Surviving a Car Rental Damage Claim

You need to rent a car. You go to a car rental company, show them your drivers license and proof of car insurance, document the damages, if any, already on the rental car, read and sign the paperwork, pay with your credit card, get the keys and drive away. Sometime later, you return the rental car but the business is closed--that's okay--you just shove the keys through the drop slot provided and all is well. Right?

Wrong! You get a call the next business day from the car rental representative informing you that the car you returned has undocumented damages. Since you declined their damage insurance (sometimes called a waiver), they are filing a claim against you for the undocumented damages. "Wait a minute," you say, "the car was fine when I dropped it off." The representative has proof of the damages. "Well," you say, "it had to have happened after I dropped it off so I'm not responsible." Right? Wrong again! Here's the kicker, you are responsible for that car until it’s checked in by a car rental representative. It's in the contract and you signed it.

After you dropped off their car, a number of things could have happened to it. Perhaps a tree limb fell on the car--too bad, you are responsible. Maybe a hail storm came thru the area and dinged the car--too bad, you are still responsible. The car  might have been vandalized as it sat in their parking lot--too bad, you are, nonetheless, responsible. Act of nature, act of God, act of some kids who had too much time on their hands--too bad--you are, even though it was completely out of your control, still responsible!

Several days later, the car rental representative informs you the damage appraisal is $1004. After you've scraped yourself off the ceiling and taken a cold shower to calm down, you realize you are just going to have to pay the claim. Wait a minute, you think, I have car insurance that covers car rentals. Alright, you're feeling better until you remember you have a deductible. Your deductible is $1000 and the damages are $1004 so your car insurance pays $4. You still owe the car rental company $1000!

After complaining to your friends and family, one of your friends tells you to check with the credit card company you used to pay for the car rental. He was in a similar situation and his credit card company paid the car rental damage claim. You check it out and find that somewhere in all those itty bitty printed credit card brochures (you know, the ones you are supposed to read--if only you had a microscope) your credit card company pays the car rental damages!

Great news! You start collecting and sending in all the documentation that your credit card company needs. At the same time, you keep the car rental company updated about what you are doing so they don‘t report you to a collection agency. You realize you better start keeping records or something could get misplaced or misunderstood. Well, you've had enough stress over all this so you are going to keep it simple. You write all communications: date of communication, who you talked to, what they said, what you said, what they need from you, deadlines, et cetera, in a notebook. Simple enough! The paperwork though, what a mess. You can't see you desktop anymore. Aha, you think, a  file folder. A simple file folder! You save the paperwork you receive and make duplicates of paperwork you send out and put it in the one file folder. Now if there is a glitch or someone misplaces some paperwork, you will have backups which will help to keep everyone on track. The hardest part for you though is patience, as you know this will take some time and there will be some craziness, but you can do it; you've come this far.

Before long, your credit card company processes all the paperwork for the claim, they pay the $1000 to the car rental company and you owe nothing! Well worth a little notebook writing and filing!

Upon reflection though, if you had bought their damage insurance or waiver, the damages on the rental car would have been covered, according to their contract, and you would not have been held responsible. It is an extra cost, but it might have been worth it to you. No hassle and peace of mind. Something to think about next time.

Now you know how to survive a car rental damage claim. Rent a car with whatever credit card you have that covers car rental damages, check in your rental car during business hours or buy the car rental company's damage insurance.