Do I really have to pay for this broken windshield?

1-IMAG0070Accidents happen. Even freak accidents, like the one Jonathan Perkins experienced in his Dollar rental car.

He’d rented a Ford Taurus in San Antonio. It wasn’t in the best shape, with 50,000 miles and a coat of grime on it, but it ran just fine.

“I drove the car two hours west, to a small town called Sonora, and stayed the night in a motel,” he says. “The next morning, I walked out to the car and got in, followed by my mom. As she closed her door, the rear window cracked, and fell into the car.”

The result? Well, see for yourself. The image above was taken right after the incident.

As you can imagine, Dollar wanted him to pay for the damage. But that doesn’t make any sense to Perkins.

“The window was fine when I walked to the car, and the only pressure that the window faced was potentially my mom closing the front door,” he says. “Does it make sense that it would crack?”

It does, if his mother is a green, 7-foot-tall superhero that answers to the name Hulk. Alternatively, the window was defective. I prefer that theory, and so does he.

But what does Dollar say?

Pay up, it says. It sent him a bill for $1,224, including $523, including $9 for “loss of use,” $606 for towing and a $35 “appraisal” fee.

“I called Dollar and complained that I did nothing to the car, and the rear window broke on me,” he explains. “They said that it was still my fault. “

Perkins said that was ridiculous. For example, who needs to pay an “appraisal” fee when it’s obvious the rear window was broken? And what’s with the “loss of use”?

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Most of the damage was covered by American Express, which he used to rent the car, except for the towing fee. Dollar wanted him to pay for that. Perkins would rather not.

I have AAA and could have had the car towed with them. However, they never offered that as an option when I called them originally, nor did they say there would be a charge for it.

I thought they realized they gave me a car with a defective window and were trying to right their wrong.

Personally, I don’t think my credit card should have even paid them, as it was something defective with the car. This was like a situation of hot potato where I was the one that had the car during the rear window break out, but I did nothing that would cause it. I do question the history of the car (especially because of the dirty shape it was in when I got it) but have nothing that I can prove.

He wanted to know if I could help persuade Dollar to drop the towing charge.

No doubt about it, Perkins was responsible for the car while it was in his possession. Was there a manufacturer’s defect with the rear window? Maybe, but he would have had to show that if he wanted to make that case, and he didn’t.

But a few things about Perkins’ rental didn’t sit right with me. The vehicle was ancient and should have been auctioned off a year ago. His description of the vehicle was also suspicious — doesn’t Dollar clean its cars before giving them to its customers?

In other words, while Perkins didn’t prove there was a faulty windshield, I believe this was a problematic rental. Enough so that I asked Dollar to take another look at this case. It did, but found that the claim remained “valid” — in other words, we’re not going to remove the $606 towing charge.

It added,

We understand it can be frustrating to deal with damage issues. We did review the vehicle history, maintenance log and system and do not find any previous damage, claims or issues with the vehicle.

I wish this one had turned out differently, but for the rest of us, there are a few educational opportunities. First, don’t accept a high-mileage vehicle in substandard condition. Those are more likely to run into trouble.

Second, when something happens to your rental car, take lots of pictures (you’ll need ‘em later). If you believe you received a defective vehicle, you’ll have to do some extra sleuthing to prove it.

And finally, ask your car rental company who is liable for the towing bill, and if it’s up to you, find out if you can use your own service. Had Perkins done that, he might not owe Dollar another $606.

Should Dollar have dropped Jonathan Perkins's claim?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • ChBot

    Why would you tow the vehicle in the first place : it was still perfectly capable to be driven ???
    Cheap rate for loss of use : $9 is what : one half hour ? and on the other side, huge rate to replace a windshield : must have paid for express service !!! !!! !!!

  • jpp42

    I don’t think it’s safe or legal to drive without a rear window. But most auto glass repairers are mobile and will come to replace it in place! They must have towed it halfway across the state for $609… there needs to be more asked about who gave those instructions and why.

  • ChBot

    In most part of the world, you need to have a windshield. And not a word is said in rules and regulations about rear windows, hence the soft tops, cabriolets and other specialty vehicles

  • EdB

    The picture of the damage does not look like the type of damage that would have been caused by a stress fracture from the door closing. That looks like something was thrown into the window.

  • If they towed it from Sonora back to the San Antonio airport, that’s a good 165 miles. I could see that easily running $600+.

  • technomage1

    I don’t have a great deal of heartburn making him pay for the window – the damage did occur when it was in his possession – but over $1k is highway robbery. A service could’ve come to his location and replaced it for under $200. If dollar insisted on a more expensive repair method (tow and out of commission) that shouldn’t be on him.

  • technomage1

    One thing he could do is see if the car had ever been in an accident that may have caused bent the frame enough to put tension on the glass, especially if the car was hit in the rear. If he can get the VIN he can do a search. Typically when auto glass shatters like this with no impact for cause – and it does happen its either it was installed improperly or it was in an accident in the past.

  • Bill___A

    I had a rental car which got a pressure crack while in my possession. A friend of mine and I were in the car, in the parking lot of a store when it cracked. The car was not even running yet. I took it back to the rental agency. They charged my credit card for the windshield. It was covered by the credit card’s CDW. I still thought it was wrong. I complained to the car rental agency about it. They didn’t budge. I later found out that things like that are generally caused by improper windshield installation. I subsequently initiated a lifetime boycott of that car rental company, as well as the dealership that owned the local franchise. They got their $200 off the credit card company but they have no idea how much business they lost over it. Not only from car rentals, but car sales, referrals (or lack thereof), etc. When someone burns you for money, try to get it back. Also, try to punish them by making sure that at least 100 (or 1000) times the amount is lost by them to their competitors. This was decades ago.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    They must have hired a company to tow the car all the way from Sonora back to San Antonio. THAT is highway robbery. Besides, I can’t say I believe Dollar when it says the maintenance records show nothing.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    The problem is….Dollar self-insures. If there was an accident, unless another driver was at fault and another insurer had to pay up, you’ll probably never know.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    They could have driven it back……

  • What a nightmare to have happen. It’s easy to second-guess now on what should’ve been done, but when it’s not your fault and it happens out of the blue and you’re on holiday outside of your comfort zone, I can see why even a savvy traveler wouldn’t have stopped to ask all the right questions. Sorry this happened to the OP and it would’ve been nice if Dollar could’ve let this one go…

  • technomage1

    I still haven’t set foot in a Best Buy over treatment I received in one nearly 20 years ago & their refusal to refund a defective video game I bought. Yep, they saved themselves $40 by diddling me and lost thousands in exchange.

  • Kevin Mathews


  • Kevin Mathews

    I personally have no issues with the car rental company charging him here.
    The damage happened while the car was within his care. HE chose to call the company, report it, and let them take care of things without asking the all important question of “How Much Is This Going To Cost Me?”
    Had he taken a minute to ask that up front, instead of making an assumption that the company would cover it he would’vw known up front that he was going to get hit with a big charge and found a cheaper method of returning the vehicle.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Same here, except it was at CompUSA and a movie. Or rather, it was a DVD case, and the DVD that was supposed to be inside was not there.

    They did not believe me and said I must’ve stolen it myself. Yeah, I’m so glad that place went out of business.

  • EdB

    I’m not sure how it is in other states, but California law requires all accidents to be reported to the DMV whether you are self-insured or not and regardless of fault. I would guess other states have similar laws too.

  • john4868

    I’m with EdB. I worked as an engineer in an assembly plant for GM for a while and saw a number of tempered and safety glass failures while I was there. The rear window appears bowed in at the point of failure to me (that may be a light trick with the picture) and that points to impact vs stress as the root cause.

    I think that Dollar might have overcharged him but … The damage happened while he had the car so he’s on the hook for that. They did tow it because of that damage so he owes for that too.

    Wish I could do something for him.

  • technomage1

    Id think an accident serious enough to bend the frame would have a police report. Checking the DMVs website is worth a shot.

  • emanon256

    Darn, I am going to San Antonio in a few weeks and renting from Dollar and driving 2 hours west too! I am not looking forward to getting a car with 50,000 miles on it.

    However, I think this one is pretty clear. The renter is responsible for whatever happens to the car while its in their care. It sucks, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I voted no. This is not Dollar trying to swindle him with fake damage. Its good that his card covered the damage, and only $9 for loss of use seems like a mericle. As far as towing? I would have either just driven it, or arranged for towing myself. I may be off here, but I would have expected to be charged for towing if I let Dollar arrange it.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    ” HE chose to call the company, report it,”
    I suspect that the rental contract requires that you report the damage. Calling it a choice is highly disengenious

  • emanon256

    I used to have a convertible, with the top down there is no rear window, its perfectly safe to drive. Also, it was a 2 hour trip, $609 is pretty reasonable.

  • emanon256

    CarFax only reports accidents that were reported to CarFax. I bought one of their protection packaged back in the day when car fax was new. The car had a $25,000 guarantee to be accident free. A few months later the frame split, and they determined it was due to a bad welding job during an accident repair. The police records showed a major accident, the CarFax record showed nothing. That’s when I learned about Car Fax’s hidden clause.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Actually California only requires accidents to be reported if there is third party property damage over a certain amount or personal injury in any amount.

  • emanon256

    Something could have fallen on the glass overnight and bounced off.

  • emanon256

    I had a beef with CompUSA over a 486 DX2-66 I bought that was supposed to have a VESA compliant video port and card, and turned out not to have either. It was also supposed to have a SoundBlaster 16bit audio card and had a generic 8 bit audio card. They refused to make good on it. The add, invoice, etc. all stated that it had those items. They told me to take a hike.

  • Jolanda Robbins

    Sorry, I don’t get it, why would you need to pay a towing fee for a broken back window? Did all 4 tires also go flat when the window broke?

  • EdB

    It is over $750 damages or if there is an injury or death.
    That is any damage, not just 3rd party damages.

  • Alan Gore

    Never rent fro Dollar. This kind of treatment is standard procedure for them.

  • JenniferFinger

    That looks like a bad car and Dollar shouldn’t have rented it to him-and Perkins shouldn’t have accepted that as his rental. But once he did, any damage to the car while it was in his possession is his to pay for.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    There are cars with no rear windows (i.e. convertibles); therefore, I think that it is safe and legal to drive without a rear window.

    You are correct that most auto glass repair companies are mobile but I am sure that most rental companies have certain repair companies that they work with to insure quality and etc. for the work.

    I did a google search (what is the average towing per mile cost) and here are some of the rates that I found: “$40.00 to $50.00 for the hookup, and $3.00 to $5.00 per mile.” “Here in Houston we charge $75 for 5 miles and $2.00 per mile after that for cars and light trucks.” Based upon what I read, $ 609 seems to be a reasonable charge.

    The OP should have asked about the towing charge when the OP reported the damage. If I was the OP, I would have drove the car back (thus saving the tow) if I had the time or I would have called AAA for the tow after I was told that I was responsible for the tow. It wasn’t in the article but what did the OP drove for the rest of his trip? Another rental car from the Dollar location in San Antonio (which would have required them to wait at less two hours for the replacement if not longer…it is unlikely that they will have someone available to leave immediately after the OP reported the damage)? If the replacement rental car was from the San Antonio Dollar location, was it on the tow truck that came to pick up the car?

  • technomage1

    Deleted by poster, duplicate post.

  • Guest

    My guess would be something cracked the glass overnight, and when the door closed that made the crack spead and the glass shatter.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Not getting what made it a “bad” car. Not being washed and having 50,000 miles? That would make all my vehicles “bad” at this point in time!

  • Kevin Mathews

    I’m sure they would’ve been just fine with him driving the car back and reporting the damage on the spot. That’s all I meant by that. Didn’t mean to imply he could’ve covered it up.

  • emanon256

    Actually this got me thinking. I mentioned something bouncing off because that happened to me once. One day I walked out and my rear window was broken. I had had the car for 6 years at that point and was clueless as to how it could have happened. I called a few glass people and they all quoted me around $650. When I replaced the front window a few years earlier it was $230. They all told me the rear window costs about 3X as much as a front widow because of the defroster wires imbedded in the glass. They also all said something probably fell on it, hit it just the right way, and bounced off. So I don’t think Dollar is blowing the cost out of proportion, rear windows do cost more.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    It wasn’t in the article but was this rental location was a corporate location or a franchise location? Based upon my experiences, you will run into more “problems” and “issues” at a franchise location than a corporate location. I have been told that an economy car was a full-size car (my reservation was for a full-size car and they were out…they wanted to give me a much smaller car at the same price but ended up with a premium car at the same price); was billed three times for the same rental (incompetent desk agent); etc. This is why I try to rent from a corporate location to minimize the “problems” and “issues”.

    Over the years, I have rented cars at a Hertz Local Edition location (it is close to our house) for our camping trips; trips throughout AZ and road trips to Las Vegas. I can’t tell you how many times that the car was “dirty” (i.e. trash in the car; cigaratte ashes in a non-smoking vehicle; clumps of dirt on the floor mats; one time someone left some Chinese take-out food in the vehicle and it was summer in PHX and it stuck horribly) and I requested another vehicle and was given another vehicle along with a discount for that rental or a coupon for a discount for a future rental (I am sure that I received the discount because of the status with the Hertz frequent renter program).

  • Charles

    I’m curious as to if you have contacted American Express. This is from their rental policy: “The coverage also reimburses the Cardmember for reasonable charges (those charges incurred at the closest facility that are usual and customary in the vicinity in which the loss or disablement took place) imposed by the Rental Company, such as towing or storage and Loss of Use.” If the towing charge was “reasonable”, they should have covered it as well as the other costs. If they claim it is unreasonable, you have a strong argument against Dollar Rental cars that they are charging an unreasonable charge.

  • technomage1

    True, but it couldn’t hurt to spend 5 minutes checking on the DMVs website. He might get lucky.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    A savvy traveler would have asked the right questions.

  • DavidYoung2

    Agree that the tow is ridiculous. If it didn’t legally NEED to be towed, the OP shouldn’t have to pay for it. And it’s neither fair nor reasonable, so I’d contest it. Or pay it and sue in small claims for a refund. At least that would force them to provide the records for the tow and repair. How much you wanna bet it didn’t cost them nearly that much “net, out of pocket” for that tow and repair?

  • emanon256

    Same here :)

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I don’t know about this one. At first blush, yeah, it’s a defective window, but then I look at the photo again and it appears to be bowed in on the bottom left, making it appear as though it was struck.

    I rented a car once that WAS broken into. The passenger window was smashed in and I had to take the car back. I drove it to my rental location 20 miles away, they gave me an upgrade at no charge. I forgot to fill the tank before I got there, I was so upset, and they didn’t even charge me for that. My insurance handled everything and it was pretty painless. I never heard from either the rental agency OR my insurance about it again. The rental agency asked me if it needed to be towed and I told them I didn’t think so, but if it did, I’d use my towing coverage with my insurance policy.

    I will say, $600 for a tow seems pretty excessive, though, as does over $1000 for a window that should be in stock anywhere.

  • Jolanda Robbins

    What probably happened was something hit the glass, cracked it over night, and then when the door closed the glass shattered.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I’m with you. Had they been pulled over, they could have explained it and gone on their way, I’m sure.

  • Grant


    Spontaneous rear window explosions are a long-standing and widespread problem with Fords. I Googled “Ford rear window explosions” and found hundreds of reports. Maybe reviewing them will give you some ideas on how to proceed. Here’s a link……1.1.6.tablet-gws.Ym7rl_o3gB8&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.&bvm=bv.43828540,d.aWM&fp=41cb06ee46bbd2a4&biw=1024&bih=644

    Good luck!

  • emanon256

    I looked again and there is an interesting smear in the dust near the impact as well, like something was sitting on the trunk and slid. Maybe some people got into a fight in the parking lot and knocked someone into the rear of the car, they slid over the trunk and hit the window? Who knows. But it does look like impact.

    $600 for the tow is actually pretty reasonable because the distance is around ~160 miles. Also, the window was only $523, which is pretty much on-par for a rear windows. They cost 2 to 3X more than front windows because of the electronic defroster.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I went back and looked and, yes, there is a smear on the trunk in the dirt.

    And I completely forgot about the rear defroster! That, of course, makes it much more expensive. Thanks for keeping me honest.

  • y_p_w

    I had my car’s driver side door bashed in and several contents of my car stolen. When the cops came to take a report, I asked about the legality of driving without a side window. They told me that the only legal requirement in California is that the car have a windshield.

  • y_p_w

    Not necessarily. If a mechanical part fails during normal driving, that’s the car rental agency’s issue. If a coolant hose blows, that can’t be laid as the responsibility of the renter. If the engine blows up on the freeway, that’s not the responsibility of the renter.

    However, if the car could still be driven, I’d do just that. Maybe also buy a small vacuum and an extension cord to try and clean up the glass first.

  • y_p_w

    They still exist as a company to some degree, although they were merged into a large online retailer.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Wonder who would give you 2 downs? Maybe someone who works for Dollar?

  • Guest

    It’s not like Dollar forced him to tow it.

  • y_p_w

    When did this happen though?

    Texas in the summer? I’d want A/C and windows that were fully sealed.


    Can you not drive a car if the rear window falls in? Does it have to be towed? I think not. So now doing a walk around check with video or camera we should kind of tap on the rear window, windows and windshields etc before we drive off. I think the window might have been able to just push back in and tape it. It might have fallen out before and someone else just pushed it back in and glued it.

  • technomage1

    Fair enough, but I still think the tow and out of commission fee are out of line.


    I just saw the picture. Renter is responsible for this damage. One could drive with this, but if raining then cover plastic, cardboard and tape.

  • Seasonedtraveler

    Over 500 people think Dollar should have dropped the claim…pretty clear that many readers of this blog think car rental companies shouldn’t be allowed to charge for damage no matter what.

  • Armyvet

    If the OP chose to have it towed, they are responsible. I somehow doubt Dollar sent a tow truck without his consent, then forcibly towed the car hundreds of miles away. People need to take responsibility for their decisions.

  • Mary S

    It seems to be the norm these days. We rented a car from Advantage in Denver on March 2, 2013 and the car was filthy. The car we rented in Phoenix in November was also dirty. Neither even was minimally rinsed off. We have had no unusual claims yet but we are keeping all receipts.

  • Chinaman

    AMEX may not consider hundreds of miles of towing a reasonable charge. They probably have some kind of limit that they don’t publicize. The OP chose to have it towed; they are responsible. Others on this thread have looked up towing rates and based on the distance have come to the conclusion that $609 mAkes sense. Just because AMEX refused to pay for hundreds of miles of towing does not make this an unreasonable charge.

  • JenniferFinger

    If that car had a defective window on it, the window should have been replaced before the car was rented out. And it definitely should have been washed.

  • pauletteb

    He would have had to pay for the window were it his own car. Or does he expect the window fairy to swoop down and take care of it for free? The towing charge seems a bit much, although that might be due to the distance. Regarding mobile replacement services, there are some temperature parameters. Too hot or too cold, and the window cannot be replaced outside. Chris seems to be taking on a lot of whingers lately. There MUST be some legitimate complaints out there.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    But it’s not his car. If it had a mechanical problem, e.g. Low fluids, threw a a rod, etc. he wouldn’t be responsible. If he can prove a defect or negligence, he prevails.

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