Answer: Dollar should have told you about the additional driver fee up front, so you could have made an informed decision about your rental.
It’s highly unusual for a car rental company to charge an extra driver fee for a spouse, but such a surcharge isn’t illegal. It is something of a money grab, though. Does it cost the car rental company more if your wife, brother or son drives your rental? No. Will your car insurance cover damage to the vehicle if it’s damaged? Check with your insurance company, but I’ve never heard of an “extra driver” fee having any relevance in a claim that involves a driver’s insurance company.
Some car rental companies will allow spouses to drive a rental at no extra charge. But what does marriage have to do with a rental car? Last time I checked, it had nothing to do with it at all.
So, no, I can’t blame you for feeling “had” by the extra driver fee.
The involuntary upgrade, however, was not a scam. That was just Dollar not managing its fleet well, and running out of economy cars. To be fair to Dollar, and other rental companies, it’s really difficult to effectively manage your fleet when drivers can cancel their rental with no penalty.
I checked with Dollar on your case. It says that its terms and conditions, which include its additional driver fee, are disclosed on its site but “can be overlooked,” according to a spokeswoman. “We also have a detailed counter system that itemizes and fully discloses all rental charges, options, taxes and fees,” she added.
Dollar apologized for not handling your case better and refunded the additional driver fee, as agreed.
(Photo: Kevin Labianco/Flickr)