Corona, CA: Don't Rent a Car With Existing Damage

Chances are, you'll get stuck with the repair bill

Some rental car customers call it the “ding-and-dent scam.” They rent a car and when they return it, the agency goes over it with a fine-tooth comb, locating small dings and scratches that result in an additional bill.

Maybe the blemishes were there before and maybe they weren't. If the consumer didn't notice, she will be on the hook.

Mark, of Corona, Calif., thought he was prepared for that when he rented a car from Enterprise in his home town. He and an Enterprise employee conducted an inspection and Mark pointed out some minor damage to the car's front and rear bumpers.
“Upon my return on March 12 I was questioned about the rear bumper,” Mark wrote in a post at ConsumerAffairs. “I told them that we looked at the damage together before I left with the car. They submitted a claim saying that I am responsible for the damage. I appealed to them as we had acknowledged the damage prior to the trip. They gave me no sympathy or recourse. The bumper was damaged before I took custody of the car, there is no question about that. What is a customer to do at this point?”

It has to be documented

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot Mark can do at this point. It's one thing to point out the pre-existing damage before taking the car, but you must insist that the attendant document that damage on the rental car agreement. Obviously, in this case the attendant did not so Mark is exposed.

Even if the damage is documented on the form, if its description is vague and non-specific, it could result in an argument.

Rental car agencies seem to be more aggressive lately in finding damage after a vehicle has been returned and charging the consumer for it. Consumers must remain on guard against it.

First and foremost, consumers these days should simply refuse to accept a vehicle with existing damage. As in Mark's case, one never knows how that will work out, even if both the consumer and the check-out attendant agree that it's there.

A picture's worth a thousand words

It's also wise to photograph the car from all four sides with a camera that has a time stamp. Make one set of photos when picking it up and another when dropping it off.

Also, avoid dropping off a vehicle without an employee checking it in. We have heard from many consumers who did that and were later socked with a repair bill.

In Mark's case, he should respond in writing to Enterprise, disputing the charge and informing them that he will file a complaint with the California Insurance Commission if the claim is not dropped. Since Mark knows the name of the employee who he says documented the damage, he should include the name in his letter.

If the claim is less than $1000, Mark might also consider suing in small claims court. Large companies normally settle rather defending themselves in court for such a small amount.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just Quit using Enterprise. They will get the message.