At the most, I would rent a car once or twice a year when I find myself traveling to remote cities for friends’ weddings, for example. Luckilly, this has not yet happened to me.
According to the New York Times, it’s common for rental car companies to charge mutiple customers for the same dings or dents on cars. There are a few examples where the company in question — in this case Enterprise — has charged customers’ credit cards $500 before the car has been inspected.
How many motorists are billed for existing damage to the cars they rent? Of the scores of complaints I have received about damage disputes, I counted about a dozen recent cases that seemed to fit the bill. All of them involved Enterprise.
Enterprise defended their actions in the article, saying the customers were misbilled due to their returning the rented vehicles on a Saturday. Now, generally I’m quite trusting and I give others the benefit of the doubt, but if that’s the best excuse they can come up with, it’s a sorry state of affairs.
The best advice is to thoroughly inspect the vehicle before you sign the rental agreement. Walk around the car and mark down any blemish that the company might try to blame on you. I generally don’t take the extra insurance offered by the rental company as between my own insurance and AAA, everything’s covered. Most of all, don’t get into any accidents.
Speaking of accidents, now it’s confession time: One time, I rented a small truck (like U-Haul or Ryder) for moving my worldly possessions from one town to another. As I drove around the gas station between filling up and returning the vehicle, I think I took out part of the roof of the building that extended past the side. The truck was fine.
Has anyone else had any interesting experiences with rental cars or the companies?
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published November 23, 2005.