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Car Rental Scams

Old Sep 1st, 2004, 03:14 AM
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Car Rental Scams

DH recently rented a car from a national rental company. He stood in line 2 hours to get to the agent and by then it was 11:30pm and he was tired and wanted to get to the hotel. He said they told him to "inspect" the car before he took it out. However, it was a dark colored car, parked between two cars in an underground airport parking lot lighted by the yellow sodium vapor lights that were interspersed at distant intervals. They wouldn't let him move it. He said it looked ok.

Then when he returned the car, they told him there was a dent in it (about 1" x 1/16") on the passenger side. He couldn't even see it unless he looked down the length of the car from the rear to see a slight indentation. He swears he didn't dent the car. He traveled only to the suburbs and parked where no one could hit him.

Yesterday, an agent from the rental company called and said the cost to fix the dent was just under $500 and since most insurance companies have a $500 deductible, did we want to pay it outright so he didn't have to contact insurance and get it on our record.

This sounds like a scam to me. Has anyone come across something similar? What did you do?



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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 04:06 AM
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Unfortunately, it occasionally happens. The best you can do is warn others of less than reputable operations. What rental company was it? Which airport?
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 04:27 AM
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Somebody is being scammed. Not sure who.
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 04:31 AM
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OO
 
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Contact your insurance company. The company I worked for covered such claims under the liability section of your auto policy, which carries no deductible. Why the liability section? Your rental contract makes you legally liable to return the car in the condition you took it out.

Our own insurance is with a different company. We were involved in an accident on the Maine Turnpike, rearended in the tollbooth (!) but our own company would have covered it (had the other party not had insurance) under our collision coverage...which does have a deductible. So, there are individual variations in the way such claims are handled. You should be aware too, that auto rental companies can also charge for "loss of use" while the car is being repaired...which could bring the claim against you over your deductible. Your insurance company needs to be involved from the start if this is the case.

The "just under $500" then no mention of loss of use as well, make me a little suspicious of their entire claim. It sounds as if they'd just as soon you not contact your company, doesn't it? "Just do it"--even if they don't cover it they'll be able to offer you good advice.
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 04:50 AM
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First, what conditions could possibly exist to warrant waiting two hours at a rental car counter? Was he someplace where every other company had run out of cars?

Second, contact the Better Business Bureau for that area and that State's Attorney General's Office. If your husband was truely "scammed" I'm sure they've done it before. Tell the company you want to see a written estimate of the damage from the shop that itemizes each and every cost. Send that written estimate into the above. Probably nothing will result, but at least it'll be on record so maybe next time it happens someone can take action.

But, the reality of the situation is that it's the companies word against your husband's word. Every rental car contract clearly states that damage is the responsibility of the renter unless specifically noted ahead of time. He willingly took the car off the lot and let the agents deny him the ability to scrutinize the car. The key fact is that under the contract terms, he returned a car that had a dent when no dent was noted when he left.

I'd suggest he also contact the company's national office. While unlikely, this might be a scam that the people in that office are using to line their own pockets.

BTW, what company was it and what location. This will help someone else avoid them in the future.
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 06:07 AM
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I'm guessing, that it's ALamo.
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 06:12 AM
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I would have guessed Alamo too. I've posted before about this, but it probably bears repeating: when we were in Hawaii a few years ago, the person at the Alamo desk told us that the insurance we carried on our car at home "didn't apply" in Hawaii and we needed to buy extra insurance, which was quite expensive. Unfortunately for them, we were travelling with my best pal who happens to be an insurance broker. She was well aware that this was nonsense, although she did call her company just to make sure. They agreed to let us have the car without the "mandatory Hawaii insurance" but then tried to charge us for it when we returned the car at the end of the trip. They were quite vehement about it and it took a lot of equally vehement persuading to talk them out of it. They were crooks, in my opinion.
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 06:32 AM
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The company was Dollar out of Chicago.

The flight arrived about 9:30 and it was a 2 hour wait in line.

They would not let him move the car out of the parking space and told him to inspect it before it was moved. Dark car between two cars in a dark parking lot with a minimum amount of space to open a door let alone inspect a car. Given the above, it just sounded suspicious when the agent called and said they won't contact insurance if we'll pay up front. Given the size of the "dent", the price seems steep too.

Apparently our insurance has a fraud hotline which he will use. The BBB is a good idea too.
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 06:44 AM
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Given what you just relayed, I'd also think about calling the Company's national headquarters. This might be a case of a few employees at that location running their own scam.

Pay up front to avoid going through official channels sounds a little fishy to me.
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 06:47 AM
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I'm guessing that it's Advantage.

Recently I had an experience with them that classified them as the "Car Rental Agency from Hell" for me.

It was the first time I had rented a car from them and the entire experience left me saying, "Never again!" I had unthinking clicked on them through Travelocity, as I had done dozens of times before. Never had any problems with Travelocity car rentals until this one.

I arrived at 7 am, didn't get a car until 11:30am. The location was away from the airport and a bit difficult to find. There was a huge crack on the windshield (passenger side) that was not truly visible until the sunlight hit the car at a certain angle.

GBelle: tell you husband to QUICKLY write a letter detailing his side of the story - like all the stuff you have written on this thread - dark, parked between two cars, etc. etc. Copy the BBB, the State AG, the state consumer protection agency, and your own auto insurance company. State in BIG LETTERS at the bottom of the letter that you will not be responsible and that, for all you know, the dent occurred either before or after your husband had rented it. You are doing things AFTER they have initiated action, so you HAVE to CYA (cover your ass), in other words, you need WRITTEN evidence of your side of the story.

For future reference: if there is something wrong or if you suspect there is something wrong, try and do a CYA at the moment the car leaves your hands, i.e., BEFORE you leave the car at the agency.

I kicked up a huge fuss with Advantage when returning the car and had the poor agent (night shift, had nothing to do with the original rental) handwrite on my receipt that the crack on the windshield was NOT my responsiblity.

Not satisfied with that, I wrote a three page letter to Advantage right after returning home. Pain in the tutu, but very necessary. I addressed it only to Advantage, but, if there is ever a dispute, my side is well documented.

When in Europe, I usually go over the car with a fine tooth comb and take before and after rental photos of the car. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to fight a rental agency from this side of the Atlantic? >)

CYA! CYA!! CYA!!!
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 06:48 AM
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How could they have told him not to move a car that he was about to drive off in? He should have inspected it.

Doesn't his credit card company cover the damage? They usually cover all and charge you a $100 processing fee.
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 06:50 AM
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Too late for this one, but I've learned to always pull the car out into the light and look it over carefully, and note anything at all on the car. When we picked up a one day rental from National to drive across state to the airport for an outbound flight, I followed my partner home and saw some minor damage way low on the under side of the rear bumper. Sure enough, when we turned in the car the next day, they insisted we had done it (they didn't say anything until they checked to see that we didn't take any insurance for whatever that's worth).
I said, "look, we didn't do it, but here's the name and policy number of our insurance company. We're headed to Europe for three months so you need to file it with them". We never heard another word.

And only slightly related -- two hour waits are not uncommon for rental cars -- particularly at major airports at certain times of the day. This is a good time to remind people about joining the usually free and easy "club" of any rental agency you are likely to use. The Dollar Fastlane has whipped me through immediately when I saw what I'm sure were two hour lines at Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 09:29 AM
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Since you mention undergound parking at Chgo, it must have been someplace other than O'Hare - I was there yesterday and it's not undergound at all.

Dollar has some of the lowest fares and it has more to do with the lack of employees providing service - I'm not surprised by the wait especially if coming into Midway, the Queen of low rate airlines in the city.
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 12:28 PM
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After I circle and mark the damage I do see, I also list down as a separate comment on the sheet somewhere that there are minor dings and scratches all over the car. That should protect you a bit in case you miss something.

Re. Alamo, I actually had a very good experience with them once. I did cause about a 2 inch tear under the front bumper. You couldn't see it unless you really bent down and looked for it. I reported it anyway and they never charged me for it.
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 05:53 PM
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Meesthare, the same thing happened to me 20 years ago in Honolulu. They were adamant saying that the rental agreement said that if there was any problem at all (a ding or scratch) that it would cost me $2500 if I didn't take their insurance. I paid. I doubt that it was Alamo. I think it is a Hawaii thing as it has never happened to me again.
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Old Sep 1st, 2004, 10:13 PM
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Sounds like a scam. They usually contact you with everything in writing, not over the phone demanding a check. Tell him to contact your insurance company. It's not going to effect your rates if its under $500. First, contact the credit card that you rented with to see if they cover the damage.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2004, 05:29 AM
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travelinandgolfin: I thought only I did that. When you go out through the gate, they usually just initial whatever damage on the car you've indicated on the form. I started adding that "various scratches and dings" line thinking that if I do get one in a parking lot, I'm not going to be liable since they initialed it when I picked up the car. I have yet to have an attendant actually look for the damage I've marked on the form. (P.S. Look at the side mirrors, which are almost always scratched when I get a car, and also look for scrapes just below the trunk from people loading and unloading luggage.)
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Old Sep 2nd, 2004, 05:37 AM
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On the bright side, while travelling this past spring, a passing vehicle put quite a noticeable rock chip right smack in centre of the driver's view on the windshield. I panicked the whole remainder of the trip about how much this might cost me.

Not noticed & no word of it since !! Yeah!!
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Old Sep 2nd, 2004, 06:01 AM
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We had a problem with Dollar out of Chicago. When we looked the car over, my husband told the guy that one of the tires looked low. The guy said it was due to the cold. (It was March and there was snow on the ground.) We kept refilling the tire throughout the trip but came out of the Museum of Science and Industry to a flat tire, which my husband changed in the cold. When we got back to the hotel (driving on the little "fake" spare tire), we called and asked that they bring us a different vehicle. They wanted us to drive the van back to the airport but we refused and they finally came out to our hotel. The kicker was when we returned the car to the airport, they charged because the first vehicle had not been returned full of gas (the one they took away), even though the second one had. They wouldn't back off of that.
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