Is this the end of the car rental “ding” scam?

By | August 25th, 2009

dingRecent news that Hertz would begin photographing its cars before they’re rented got me wondering: What about the “ding” scams that have made the car rental industry millions of dollars over the last few years?

You know, the one where you rent a car, return it completely undamaged, and a representative points to a tiny ding or scratch on the roof or the underbelly, where you couldn’t have possibly known to check for pre-existing damage.

Is this the end?

People like Nancy Westcott must be wondering. She recently rented a car from Enterprise, where she said no representative bothered to walk around the vehicle and check for damage. They didn’t miss the inspection on the return.

I was settling my bill when a representative came up and said I had damaged the car. I was speechless since there was no way the car had been damaged while in my possession.

Westcott spoke with a supervisor, who gave her the bad news.

She said she had no way of knowing if I was telling her the truth. She said she would have to write it up as damage which occurred while the car was in my possession. She kept me waiting for well over an hour. She did not return my paper work (lease agreement) which I had initialed and signed under duress and I was so upset I failed to request that she give it back.

Her total bill came to $775. There’s just one problem: Westcott kept her rental car parked in her driveway almost the entire time, and says she closely monitored the vehicle.

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Had the car been photographed pre-rental — or at the very least checked by an Enterprise representative — this could have been avoided.

Reader Edward Stone, who rented a car from Avis in Seattle, shares a similar experience.

I noted no damages when I rented the car. Upon return to Seattle, the Avis agent cited an inconsequential blemish (about the size of a dime) on the rear bumper which I had not even noticed at the time of rental. They insisted on filling out a form on which I noted that I was unaware of any damage to the car.

Earlier this week I received a packet from Avis asking for over $460 in repairs. I carry rental car insurance both through my own personal insurance and also through my platinum credit cards so I called Visa to bring them into the loop.

Here’s where it gets interesting. His credit card company told him this was a scam.

· Visa requires a claim be filed within 45 days of the “incident”; I received their charge on the 45th day after the return of the car. If I had not been diligent in calling Visa immediately, the claim would have been outside their window. That is apparently standard operating procedures for the scam.

· Most private auto insurance, mine included, has a $500 deductible for this type of claim — the total charges alleged by Avis was $460 — an effort to keep the insurance companies out of the discussion.

· The photos provided showed no evident damage to the vehicle so now we have a “he said, she said” situation in which most renters would lose because the value of the time required to protest is greater than the cost to settle.

Stone, who is retired and says he has “the time and determination to fight this claim” is not letting Avis get away with this. I contacted Enterprise on Westcott’s behalf, and it dropped its claim against her.

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I think no one has a problem paying for damage to a rental car — particularly if they have the “before” and “after” photographic evidence.

But the “ding” scam has gone on long enough. Hopefully, this will end it.

(Photo: kfisto/Flickr Creative Commons)

  • Rented from National Car rental Victoria airport BC Canada. in a hurry to get to my mother’s death bed.
    Noticed a 500$ charge on Visa 3days after my return of the car. Inquired and said I scratched the bumper. No way , I checked before leaving . Was in the Emerald club so was used to coming and going thinking I had a  level of trust with this company.   This company has done this to me years ago but I always had their no fault extra coverage and just left it to them to take care of . Again it was a scratched bumper. What a racket. This time have ICBC roadstar but the attitude of the adjuster is poor and more fighting. I’m out 3-500$ and a pile of hassle and lost my mother.
    Taxi for me from now on. 
    Houston BC Canada

  • It is the customers responsibility to note every ding, scratch, dent, scrape, windshield chip, anything on the damage tag! You are renting the car! If you don’t want to take the time to do this, and it comes back with damage that was not noted by you, then yes, we will charge you for it! We rarely have to charge customers for dings and scratches, were not as picky as big corporate locations, but we still tell your customers, unless the purchase the loss damage waiver, then they are 100% responsible for damage to the vehicle regardless of fault!

  • Coffee_Girl

    We had a similar situation. We rented a car in Chico, CA and the following morning drove it to the airport. When we arrived at the airport the girl checking us in said we had moved the muffler?!? Are you serious!?! That company is such a joke. I have read numerous postings from people that have fallen victim to being to told that they now have to pay for damage that they didn’t do. We will NEVER use Enterprise again. It’s just flat out ridiculous. We received a bill in the mail for $1,200 to not only have the muffler fixed but they also found additional damage?!?!? Every one take your business some where else. Oh, and take pictures of the car to have proof in case someone wants to screw you over. Other people had suggested cancelling the credit card and no paying the charges. We are in the process of figuring out what the heck we are going to do. 

  • roocifer

    Whine,whine, whine.  Your car was parked in your drive way?  Mine was damaged by someone pulling into turn around in my neighborhood.  You got a bill for less than your deductable so it must be a scam?  Sure I agree that 45 days is unexcusable but you are leasing something for a short time froma group that owns that thing.  If you screw it up or it’s screwedup while you have it then it’s your fault.  It’s not a difficult concept.

  • Angela R

    Any tips on how to best fight claims?

  • bill_45

    I’m suing Enterprise in small claims court because they are threatening me with collections over a scratch.

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