Alamo bills renter $1,963 for an undamaged car

By | November 12th, 2016

Elias Asch rents a car from Alamo for one night and returns it the next day undamaged. Then he receives a bill for $1,963. Can we help him get Alamo to drop the claim?

Question: We rented a car from Alamo for exactly one night. We returned it the next morning completely free of any damage. Nothing was noted, and the attendant said nothing to us.

We later got a short letter stating we had a claim from the “Damage Recovery Unit.” The letter asked us for our insurance and credit card information, but it did not list an amount for the bill or what damage had occurred. It did contain an email contact which seemed a little shady, so we guessed (hoped) it was a scam — perhaps the Alamo database was hacked or something.

I still think it is a scam, but an Alamo-approved scam. Today we received a similar letter, but this time there was a bill from a repair shop and loss of use totaling $1,963. Then we were sent pictures of scratches on a minivan of the same kind we rented. The pictures were not clear, and in most of them, we weren’t even really sure what we were looking at. The car was also not in the covered parking lot that we dropped it off in.

I’m just sick — I don’t know what these pictures are of! Did subsequent damage occur after it was out of our possession? Is it even the same car we rented? The repair bill is vague and confusing and very long. All we know for certain is there was zero damage when we returned the car.

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Alamo has continued to bill me and threaten me with “final notice” letters indicating that they will sue me if I don’t pay for the damage.

Can you help us get Alamo to drop this fraudulent claim? — Elias Asch, Sacramento, Calif.

Answer: Your experience is sadly common. Because car rental agencies have found that charging for damages can be very profitable, sometimes even more so than base car rental fees, many renters such as you have found themselves receiving letters from “Damage Recovery Units” or other organizations that help the agencies collect whatever revenues they can from their customers by billing them for vague, often nonexistent damage claims.

Alamo’s website answers your question:

Am I responsible for the condition of the rental vehicle?
Vehicle Condition:

  • Unless limited by state law, Alamo holds the renter responsible for damage to, loss or theft of, the vehicle including any part of optional accessory regardless of fault or negligence.
  • Renter shall pay the amount necessary to repair the vehicle. …
  • Unless prohibited by law, the renter is also responsible for other costs including but not limited to; loss of use, administrative fees, diminishment of value, towing, storage and/or impound fees and other costs to recover the vehicle and establish damages.

Unfortunately for car renters such as yourself, Alamo is using this provision to bill you for whatever it can get away with if you can’t prove that the damage was pre-existing or not caused by you.

The best way to fight these claims is to carefully photograph the car, both when you receive it and when you return it, in order to have documented proof of the car’s condition at all times while the car is in your possession — including any pre-existing damage as well as any normal wear and tear, which you should not be billed for.

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You brought your case to our forum, where our advocates gave you resources and suggestions for how to fight this claim, including letters to write to Alamo in which you requested copies of documentation and photos on which Alamo was basing its claim. You might also have utilized our company contacts for Alamo to appeal your case to Alamo executives.

An Alamo agent finally responded to your letters, advising you that Alamo will tell the Damage Recovery Unit to drop its claim against you.

Are car rental charges like Elias Asch's a scam?

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