As I’m entering the second week of my job training for General Motors at Friendly Chevrolet in Minnesota, I’ve had some down time to read a few travel blogs while I’m in my hotel room. One common discussion point that always seems to be brought up involves horror stories regarding rental car companies charging their customers for damages that they didn’t cause. For anyone renting a car while on vacation, it’s important to take photos or video of the rental car before and after you return it.
Take photos of your rental car
It might seem obvious, but after a long flight most renters want to quickly pick a car, sign their paperwork and make the trek to where they’ll be staying during their vacation. Renters should take photos of every single scratch and dent, even if it seems tedious. Most of the comments that I read recommended taking photos of the front, back, sides, hood and all four corners of the car with the rental company building/banner in the background. Alternatively, video recording allows renters to verbally point out damage as they circle around the car.
After doing this legwork, the inspector at the safety gate needs to perform a visual inspection and mark down scratches and damages on their inspection sheet. In my case, the inspector for National didn’t get out of the booth to perform a visual inspection and tried to write that there were no damages on my rental car despite looking at just one side of the car. I had to mention all of the scratches and dents that I found before he asked me to mark them down on the inspection sheet before signing off on it.
Get printed documentation
Make sure that you receive a carbon copy of the inspection sheet; when the time comes to return the rental car, another inspector will do another walk around of the vehicle. If there are any damages pointed out, be sure to reference your photos or video and take additional photos of the car as its being returned in case a claim is filed. If the inspector marks that there is no damage on the rental, get a copy of the paperwork in case you’re contacted at a later date by the rental company.
The chances are low that you won’t be contacted about damages that you didn’t commit if you travel often. There are preventative measures against paying for repairs, beginning with photos and videos. Beyond this, many credit cards offer rental car insurance and claims within a 60 day period from the time damages were caused or reported. If you actually did cause any kind of damage to your rental vehicle, your credit card company will cover the repair costs; keep in mind that you will still be responsible for a perceived depreciation of the vehicle as dictated by the rental car company, as well as the number of days the rental car is rendered inoperable in a repair shop.
What to do if you’re contacted for repairs
If you are contacted after a prolonged period of time by a rental company asking to pay for damages, ask to see visual proof showing the car immediately after you returned it, the current mileage on the car and how many other times the car has been rented out. In some cases, an employee could have damaged the vehicle while moving it or a different renter could have caused the damage. In a lot of cases, damage isn’t reported in a timely manner and the repair bill will fall on an innocent renter due to employee negligence. If they can’t undeniably prove that the damage was caused by you, then you’ll have a great chance at having the rental company’s repair claims dropped.
A company isn’t allowed to automatically bill or withdraw funds from your account with your consent or permission. If something like this happens, it’s important to immediately file a claim with your credit card company and mark those fees as fraudulent until the credit card company declines the case on your behalf. Renting a car shouldn’t be a tedious and cautious process, especially while travelling on business or for vacation, but it’s necessary to take these precautions in case a rental company tries to charge you for damages that you didn’t cause to your rental vehicle. Hopefully this advice helps prepare you for your next vacation!