Answer: It depends on what you signed. If the form said you accepted responsibility for the scratch, then you’re responsible for it. But the manager’s assurance that it could be “buffed out” and his promise to call you if a claim were necessary, left you with the impression that the form was nothing more than a formality.
I can’t blame you for feeling misled.
While most car rental companies wouldn’t trouble their customers with a claim unless it was serious, some see damages as a profit opportunity. If you don’t believe me, just pick up a trade magazine for the car rental industry. You’ll find ads for claims companies that all but guarantee you’ll make extra money by pursuing every claim, no matter how small.
Obviously, you shouldn’t have signed the form if you didn’t damage the car. But this also underscores the importance of a careful pre-rental inspection. Note every ding, scratch and dent, no matter how insignificant. Unless you’re the first person renting the car, you should be scribbling notes on the rental agreement, pinpointing every scratch and smudge. Don’t forget the roof.
In the end, Enterprise would have to prove that it replaced the bumper, which might have been difficult. Before you contact your insurance agency to make a claim, the car rental company would not only need to furnish you with evidence that it made the repairs, but also that the damages happened on your watch. I’d give anything to see the repair records for a small scratch.
If the car rental company had persisted, you should have copied the Illinois Department of Insurance, your insurance company and an agency like the Better Business Bureau, on your grievance. That would have sent a strong signal that you believe this claim to be frivolous and that you don’t intend to roll over a second time.
I contacted Enterprise on your behalf. It contacted you and agreed that the damage to the van was “found to be pre-existing” and dropped its claim.