Beware of damage charges when renting a car

Tonight, the CBC news ran a piece about a common consumer con. You return your rented car in the same condition you received it and later find a damage charge added to your credit card bill.

With the upcoming Vancouver Olympics, the rental car scam may be easier to pull off.

In the story, a businessman was told that Budget had to replace his rented Kia’s windshield at a cost of $1,100, when there was a tiny chip that would cost $25 to $30 to fill in. He cancelled his credit card to avoid having the charge put through on it.

What else can you do to protect yourself? Don’t buy the expensive collision damage waiver (CDW) from the rental company. Find out how much coverage you have from your own car insurance policy and your credit card company.

Also, take your own pictures of the rental car if you drop it off at remote locations or after hours.

The story resonated with me because I was in a fender bender accident a week ago and I’ve just rented a car from Enterprise (a nice feature of my policy). The clerk made a pitch for the CDW coverage so I wouldn’t have to involve my own insurance company. I said I’d take my chances.

The Enterprise office, located next to the body shop I went to, probably has some success with that argument. When your insurance company is already paying for one claim, why tempt fate by risking another damage claim with a rented car?

Bravo to the CBC for exposing the way car rental firms can abuse customers who haven’t bought their expensive coverage against scratches and chips.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

4 thoughts on “Beware of damage charges when renting a car”

  1. This exact thing happen to me. I was in an car accident, and insurance provided a rental car to use, while mine was in the shop.

    I was renting from Budget. They eagerly brought the car to the shop. We did the inspection, where they showed many dents and scratches, including large ones on the front bumper. They marked it down the car sheet (I wished I took photos at the time or was more careful examining what they marked down).

    When I returned the car, they claimed I added scratches to the front bumper. When I said those were the ones you showed me, they showed the sheet only had marked large scratches on one of side of the bumper. I tried to argue they existed before I picked up the car, but they kept pointing to that little piece of paper. “Conveniently” they were located next to an auto-shop, whose owner came and charged me $400 for repairing the scratches.

  2. I am using every resource at my disposal to bring a class-action lawsuit against the Vancouver International Airport Budget Rental Agency.

    This is about the scam that they and many other Budget Rental Agencies are committing on a daily basis across North America, predominantly at their airport outlets, where customers are rushed and have no time to stay and argue.

    They are running both credit card and insurance scams against their customers. I suggest if you have been victimized, you speak with your lawyer immediately.

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