Can this trip be saved? He didn’t inspect the car – now they want $700

By | September 27th, 2010

Bogus car rental damages seem to be a recurring theme on this site. This week’s edition of “can this trip be saved” takes one of those cases in its crosshairs.

Meet Andrew Schultheis, who rented a car from Alamo in Washington earlier this year. When he picked up his vehicle, no one offered to walk around the car with him, which is pretty normal. (I rented a car twice this week, and not only did they not offer to inspect the car, they refused to when I asked them to go over the vehicle.)

Then again, Schultheis didn’t go over the car, either. And that’s where the problem begins.

The next day at a parking garage, an attendant pointed out a scrape on the front bumper. Knowing I did not do it, I ignored it, figuring the damage was already on the car when I rented it.

I did not hit anything and where the scrape was located made it virtually impossible to accept that anyone else hit it while it was in our possession, based on where we parked the car overnight.

Upon return, Alamo stated the damage, specifically to the right bumper only, was my responsibility.

Schultheis has spent the last few months fighting the claim, but Alamo is persisting. It wants $700 for the damage, which now includes the scratch, plus new cracks on the side of the bumper that were never pointed out to him or acknowledged when he returned the car.

I accept the fact that I should have gone over the car before I left. But, are they responsible to go over it with me?

I cannot, however, accept responsibility for the other damage that they included after I returned the car.

Alamo has shown him photos and repair records, but they do not prove that the damage wasn’t pre-existing, only that the damage was noted on his vehicle when he returned it, and that it had been repaired.

On one hand, I think Alamo’s claim may be inflated. But on the other hand, Schultheis is responsible for any damage that happened to the car while it was in his possession — whether he saw it happen or not.

A poll of more than 500 readers showed a slim majority supported a mediation. Just over 57 percent wanted me to get involved; about 42 percent were opposed.

I’m still on the fence on this one. I’m going to have to mull it over some more. Stay tuned.

Update (10/5): It’s been fixed. Just got the following note from Schultheis:

I received a message from my contact at Alamo saying that they have decided to drop the claim against me. I am not sure exactly what you did or how, but I do know that had I not seen your article and contacted you, this would never had happened. Your personal involvement, I am sure, is what led to this decision. For this, I am incredibly grateful for your help.

There is no doubt that I will be much more diligent the next time I rent a car. And, as I mentioned before, I have subscribed to your weekly emails and have already gained insight in to becoming a more informed traveler.

(Photo: p alestrina 55/Flickr Creative Commons)

  • Elenor

    I always very carefully annotate the rental form with all the scratches and dings on a careful inspection. When I get to the exit gate, I get out of the car and have the check-out person look WITH me at the stuff I’ve marked and sign the form. (What — s/he is going to say, hell no?!) I’ve never had a query — I kinda guess because anyone who pushes it that far is likely not a good prospect for a scam! I have not taken photos before, but I will also do that from now on.

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