wrong, she was happy to have the situation let go.

    So yes, horror stories happen. I assure you the short trip from rental car lot, to driveway, to started up and transmission blowing was less than 10 miles. Unless my 60+ year old mother drives like a manic, one can surmise the maintenance on the car was less than desirable.

    Long story short, I’m sure the tides go both ways. I’ll be damned though when I rent a car, if 360 degree pictures aren’t taken. I make the agent write down the smallest dings, chips, scratches, flaws, and blemishes to their ire. I figure better to be over meticulous than return the car and find out I get blamed for someone else’s carelessness.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Haha, you know someone’s argument is crap when they have to resort to petty name calling.

    It’s obvious from your initial posting (“Alamo, what a shock”) & (“Is Alamo now finally admitting…”) that you believed from the start that Alamo was trying to pull a damage scam. It seems like your position on the topic is that rental car companies should never be allowed to charge for damage, no matter what the circumstance. That will never happen.

    My suggestion to you would be to stop renting cars completely. Take buses and taxis. Rental car agents already have to deal with difficult, entitled people all day long who show little or no gratitude. Dealing with one less of them would be a good thing all around.

  • Nathan Witt

    What if the rental car companies offered their “insurance” at a reasonable price? I think a lot of this kind of stuff has to do with what they try to charge for it. A couple of years ago, I rented a car in NYC, and the agent offered the CDW/LDW for $9 per day. At first I thought I heard wrong, so I asked again, to be sure. He said the coverage is defined and priced by state law. I took it, because $9/day is (to me) a fair price for the peace of mind the coverage brings, even though I’ve never damaged a rental car. But other places, the coverage seems to be somewhere between $25-$40/day, which seems like a little too much for the risk the company’s actually taking. Do any industry insiders know why it’s generally so expensive?

  • Thoroughlyamused

    There’s a couple reasons why it is admittedly very pricey. First of all, rental companies are businesses that make profits. Therefore, they have to price the CDW high enough to cover damages to rentals for those who do buy it, while still managing to make a profit at the same time. Keep in mind that in most cases, at least in the United States, when you buy CDW, the rental company waives their right to charge you for damage, in most situations up to a total loss of the vehicle (and yes, I’ve seen vehicles totaled, both with renters who did and did not have CDW). Being able to completely walk away from a damaged rental is not quite the same as filing a claim with your insurance company, paying your deductible, filing another claim with your credit card company, getting the 12 different documents needed for CC claims, finding out they don’t cover admin fees, loss of use, etc. Yes, you may eventually get the money back, but consider all the lost time and effort, not to mention paying the stuff they don’t cover and possible increases in your insurance premiums.

    Yes, there are credit cards that claim to cover everything on a primary basis, but not everyone has access to these and all credit cards have exclusions. Very few credit cards cover pickup trucks, for example, and no credit cards cover passenger or cargo vans (minivans are generally covered).

  • Nathan Witt

    ‘m not saying rental companies shouldn’t make profits. I’m saying that when the way you do that is through overpriced add-ons and fees, you shouldn’t be surprised when your customers are angry about it. Just for grins, I priced a compact car through Hertz at DFW for one weekend day (for next weekend) as an illustration: Rental: $17.49. Taxes & Fees: $21.42. LDW: $28.99. Total: $69.70. Never mind that the LDW charge is MORE than the rental fee – when the cost jumps from the $17.49 you planned to spend per day to almost $70, it’s easy to feel screwed.
    Maybe Hertz can’t make any money renting me a Focus for $17.49. I can’t see why not, since Hertz’s fleet appears to be keeping their cars longer than ever, but if they can’t make money at that rate, they shouldn’t offer it. I get that Hertz has no control over some of the taxes and fees, but it appears from the checkout screen that about $12 of it is to recover Hertz’s cost of doing business (title fee, two fees the airport charges Hertz, etc.).
    Prices for LDW may be high to cover damage done by the renters who opt for it, but based upon the condition of the cars I receive as rentals, I’m guessing the companies don’t fix most of the little things that they’d bill customers for. As for amin fees and loss-of-use fees, those sounds suspiciously like fees designed to punish me for not paying $28.99 for the LDW.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    If her insurance didn’t cover rentals or is liability only, all she would have had to do was fax the CC company the Declaration page proving that and then the credit card would become primary. There is some piece of the story we are missing here.

  • whatexit

    acr rental companies are in a cut throat business. These companies are virtually ‘forced’ to add fees and other terms in order to turn a profit.
    I am certain most of us have heard the expression “don’t worry, it’s a rental”…yes in the past, rental cars were abused by some renters. Car rental companies have cracked down on such abuse to the extent that the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme. Nowadays it seems car rental co’s hold renters responsible for things way beyond the control of their customers. Their reasoning for sending out bills for ‘damage’ or ‘loss of use’ is ” Sir/Ma’am, you signed the agreement. You took the car. It’s YOUR fault”..
    Not this trooper. Nope. Before I take possession of a rental car, I insist an agent from the store accompany me while I do a second walk around AND internal inspection of the vehicle. This includes the truck and engine compartment. If there is so much as a dirt spot or stain I require the agent note it on the paperwork. I make note of any scratches dings, dents, chips, etc. Yep, I can be a big pain in the rear, but I don’t take any chances. It takes 10 minutes to inspect the vehicle.
    The loose grille? Yep, I would have caught that and refused the vehicle.

  • whatexit

    CDW’s a a huge ripoff. That’s according to Consumer Reports. In fact CR warns people to not rent vehicles unless their auto insurance covers rentals in the insured person’s possession.

  • whatexit

    Most insurance policies will cover for damage to rental vehicles IF the renter has that type of coverage in their personal auto policy. It may be possible the OP’s insurance did not have such language in the policy.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    If you read what I wrote, I’m not debating the merits of CDW. I was responding directly to Cybersk8r where he claims the damage was pre-existing. Some people, like the OP in the article, seem to think that if you don’t see the damage happen, you aren’t responsible. I was reiterating that if CDW is declined, you agree to pay for anything that happens while the car was in your care, regardless of whether or not it was your fault. By declining CDW, you accept that risk and the consequences that may come along with it. I have a major issue with people who decide to take that risk, something happens, and then concoct ridiculous stories to get out of being responsible.

  • whatexit

    The doom and gloom of you consumer ripoff conspiracy theorists is remarkable..
    Nearly all issues regarding car rental issues vis a vis ‘damage’ are not a big concern if one has rental car coverage as part of the language of their personal auto policy

  • whatexit

    Yes. the general rule of thumb is if a consenting adult of sound mind signs a contract, it is binding. However there are instances where certain terms of the contract can be held ‘unconscionable’. Or “unreasonable”.

  • whatexit

    If a pebble dinged your personal car, it would be covered under the comprehensive portion of your policy.

  • whatexit

    Look, CDW is for people who have basic coverage on their personal vehicles.
    Most people who rent vehicles when traveling usually have the means to buy more comprehensive auto coverage. For people with that type of coverage CDW is unnecessary.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Again, I’m not arguing the merits of CDW. I am simply stating that IF you decline CDW, you take full responsibility for whatever may happen to the car, excluding mechanical breakdowns and minor wear and tear. My issue is with people who decline CDW knowing full well there is risk involved, have something happen, then try to lie about it, like what the OP is doing here. Also, keep in mind that YOU, not your insurance co. or CC company, signed the rental agreement, meaning YOU are ultimately responsible if something happens to the car. When I had to go to the ER for pleurisy, my health insurance only covered a portion of the bill. Just because my health insurance didn’t cover it does not make the charges illegitimate, or make me not responsible for them. Same goes for rental cars.

  • Mel65

    I have to say, I don’t get it. As a gov. contractor, I travel a lot. I’ve rented cars in Reno, St.Louis, Honolulu, Dallas, DC,Las Vegas and Boston all multiple times (disclaimer:usually with my corporate membership which may or may not change things). But even when I travel for pleasure, it’s been the same.. I’ve never had anyone hard sell me, after a couple of polite “no thanks I’m covered” and I’ve never been dinged for any mysterious damage–or any damage at all. I turn the car in, get a receipt and a “good to go” and that’s the end of it. I have to wonder at some of the stories I read here–they seem awfully … I dunno….dramatic: belligerent returns people yelling at them, pushy counter agents snidely assuring them they BETTER take the insurance OR ELSE, poor innocent victimized renters who did nothing wrong and only drove on Sunday…to Church… Yes, I’m sure there are some rental operations that do maybe take advantage, but I have to believe that the majority are not. Based upon my own anecdotal experience of course. Maybe I’m just lucky….But I do believe that the OP is 100% responsible here and that Chris should have said, “you’re a grown up; take responsbility for what happens under your watch” and saved his advocacy for someone more legitimately a victim.