Can you successfully fight a bogus car rental agency damage claim?

During Allan Solomon’s recent visit to Spain, he rented a car with a manual transmission from Thrifty Car Rental in Granada. But it broke down an hour outside of Ronda, and he had to call Thrifty to send a tow truck. Now Hertz, the parent company of Thrifty, is billing Solomon for the transmission repair.

Although he contacted Hertz to contest the charge, he’s had no success in getting Hertz to drop the claim.

“I have had no response and at this point I am being threatened with a collection agency if I do not pay $2,267,” says Solomon, who then contacted our advocates to ask for help in fighting the claim.

As much as we want to help Solomon — and we think he deserves our assistance — our advocates have had no better luck than he has when it comes to fighting damage claims since 2013. At that time, our own Christopher Elliott persuaded Hertz to drop a damage claim as a courtesy to a consumer. But this case is an exception. As a rule, we simply aren’t able to help customers contest car rental damage claims.

Solomon had purchased insurance from Thrifty as part of his rental and was given an emergency telephone number to call. But when the clutch failed in his rental car, he found himself stranded in a dangerous area for over an hour. The emergency telephone number did not work.

Somehow, he managed to reach an agent of Thrifty, who arranged for a tow truck to pick up the car in Ronda. Solomon then took a train to Seville, his final destination on his trip.

Related story:   Eco-scandal: American flies 777 to London with just five passengers

When he returned to the U.S., he contacted Hertz and was told that the bill was closed. But three months later, he received the repair bill for the clutch.

Solomon posted a thread about his case in our forum. Our advocates advised him to contact the Hertz executives listed in the contacts section of our website, beginning with the lowest-ranking executive and allowing that person two weeks to respond before escalating to the next higher-ranking executive.

We also referred him to a pinned forum thread in which we offer a procedure to follow in contesting car rental damage claims.

In general, we recommend in that thread that car renters send polite letters to our executive contacts, asking them for various documents in order to prove their claim that the car renters are responsible for damage to the vehicles. We also advise all car renters to photograph their cars thoroughly, both before driving them off the rental facility lot as well as at the time of returning them.

Unfortunately, following these procedures didn’t persuade Hertz to drop Solomon’s claim. Hertz reiterated its demand for $2,267 by the end of July, threatening to turn Solomon over to its legal department if he didn’t comply. It also refused to provide him with any of the documentation he had requested as proof of the claim.

At that point Solomon contacted our advocacy team for help, referencing the 2013 case in which Hertz dropped the damage claim. But our advocates told him that he needed to contact an attorney.

Related story:   I need my accident report from the National Parks Service. Can you help?

Solomon questioned our response.

“I do not fully understand your unwillingness to advocate for me,” he says. “I was in a position where I was being threatened with referral to a collection agency, but I still feel this was extortion and wonder why one of your volunteers could not have simply tried to help.”

It’s not that we don’t want to help. Rental companies are following the letter of the rental agreement and not responding favorably to our mediation in these matters. Most of the problems in our ‘can’t resolve’ file aren’t that way because of a lack of resolve on our part, but because of the system. Simply put, the deck is stacked in the industry’s favor, and there is nothing we can do or say to change it.

It’s painful for us to have to admit that there are deserving consumers whom we can’t help. But car renters fighting phony damage claims are sometimes among them.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for

  • Mel65

    Why are they coming after him if he purchased Thrifty’s insurance??

  • LDVinVA

    Wondered that myself…

  • Alan Gore

    The whole point of these fake charges – and now that people are taking pictures of their rentals, they’re claiming damages that would not show up in pictures – is to force re fees to buy the company insurance. And that he did.

    And Hertz has no right to deny discovery (letting him see repair records to support his case). I would just let them come after me and let their case founder on these points. It’s pure bluff and intimidation.

  • greg watson

    bring it on Hertz………………….hassle me all you want,,,,,,,,,,,,,but you won’t get my money….just bad PR !

  • Annie M

    Probably because this is a mechanical failure and not a car accident or damage claim. Which makes it worse. I doubt this guy ruined the transmission himself- it was a cumulative effect and the poor slob that ends up being the last one gets the blame.

    Terribly unfair.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I think he should wait until they actually try a collection agency. He should create a file showing mental anguish and distress, along with any actual damages. Then get an attorney to sue for fraud on the consumer, discover the records, and refuse to settle for less than $100,000 plus attorney’s fees. I bet he’d win in front of a jury (especially if he purchased the insurance). (But this is not legal advice, just my opinion).

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    Americans should be aware that the Europeans have been forced by government diktat into really lousy small diesels. In order to keep emissions down these cars are loaded with expensive and complicated emissions equipment, and in order to make the driving experience more like a petrol, they get fitted with super complicated transmissions too. All this at a time when car makers are under pressure to raise profits and cut prices. The result has been a load of catastrophically unreliable cars, the worst of which seem to come from the VAG group, such as the Mk 6 and 7 Golf and their derivatives.

    On our last trip to the UK we ended up in a diesel Passat. It drove OK, but you had better believe my heart was in my mouth lest the clutch go or the check engine light come on.

    Very hard to know how to protect yourself against these kind of problems.

  • Alan Gore

    If it’s a mechanical failure, they can’t charge him for it. It has to be classified as damage. Which he is insured against.

  • C Schwartz

    Chris Elliot covered this question in June 22 2012 — basically the car companies consider this type of clutch damage “gross negligence”…. or that is what he was told when he investigated another such claim.

  • C Schwartz

    Chris Elliott covered this in 2012 and he was told this type of clutch damage was considered negligence and that is why it is not covered –

  • KanExplore

    I agree. If the facts are indeed complete as Solomon presents them, I can’t see that Hertz has much of a case.

  • AAGK

    Sending the matter to legal is a bad thing? I would start there. So what if it sends this to collections? The OP has more protections vis a vis collection agencies then from the original creditor anyway. Unless he damaged the clutch, then he needs to pay the bill.

  • AAGK

    I agree.

  • cscasi

    The question is, does the insurance he purchased cover damage to the vehicle’s clutch? I guess probably not, since Hertz is going to turn his bill over to a collections agency if he does not pay up.
    We have seen these clutch cases here before and they point to us needing to be a lot more careful if we rent a vehicle with a standard transmission.
    Is there rental insurance coverage that does cover mechanical damage?

  • Carrie

    I am so glad you are covering this topic again as it is happening so very often. It is quite intimidating for the avg consumer to have to defend ones self against false charges. Shady companies.

  • Maxwell Smart

    in Australia if
    “being threatened with a collection agency ”
    most people would just laugh & say go away, however, haven’t Thrifty got his credit card ?

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Agreed. But if the car broke down as quick as the OP said, the fault dear cscasi lies not in the OP, but in Hertz.

  • RightNow9435

    one way is to NOT rent a manual transmission car

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    Yeah, good luck with that in Europe !

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.