Broadsided by a rental car damage claim


There’s damage to the undercarriage of Jessyka Glatz’s rental car, at least according to Hertz. But is the car in the photo of the rental company sent her the same one she rented? Maybe not.

Question: We recently reserved a car through Hertz in Germany. We understood the terms and for extra protection we bought the collision damage waiver and theft protection.

We picked up our car in Braunschweig, as planned, and we were very pleased with our car and the service. We returned the car in Berlin, as planned, and were somewhat surprised that the employees were rather brusque and unfriendly.

We asked what we should do next and were told to go to the checkout counter downstairs. An employee took the keys and said we were all set. We asked him to inspect the car and sign off on it, but he said that was unnecessary. He assured us Hertz would take care of the rest.

Well, it did – but not like I expected. Two weeks after our return, we received a notice that the car was damaged and that we needed to pay 673 euro. We were shocked.

We returned the car in wonderful condition. I suspect the photos Hertz sent us which document the damage are of another car. Please help us straighten this out.
Jessyka Glatz, Chapel Hill, NC

Answer: Hertz should have inspected your car as requested if you were concerned about the condition of the rental vehicle. If damage had been noted at the time of your return, the company would have asked you to complete an incident report, and there’d be no disagreement on the repair bill.

But when you told me Hertz had said the undercarriage had been damaged, a few red lights started flashing. Hertz trains its employees to inspect under the front bumper, but the damage should have also been obvious to you. I’ve mediated similar cases in which the roof of the car was allegedly damaged without the knowledge of the renter. (Also hard to believe, that one.)

The other problem? None of the photos definitely showed your rental car. The license plate wasn’t visible in any of the images Hertz sent you. That’s not to say the undercarriage of your rental wasn’t damaged during your rental, but even if it had been, wouldn’t your collision-damage waiver apply? The correspondence between you and Hertz didn’t have any information about the insurance you purchased — it looks as if they just wanted you to pay up.

Your case raises a lot of questions, and you deserve answers before you agree to pay for for damages for which you may or may not be responsible. I publish the names and numbers of Hertz’ customer service executives on my site. A brief, polite and written appeal should have done the trick.

I contacted Hertz and asked it to review its claim against you. It did, and after taking another look at its records, the company decided to drop its claim.

Should a car rental company charge for damage to the undercarriage of its vehicle that isn't noted on return?

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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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  • Stuart Gustafson

    Here’s one more reason to get names and dates when you rent a car — once you’re gone, it’s difficult to prove that something didn’t happen while you had the car.

  • backprop

    I’d like to know if Hertz answered your question about the CDW – why didn’t it apply, or did it, just with a high deductible? Or didn’t they really have it at all?

  • Christopher Elliott

    I think this was just a mistake. The insurance should have covered this customer’s damage.

  • Greg Paul

    ESPECIALLY if you fall for their high-pressure sales tactics and buy the CDW, they should just eat this as part of the cost of doing business, and normal wear-and-tear on a shared vehicle, unless the underside accident damage is clearly apparent to the dunderheads they usually hire to handle returns. Even without the CDW, the same applies unless they can somehow show the damage as belonging to the exact car you rented, and time-stamp it so that it shows it happened during your rental period.

    Be less greedy, companies! Now go play nice.

  • Cybrsk8r

    This sounds like a total scam. If the OP bought CDW, that should have covered damage regardless of whether it was another car or some sort of fixed object that damaged the rental.

    I’m also curious as to the the definition of “undercarriage” in this case. Are we now going to lie down on a creeper and inspect the underside of the car?

  • Blackadar

    Once they take possession of the car, there’s no way I’m paying any damage claim.

  • John Baker

    If I have to eat any damage that I don’t find once I take possession of the vehicle, they should have to eat any damage they don’t find when I’m standing there. Once they take possession of the vehicle, they have the ability to damage it.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    The last car I rented was a Ford Fusion from Hertz. There was no way for me to get pictures under the car as it was so low to the ground. The only way anyone could under that car was if the car were first hoisted into the air. I’m still waiting for the rental car scam statute of limitations to run out on that rental, just because of stories like this one.

  • John Baker

    @Cybrsk8r:disqus … I’ve rented a lot in Europe. One danger is that not all of the CDW are deductible free. One of the places I rented in Ireland had a €2000 deductible unless you purchased an additional waiver. Without seeing the exact terms of her CDW, its hard to know.

    Still doesn’t change my thoughts on why they should have had to eat this….

  • MarkKelling

    Hertz doesn’t offer CDW, they offer LDW. CDW by definition covers collisions. LDW is LOSS Damage Waiver which covers any damage to the vehicle that was not intentionally done by the renter. They also offer a Limited LDW which has a $1000 deductable. 673 euro is amazingly close to $1000 at today’s exchange rate, so could it be possible this was the coverage the OP bought? Was this another example of the all too common deductible scam that car rental companies seem to like to pull?


    We recently picked up a rental car. While inspecting the car we saw another customer insist that the car rental employee inspect the underside of the front bumper. The employee refused and the customer had them note that on the rental form along with visible scratches on the car. Looked like he has been burned by this scam before.

  • MarkKelling

    The only way a rental company can prove damage occurs during the rental period is to do a thorough inspection at time of rental and again at return. But they don’t want to do that because it requires staffing they don’t want to pay for any more. I seldom see more than 2 employees at the Hertz counter at IAH – but there are always 10 -15 frustrated looking customers in line. The Gold Counter is never manned any more. You are lucky to find someone to check in your vehicle except at peak turn in hours, which are becoming fewer all the time. Hertz tried the multi camera device which took pictures of the car from all angles at checkout and at return, but said the customers didn’t like it so they would not install it at all of their corporate locations. I feel that since the pictures provided irrefutable proof of damage or lack there of, Hertz decided it would cut into their damage repair charge profits and that i the real reason it was not rolled out as standard procedure.

  • Chris Johnson

    There is enough rental car scamming in the USA, but at least fighting back is easier. I’ll stick to the trains and buses when I visit Europe. Maybe I can use my Zipcar membership if I visit the UK or Spain, if I really need a rental car.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    This certainly smells of SCAM given the time period between return and damage claim. That being said, there are legitimate reasons why a damage claim may come after the fact. I remember a situation where a renter returned a car where the vehicle was covered in snow. I told the customer I could not process the return until we had a chance to clear it off, and he refused to wait and dashed off, saying he had a flight to catch. Lo and behold, the snow covered up deep scratches on the hood, as if someone had used a metal snow shovel to get the snow off the car. I called the customer the same evening to let him know of the damage claim.

  • bodega3

    It appears that most of the Hertz stories posted here have been from international rentals. I only rent from Hertz and so far, there has never been any issue. Now that I said it, I hope I haven’t jinxed us!

  • bodega3

    Once a car is returned and your paperwork handed to you, that should be the end of things. Just like we are expected to check the car and make notes of prior damage, so should the car agency upon the return. If they don’t, SOL. Internationally, we take out the car companies insurance so we can just walk away with no worries. Yes, it costs more than we would like to pay, but to be worry free during and after is well worth it!

  • Jonathan

    All of these discussions make me worry about renting a car in the United States as a foreigner. Is there a good way to ensure that whoever I rent a car from won’t decide to scam me in such an egregious manner?

  • polexia_rogue

    German car rental locations as evil.

    when i was in the air force my car broke down ALOT. I usually rented from the on base car rental (run by americans)- one day i went to a german ran can rental (i belive it was a Hertz location) and of course got full coverage insurance.

    they said i damaged the car and i owed 400 euros.

    I was told “the insurance you bought was for damage that is 700 euros or more.”

    So i said out loud “so i would be covered if i ran in to a tree?”

    “yes of course! that is what the more expense package it for.” they said with a smile.

    never renting a car in europe

  • Thetine

    Inspect the car thoroughly with the rental employee. Make sure the person notates every scratch or dent visible to the naked eye. Use a credit card to pay for the rental that includes CDW (I have Chase Freedom. American Express is also good). When you return the vehicle, inspect it with the intake employee. Verify the person is notating all lack of damage.

    Check you credit card online for weeks after the rental. Look out for any suspicious charges.

  • Dutchess

    I second this. I almost always use Hertz for this very reason.

  • ShrimpBoy

    Hertz absolutely does offer CDW as well as LDW as otional services.

  • ShrimpBoy

    Rent from a large company that doesn’t brag about being the cheapest choice and you’ve got a good start.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Maybe that was me? :)

  • MarkKelling

    Went to their web site. Here is a page listing EVERYTHING they offer:

    https://www dot hertz dot com/rentacar/productservice/index.jsp?targetPage=USHowProtectedAreYou.jsp&leftNavUserSelection=globNav_3_5_1&selectedRegion=United%20States

    Nothing on this page is called CDW. It is not impossible for a franchise location to offer different coverages with different names I guess.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    At the rental car counter, I ask how many miles the car has, and if it’s high mileage for the year of the car, I ask for a different car (if available). Based on what folks here have said, I’ve taken out the car rental insurance plan from American Express, which charges my card for every rental ($19.95 per rental is an option available for Nebraska cardholders, but it may be as much as $24.95 per rental for cardholders). I smile at the folks behind the counter when they ask if the insurance is “primary or secondary” and tell them primary. That stops them from the hard sell on their CDW or LDW or whatever. I have AAA, so I don’t need their roadside assistance. I have a phone that will do my navigation for me, so I don’t need their GPS systems.

    Many rental counters turn things over to the rental car lot, and those folks out there seem to be under some pressure to make you happy with the car you’ve been assigned. Be sure to take pictures and/or video and have the employee note that you’re doing so. Do that at pick up and drop off. I now take pictures of the windshields, inside and out, the roof, and under the bumper as well as the rest of the car. I rent from several different companies, from Dollar to Hertz, and find that it’s really hard to get an employee to inspect the car with you, let alone note the inspection form. Stand your ground, politely, yet firmly. If they still refuse, tell them you’re going to go back to the counter and get a different car. Sometimes they fall all over themselves noting the contract and/or inspection form, rather than have you go back to the rental counter. Don’t know what that’s about, but it works.

    If you’re traveling with someone who hates making a fuss (as in the above), promise to make it up to them later and go right ahead with protecting yourself. I haven’t been hit up with any damages or problems, whether Dollar, Avis, Alamo, Enterprise or Hertz, but I’m pretty consistent on my methods, which embarrass the stuffing out of my husband. I just send him stories like this from time to time, and I buy him a beer once we’re off the road. :)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    And I’ll bet the customer ‘fessed up right away, with true contrition in his voice, and offered to cover the cost of repairs. ;-)

  • Thoroughlyamused

    LMAO. You just made my crappy Friday a little bit better. :)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Glad to help.

  • MarkKelling

    Buy the LDW or equivalent coverage after reading and understanding what it covers. Depending on the car rental company, you may have to purchase multiple coverages to get a mix that will really cover the possibilities. I do this whenever I rent a car outside my home country. Sometimes the coverage costs more per day than the actual rental does, but it sure makes it a lot less worrisome.

    That said, I rent cars weekly and sometimes multiple times in a week for work and have been doing this since last century and so far have only had one issue where the rental company attempted to stick me with damage charges that I was not responsible for. I stick with Hertz and Avis. I always fill out the scratch and dent report when I take the car even though both companies insist that they would never charge me for “minor damage” since I am such a “valued” customer. I always have one of the rental company’s employes check in my car (never using the key drop option no matter how busy they are or how late I am running).

  • bodega3

    That isn’t necessarily a given on international rentals. Domestic I would agree, but not international.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    DO NOT assume that by using your credit card you are magically covered for everything, despite what people here will tell you. No one reads the fine print on credit card CDW, and it’s loaded with exclusions. Some credit cards only cover collisions and not Acts of God, some credit cards require a police report to process the claim which isn’t possible to get in some jurisdictions, some cut off the length of rental at 14 or 30 days, some don’t cover certain kinds of vehicles like minivans, trucks, suvs, and NO credit card covers third party liability.

    I once had customers from Germany who insisted their CC covered third party liability. I assured them it didn’t but they didn’t care-they wanted to save $50 by driving dangerously underinsured and putting everyone else at risk. Sure enough they ended up T-boning a BMW at a 4 way stop. As the registered car owners we were responsible for paying out up to state minimums, but considering the value of the BMW and the other party’s medical bills, they were still out thousands.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Precisely why I think “bounty” programs (paying employees a bonus when they find damage) should be outlawed. Too tempting for an employee to deliberately scratch a car to get the bonus.

  • Annie M

    FINALLY a story that you should have gotten involved and and luckily you did. We have started taking pictures when we rent of the car before AND at return. It is a sad statement that travelers have to resort to this baloney. But we learn something new all the time – this lesson is insist the car be inspected at return.

  • emanon256

    I bet there are a few bad rental car places that try to stick people for per-existing or non-existent damage. And I bet there are plenty of people who damage vehicles and lie about it. If I had to say, I bet there are more people who lie about damaging the car than bad rental places, but it’s just a guess.

    If only everyone would stop lying, the world would be a better more trusting place.

    Back when I worked in customer service, we had to put so many measures in place to protect ourselves because the number of dishonest customers was astronomical. And this of course ruins it for the honest customers.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    VERY TRUE. I actually read all the way through on my Amex car rental insurance policy, and highlighted where I’m not covered and for what reasons I’m not covered. I would never substitute it for a good basic auto insurance policy, which should include bodily injury and property damage liability in an amount to protect yourself and the public adequately. I carry a high limit of liability plus an umbrella policy on top of that. My own insurance policy will cover rental cars for damage to the rental car in every situation in which my own car is covered, subject to a deductible. I figure if I can afford the deductible on my own car, and with Amex policy in place, I’m covered for what I can stand to lose.

    Moral of my post: Be an informed consumer!

  • John Baker

    On thing to watch on CC car rental insurance when you travel outside the US is to make sure that it covers the country you are in. Ireland comes to mind as a country that is not covered by almost any plans.

  • emanon256

    You should have taken the car back, hit a tree, and returned if. At least get your moneys worth out of the deal :)

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Same here. Never rented a car in Europe – the bus and the trains do just fine.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Ah, the perfect segue into what I’ve wanted to ask: how to rent a car in Ireland without opening oneself up to a world of hurt? My husband and I would like to take a trip there sometime in the next year or two and really don’t want to walk or bicycle the entire country. :)

  • John Baker

    @Jeanne_in_NE:disqus I’ve rented from multiple places. Everywhere from international brands (Hertz, Avis) to more local brands (Europcar & Dan Dooley).
    Rule #1 for me is to always take the maximum insurance. I’ve always found ROI rental vehicles to be “well loved” and given some of their tighter roads, its better to be under than over insured.
    Rule #2 is to learn to drive at an Irish pace. Its a lot slower.
    Rule #3 is to try and have a good copilot. While signage has gotten a lot better over the last few years, it can still be fun to drive.

    Have fun!

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Go raiibh maith agat!

  • Chris_In_NC

    Many CC CDWs have exclusions on the type of vehicle. While SUVs are covered pickup trucks are excluded on a Diners Club card. Also many CCs are secondary not primary coverage.

  • Chris_In_NC

    Bodega. Am Hertz Gold and last time using Hertz had a bad experience in US. Probably the exception since Hertz has always been excellent otherwise. Particularly perturbed when corporate blew it off.

  • bodega3

    I am very sorry to hear this. We are Hertz Gold, two membership here in the family and have had good experiences for the most part. On the agent side of things, they are good to work with, good contacts, fast response. Occasionally, we have minor glitches, like no infant seat when requested, but they have one on premises and get them right away. I did have another issue in PHL but nothing that was extreme.

  • Alan Gore

    The reason that car rental companies like to make these fishy damage claims is to force you to buy their insurance. This OP did so, so what must must have happened in this case is not recording that he bought the CDW. This sort of sloppiness does not sound German.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    LOL, emanon, that’s exactly what I thought!

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Shameful behaviour seems to be on the rise …. they’re gettting more brazen by the month … greedy corporations …. UGH.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Its true any company can be bad. I’ve only had two minor issues in the past ten years. Alamo is truly terrible. Budget was ok.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I always insist that damage is noted. When they tell me they won’t charge me for small damage, I respond, “Good, then you won’t have any problem noting it on the report”

    The Hertz where I do most of my renting uses the 4 cameras to take pictures. I like that.

    Plus, belonging to the loyalty program (had to get that in) greatly increases the chances of getting a better, i.e. lower mileage, car.

  • bodega3

    One guy at Hertz told me that if I fill out the paper showing damage, to just put x’s everywhere so I am covered. That is what I now do and they all sign it.

  • MarkKelling

    Belonging to the Hertz program is a good thing. First, you don’t have to wait in line to get assigned your car. My past 10 rentals were 7 brand new cars and 3 with less than 2500 miles on them.

  • atltravel

    well, well, well. seems like the thing to do with rental cars. almost the same happened to me with Avis at EWR. we all walked the car before leaving and when we came back, the employee zeroed in on some damage to the underside of the front bumper. Thing was, I drove to my aunts and the car stayed parked for 3 days and than drove back. I refused to sign the incident report, I did not do it, the damage was not new and looked like it had been there awhile. Stupid me didn’t take a pic either, and I also could not tell if the pics sent me was the car I rented. Of course the call and letter came wanting money, and I accused them of pulling this scam with anyone who rented the car and never fixing it. After some phone calls, etc. Avis did drop the claim. But I have learned to bend over and look underneath.

  • innchfromnj

    This has SCAM written all over it.
    My guess is that one of the employees or a regular well known customer damaged the car.
    If it were an employee, more than likely his or her fellow workers were covering up the damage and to complete the cover up, billed the first foreign traveler they could.
    Pretty much the same scenario with the well known customer.
    The way I see it, the renter has not been shown ANY evidence of any kind that the auto in the photos taken by Hertz are of the car the customer rented.
    Based on that, the customer owes hertz NOTHING.

  • innchfromnj

    If the bill was 600 Euros, most likely the deductible exceeded the repair bill.

  • TMMao

    Have to confess that I once scuffed the bumper of a rental car and then bought some polish to buff it out. Did such a good job they didn’t notice or care.

    Another time, I usually decline the LDW but a little voice told me to take it. Good thing too because when refueling the car just before returning, I turned too close to a pump island marker pole and brushed the door against it. That $20 option probably saved $500 in repairs.

  • Marcin Jeske

    Names and dates aren’t really evidence of anything… I would only rely on copies of your contract, those signed previous damage forms, and the copious photos I take from all sides when picking up and returning a car.

  • Marcin Jeske

    Not sure about Europe, but the practice of most car rental agencies in the US (including Hertz) is that CDW isn’t actually insurance, it is a “waiver” (that’s the W at the end).

    As such, there is no deductible.

    However, it is pretty common in the US when the customer declines CDW and the rental company decides to charge for damages (justified or not) that the charge is just under the customers insurance deductible. I think the logic here is that many people won’t bother with an insurance claim if they think they will have to pay all of it anyway.

    The truth is… as I experienced with a claim once… is a bit different. I was asked to pay for some legitimate damage, the charge was massively inflated, but not much more than my insurance deductible. I filed a claim with my insurance company anyway, because I was covered by secondary insurance which required a claim with primary insurance.

    The first thing my insurance company did was quickly negotiate away most of the charges (logical for them, since they would have had to pay anything above my deductible), but they went even further in chopping off costs they knew would not be supported. Thus, the bill I was finally faced with was significantly less than my deductible, and this was covered by my secondary insurance without a hiccup.

    The lesson I took here is that a good insurance company knows all the rental car tricks, and a rental car company would prefer to keep them out of it and overcharge the customer instead.