Any experience with car rental companies?

Just been hit with a seemingly random charge for damage on a rental car.

Dropped it off at 5 am at an airport, obvs no one there to check it. £375 in damage apparently.

How common are just random charges to try it on? Any ideas?

No, I know I didn’t hit anything…..

44 thoughts on “Any experience with car rental companies?”

  1. Fairly common. I once handed the keys to a guy with Avis overalls and clipboard and they tried to sting me for another week’s rental, which I rebuffed by showing them my boarding card to show when I left the country. I guess you just have to resort to the “are you calling me a liar?” defence

  2. Did you check it before you took it and –yourself if no one was there–before you dropped it?

    These days I’d have taken before and after photos as a precaution. But then that’s just me. I don’t know if such scams are common. Is this overseas or in the UK?

  3. I always use Avis. This behaviour is common everywhere outside of the UK and US.

    I cancelled a credit card because they were about to take €800 off me for an allegedly dodgy door lock. Untrue didn’t get their money and I never heard from them again.

  4. I regularly hire. There’s some amazing deals you can get. €2 a day & I insure the excess separately, so apart from the the fuel service that’s all I pay. Provides an extra run-about for 10 months of the year.
    But like Tomo, I always foto the entire car plus boot contents, spare, engine bay & interior before it moves from the rental area. Plus the hire documents. And try & get a picture of the member of staff hired it out. Then I e-mail the whole lot to my lawyer to sit in files. And I would never, ever, return a car without them signing off an inspection. It’s asking to be stung.

  5. Sorry. Should have added. Always do another set of fotos at the drop-off. With picture of the inspector, if you can.

  6. Yeah, report it as a fraudulent transaction to your credit card company, say you know absolutely nothing about it, and put the onus back on the hire firm to convinced the credit card company it’s genuine.

  7. Very common at some locations. Especially if you don’t take the cover with the guy at the desk when you pick up. The agent has to upsell you something, his wages are lousy otherwise. The ones who tried it on with me had a tame garage who would provide an invoice for repairs when none were done. Charge back the card, it draws the scam to the attention of the credit card provider.

  8. Plenty, and an entirely spurious damage charge comes free with every third rental. I’ve never paid one, including the only non-spurious one, which was a stone chip. On the grounds that stone chipping is an inevitable consequence of driving a car so should be classed as wear and tear.

    Dropping off at an unmanned location is a very bad idea.

    Tim N is right about the insurance because fighting this stuff off is always such a waste of time.

  9. In South Africa, always generously tip inspector before and after. Generously being about 5 quid.

    I generally use Hertz, but in South of England, I use Kendall Cars.

    Would definitely tell CC company that charge was unauthorised and demand that it was returned.

  10. I used to deal with out of hours BBC drop offs for cars. They’d ring in to say car was left on the forecourt and keys were through the letterbox. A week later the same person would ring up having been told about damage to the car – insisting someone else must have done the damage.
    As part of the car system I could see photos put on, day car hired out the car would be immaculate, day car handed back it would be filthy with in this situation a noticeable dent.
    Driver insisted it was perfect when he dropped it off.

    Always drivers trying it on too, not just rental companies.

    Probably a couple of times a week I had a customer complaining and it was obvious the scam the customer was trying to pull to avoid paying.

  11. Man at desk: Do you want crash damage waiver insurance?

    Me staring manically: You bet I do!

    Man at desk: er… OK….any questions?

    Me; Yes, What’s the fastest it will go in second gear? And in reverse?

  12. I frequently rent Europcar at a Paris airport for a one-way rental; and in Normandy for a one-way rental to a Paris airport. Why Europcar? because they have a convenient pickup/dropoff place near the Normandy chaumiere.

    Exactly as Mr Newman says, I always buy the extra insurance. It’s a ripoff, but, hey, **Paris** is involved. Not worth the bother of contesting afterwards.

  13. While I can understand that customers try it on – the Europcar fraud I mentioned above covered three colleagues on two occasions several months apart.

    When I remonstrated with Europcar the first time I was told – oh it’s an administrative error – a mere blip… Then I traveled again with the same people and we compared notes – yep – they’d been threatened for payment too. Wait a couple of months and exactly the same series of events – 4 airport pickups on the company account and all the drivers got shitty debt recovery style letters.

    I contacted Leicestershire plod with the documentary evidence – pointless prats not interested.

  14. And a bit more advice for car hirers. Take the hire company’s sticker off the back window. They’re an invite for someone to break into the car. Any holiday area, hire car = tourist. And tourists tend to leave valuables in cars because they’ve no-where else to put them.

  15. US: I’ve rented cars many times over years. There has always been someone to ck in & inspect for damages upon return, but usually not when I take it out when I always check; however, I’ve noticed those guys are better than me & see little dings I do not until pointed out. Once they threatened to chg me for a tiny ding in the windshield I did not cause, but did not see on ck out, but they did not chg me. I used to worry all the time, but not enough to buy their ins which is expensive. Then, FINALLY, I checked my own auto-policy and it covers such damage to rental cars, RELIEF!

  16. If you used the right card to pay for it – Amex Platinum or Business Platinum – then the travel insurance on the card should cover the excess without problems.

    You also get free access to airport lounges for you + guest which might be useful for Timmy + Blonde.

    Not aware of others that do this.

    Questor is a good call.

  17. If they try it on. tell then you’ll want disclosure of the last three months’ check out check back in sheets, see if that little fresh scratch has been earning money for the company.

    Cancelling the credit card is a good idea.

  18. BiS

    Thanks for the pointer to questor.

    Alas, doesn’t work for me (my UK Drivers Licence is unrenewable because I’m not UK resident…)

    Anyone got pointers to equivalent services which could work for US residents??

  19. Habitual, not quite universal but so, so common. Some oik keyed a hire car (that had been provided by the insurance company after a decent guy had woken us up to tell us that he scraped our car when it was parked outside the front door) and the insurers claimed it cost more than the excess on the policy to repair the scratch. Pull the other leg! – the friendly local scratch repairer sorted out a dent suffered while the previous car was in my wife’s office car park while she was working for much less. Last year I hired a van to transport #2 son’s stuff to his new flat and scratched on a gate-post – just a scratch and they claimed it cost more than the £500 excess.

  20. My what a rough world you all live in!

    I rent regularly and never had a problem like this; mind you since recently I started insuring the excess for my own peace of mind.

    Thanks BiS for the insurance link looks very convenient, and I will try it.

  21. Absolutely commonplace and almost expected, they’re all at it.

    Though back in the day, when I did a lot of corporate rentals, I always found Hertz to much the best of a pretty shabby lot. Of course, they are also the most expensive – cause, effect?

    Photograph everything.

    And I recommend Questor too.

  22. I haven’t rented many cars, (2 cars and a van), but before I even get in, I use the phone to photograph everything – general pics and close ups of every dent, scratch, bend, bird poo, Smudge, shadow and scuff – plus anything else I missed off the list.
    Rinse and repeat on return. Takes a while, but it helps if you can provide proof of condition on receipt and return.

    Have never needed it though, all 3 hand backs went fine. One had inspection while I was there, the other 2 were hand keys back to desk.

    I used Europcar and Enterprise. Can’t fault either really. Probably depends more on the person and or manager of the branch

  23. 1) Always photograph the car extensively.

    2) Ensure all existing damage is marked on the contract before you drive away.

    3) As BiS says, get car hire insurance. I use:
    Who, IMO, are excellent. I’ve had huge charges for ‘damage’ in Spain and Greece refunded within 15 working days.

  24. Tex – Dittoes; standard US driver’s insurance extends the same coverage to “temporary” vehicles including rentals. But I used to always buy Alamo “waiver saver” coverage exactly to take scuffs-and-scrapes off the table at check-out and let me catch my plane.

  25. For Bloke in Tejas.

    I’ve been driving rentals (supplied by work/client) for 5 years in the US.
    If you have your own insurance for your own car, this should cover it, or perhaps be extended to cover rentals – check with insurer.

    Not having my own insurance I found I needed two things. First a non owners policy – costing about a grand a year. Covers everyone/thing EXCEPT the vehicle you’re driving.
    So if you hit someone, another car etc, this will kick in.
    You also need to cover the rental car itself, which the non onwers policy WILL NOT DO.

    The best way to do this is Amex offer a “Premium Car rental protection” policy. Enroll in this, pay for the rental with the amex card they will automatically charge you a premium of $25 for the rental period (up to 42 days). This one covers the vehicle you’re renting. Think there’s an excess of $500 on it.

  26. Rented a long wheel base van from the local Europcar to move some stuff to Wales for a mate. There and back no problem. Had to drop off something back in home town. Scraped the side of the van on a bollard. Thought ‘Damn, that’s going to cost me a couple of hundred’. Dropped it off late on a Sunday evening with a heavy heart; keys through the letterbox. Never heard from them.

  27. BiS, in Cyprus hire cars have red plates (and ours had the company name and what their business was on the spare tyre cover.) Luckily all Cypriots seem to be honest.

  28. Had a lot of hire cars over the years, would say 20% of hires in my experience have some sort of issue with untrue charges being levied, ranging from them trying to charge for excess mileage on an unlimited rental, stone chips (not me, backed off when I said deal with my co), speeding fines (time proved it was the guy delivering the vehicle to me, not me), a scratch which was just road dust. Oh, and a personal favourite, Avis in Canada said I returned the car a week late. My flight tickets said they were lying.

    Generally I spend the time arguing the toss with the rental company, over email if it was unattended drop off – request evidence, provide your own. Haven’t had to pay anything yet. On personal hires, I do go over the car with a fine tooth comb and photograph it before and after. Haven’t bothered with excess insurance but if I hired more personally rather than corporately, I would.

  29. Chris,
    I don’t know about now but in the eighties Florida hire cars had “Z” plates for the convenience of the low life.

  30. I never had any problem with car rentals in U.K. Big problems in Spain though where there seems to be a culture of screwing over the customer.

  31. Sign up for a loyalty scheme. I use Avis Preferred. If they want your repeat business they won’t try it on. I’ve never had a problem. Also no need to queue at the desk; just straight to the kiosk at the car park where they are waiting for you. Yes probably more expensive than some local hire car co miles away from the airport, but you get better service and no speculative damage claims.

    Never pay the hire car co the extra insurance (unless like Tim N you work in the oil industry and these costs don’t matter). If you intend driving around places like Paris, then just get a policy from someone like Questor.

  32. Wish we’d had this thread a week ago. I just rented for a week and (first time ever) took the comprehensive damage policy through the rental company. £130 for 5 days, on top of the £140 rental. I mainly did this as it’s winter here in Iceland and on gravel roads, there’s 100% chance of stone chips, and a high chance of worse.

    All the years of Spanish rentals at cheap, off season prices, I never did this and never had rental company problems.

    We’ll see how honest this company is next week, but I’m already glad I cancelled my Avis booking and got this one.

  33. Never pay the hire car co the extra insurance (unless like Tim N you work in the oil industry and these costs don’t matter). If you intend driving around places like Paris…

    I may light my cigars with fifty quid notes, but I’m not daft enough to drive around in Paris!

  34. Had this with Avis. Charged over 600 quid for nonexistent damage (early check in, ets left on box). Avis ignored my complaints for 3 or 4 months. Didn’t eve reply.

    Eventually discovered this, refunded and apology from Avis in days

    Possibly the only good thing the EU has done.

  35. Who has the most incentive to lie, the customer who damaged the car and didn’t want to pay, or the staff who have an undamaged car but want to charge the customer?

  36. The staff who get a bonus if they shaft the customer for more money or to cover their arses when they dink it moving it around the car park.

  37. I use as the equivalent (I guess) to Questor. Never had a problem in the UK (Enterprise, mostly); but there are far too many tales abroad, particularly Italy, Spain, etc.. Some brands are not run the way you assume, so general advice seems to be to avoid Enterprise in Italy as being very dodgy, but Avis are good.
    In Europe, always take a set of photos before and after. Only takes a few minutes and buys peace of mind at least.

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