Dinged for damage on my rental

Q: Last year I traveled from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, where I rented a Kia from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. A quick walk around the vehicle revealed no damage to the rental. The next day I returned the car to the local Enterprise agency in Lancaster, Calif.

Another walk-around inspection of the car was done personally by the manager, which had never happened to me before. He claimed there was a dent in the door. He said he would have to file an accident report. But I said there had been no accident and I could not see a dent.

The manager then asked another employee to come out for a second opinion. She knelt at the front bumper and looked down the fender line. She said she could see an indentation by the door handle of the driver’s-side door.

I then offered to have the car inspected by an auto body shop just down the street. My request was denied. I asked two customers to come out and look at the car for another opinion. They agreed that there was no damage or dent in the door.

The manager made no comment. Instead, he filled out an accident report and requested I sign it. I declined. I had pictures taken of the car but I am not a professional photographer, and they only showed the car door.

In the following weeks I received a claim of $476 from Enterprise for damages and “repainting” of the door. I declined to pay and called and wrote the claims office indicating there was no dent or damage and I had witnesses to verify this fact.

Much to my surprise the Enterprise Claims office then changed the damage estimate bill from $476 to $510, which exceeded my insurance deductible. They then reported to my insurance company claiming I had an accident with their car.

I filed a fraud complaint with the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department. In response, Enterprise threatened to notify the State Motor Vehicles Department that I had an unreported accident with their vehicle, filed a credit report for lack of payment, and turned my case over to a collection agency.

My insurance company recommended that I pay the claim rather than fight it. So I did. But I feel as if Enterprise has taken advantage of me. If you can’t help me, at least help me warn others about this kind of behavior.

– Roger Hughes
Minneapolis

A: I’m surprised that this happened at Enterprise. I’ve had numerous conversations and e-mail exchanges with the company since this case and several others like it were brought to my attention, and the company insists that it goes to great lengths to process damage claims by the book.

But after reading your story, I had to wonder which book they were going by in Lancaster.

Enterprise is one of only a few car rental companies that processes its damage claims internally. Other companies sell the claims to outside companies, who then come after you with the bill. But Enterprise’s approach is more measured, and to hear its representatives talk about it, more compassionate. Still, Enterprise loses $60 million a year in uncollectible claims.

To hear you tell the story, it seems as if the manager you worked with was intent on charging you for what most people would consider normal wear and tear. I mean, when I have a small dent, I phone the Dent Doctor and he fixes it for $20 per ding — not $476. So even if there had been a dent, the price you were asked to pay was way, way too high.

Your actions appeared to be by the book: Taking the picture, asking for a second opinion, refusing to sign the “accident report.”

You might have also called the corporate office before releasing the car to see if you could talk with a manager. It’s possible that you would have come to a quicker settlement by roping the corporate office into the process sooner.

I spoke with Enterprise about your case, and it confirmed that there was no damage to the car before you picked it up and that the car was repaired by an independent shop, which billed Enterprise for the damage.

“All of us were very concerned with his perception more than anything,” said spokeswoman Christine Conrad. So Enterprise returned your money not because the damage was bogus, but because of the way you felt about the way in which the claim had been handled.

I think that’s a nice gesture by Enterprise, but I’m more concerned with the fact that the company apparently ignored your requests for a second opinion and then pressured you into writing a check for a ding that should have cost far less to repair.

I find that troubling and hope that what happened to you is just an isolated incident.

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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  • Real1hagar

    I am going through this now.  I hit a pothole with the right front tire which flattened the tire.  I had the tire remounted and it held air just fine, but the inside of the wheel was damaged.  I reported it and told them I wanted to pay for the damage personally.  It was the right thing do do, which I always preach to my employees.  Well, they are now coming after me for replacing the left front wheel as well.  I must have turned around, got up to highway speed, and smacked the pothole with the left front tire.  Anyway, we are at an impasse, and I got rewarded for being honest.  Next time I will keep my damn mouth shut.  They threatened me with collections and I told them to go ahead and I will see them in court.  I have emailed my attorney and am prepared to spend $10,000 to defend and defeat this $235 scam.  I rent cars a lot and my wife is a GS-15 in the government who rents cars a lot with her business travels.  She has forbid her staff to rent from Enterprise on business trips.  I did the same with my employees.  I have already cost them way more than $235 and I will cost them a lot more.  We must not allow this kind of robbery to go unanswered.

  • kshurig

    Having the same experience with the Bloomington Indiana.  They indicate a scratch was not there before we rented.  The walk around was fast, led by the agent and skipped the front corner of the car where the scratch is.  They opened the door, let me know I was good to go and sign here.  I think the scratch was there before and they wanted to charge someone.  They say the scratch ( 5 inches on lower panel by front tire and no dent) is $600 to fix.  I asked to get estimates and they refuse.  I told them I am taking the pictures to 3 other shops to get an estimate to prove it is inflated.  Frankly, I think this is a profit scam.  I did not sign the report.  I reported to corporate and a regional manager called and offered no options.  I have sent an 2nd complaint in to escalate again and filed a complaint with the IN better business bureau. I’m a frequent renter with them but I’m never doing business with them again.

    K

  • TKB6310

    This very same thing is happening to us right now. After returning the car they said there was a dent in the passenger side door. We took pictures and do not see a dent. We have now received a bill for over $700 for repairing the unseen dent. I have asked Enterprise to provide pictures of the dent and have yet to see evidence. How can they repair something that is not there and expect us to pay after the fact? I don’t want this to damage my credit report but I think this is a scam. What are my options? HELP!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=614895313 Angela McHugh Kingma

    I too am having an alike experience right now with enterprise. I brought a rental back with a tiny chip in the bottom of the windshield. The man I returned it to used a plastic sheet with circles on it to measure the chip and assured me it was so small there would not be  a claim. I told him if anything changed he needed to call me. I even offered to get it fixed myself to avoid an incident. I have now received a bill for over $320. I have spoken to four people, none of whom care. It is my word against his. I should have taken pictures and recorded our voice conversation apparently.
    When asked why I could not have repaired it myself they told me they only do repairs through their own companies and that they company decided the chip warranted a whole new windshield!!!!
    How do I proceed from here? Have blocked payment amount from credit card but am worried about court action

  • Raju Krishnan

    I had a disgusting experience, also with Enterprise, in Milwaukee airport. I was flying in there from New York, flight landed late and the associate demanded my proof of insurance. I told her I don’t carry that with me when I travel! She was pretty rude as well. (She already had my credit card details etc) So I HAD to take the renters insurance. I have never had such an experience with anyone, decide to stick with Avis or Hertz after that. After I left and had driven about 10 miles (I was not in a happy state obviously) I noticed that the gas tank was only 2/3 full! I did not even bother to complain about that. Just wont be renting from them. Car was also NOT clean when I looked at the back seat where I had left my laptop, after I got to Madison.