Is Hertz’s extreme surcharge an outrage?

By | November 18th, 2015

Andrea Saint James needed to rent a car in Los Angeles when she attended her friend Mary Morgan’s wedding.

Saint James did her research, took careful notes and found a rental from Hertz for $493. The cost seemed reasonable for 13 days. Before she committed to it, she, Morgan, and the Hertz agent discussed the possibility of picking the car up in Lakewood, Calif., and dropping it off at the airport at LAX, a difference of about 20 miles.

The representative informed her that it was possible, but that Hertz would probably tack on a $50 surcharge for her to return it at the airport. Saint James thought that was fair and her friend rented the car for her.

“Imagine our shock when I returned the car with more gas than I got it with and in perfect condition,” Saint James exclaimed, “We learned that the surcharge was $1,500 extra! All that for 10 days in a Yaris? I could have bought a car for that!”

Although Saint James was chomping at the bit to take on Hertz immediately, Morgan calmed her down and told her to let her credit card company fight it out for her. But then Morgan unintentionally paid off the charge — $1,993 — and now Saint James is feeling a lot of pressure, because the original intent was for her to pay her friend back. If she is forced to pay this extra $1,500, it will cause her financial hardship.

Morgan did make numerous calls to both Hertz and Visa, but Hertz claimed the renters, “broke the contract,” and refuses to refund the surcharge.

Related story:   A funny smell on the Breakaway

She’s not alone. There are other accounts of this problem.

Our son didn’t do the right thing and returned his car (on time – no damages) at a different Boston Hertz facility 65 miles away from where he should have. Hertz provided no receipt – stated everything was okay – then took an additional $2,036 out of his credit card account with no warning.

Discussion on that site seemed to indicate that the charges were due to a “different place return” rate, rather than a “same place return” rate and that because the renter returned the car to a different location, he “broke the contract.”

Did the language in Morgan’s contract specify that her rental car would be returned to a different location, or was it just a verbal conversation that Saint James and Morgan had with the Hertz representative? Since Hertz now claims Morgan “broke the contract,” it sounds like the arrangements to return the car to a different location were not captured in writing.

Saint James is asking us to step in and try to get what she considers an outrageous and unjustified extra fee credited back to Morgan’s Visa.

Should we advocate for Andrea Saint James?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

  • sirwired

    What DOES the rental contract say? That’s not a question for the unwashed masses (or the advocates) to answer; that involves actually having access to the rental contract, which the OP has.

    That aside, the “one-way rental” fees are, indeed, pretty strange. They are based on the total miles the rental was driven, not as you might think, the distance between the two locations.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Not relevant to this crazy-high charge but I’m confused why the OP rented the car but the bride paid for it. It says the intent was always to pay her back so then why didn’t the OP just pay the bill from the start? Was the OP too young to rent? Doesn’t have a credit card? I ask because I wonder if she’d have worked a bit harder to get the exact details on the charges spelled out if she’d been the one totally responsible for the bill.

  • Steve Rabin

    If she was told it would cost an extra $50 by a Hertz employee (which is a verbal contract), that is what it should cost, not $1500. And no matter what, $1500 is absolutely absurd for the distance, even though I know that the agency that rented the car may not be directly related to the returning agency (related in name/franchise only) and the distance may not matter contractually.

    Of course, one must always check the written contract and get the agent to write in any exceptions to avoid misunderstandings.

    I recommend taking the case, if only because of the sheer amount of the bill.

  • MarkKelling

    Every one-way Hertz rental I have ever done has a spelled out amount for the drop off fee and it is a fixed amount not based on miles driven or miles away from the original location. Most have been $50 – $75 as long as you remain in the same state. Some have been ZERO dollars when going from a local location to the airport location.

    There must be something else here that triggered the large extra charge. Just because dropping the vehicle at a different location was discussed does not mean it was added to the contract. If it is not in the contract, you can’t do it.

    And I find it interesting that there are no less than 5 separate ads for Hertz appearing on the page as I write this.

  • JenniferFinger

    I’d find out what the rental contract provides for, and then question that huge surcharge. That really doesn’t make sense based on what is written here. There might be some valid reason for charging so much, but I think you need to advocate to find out what it is.

  • AJPeabody

    My hypothesis: Contract: So many days, miles, rate, return to same place. Did not return to same place, so contract is “broken.” New rate: walkup full price rip off rate, plus drop off fee.

    Gotcha, sucker!

  • Hanope

    I don’t think that for such a small distance between the two, the OP should have even considered dropping the car off at a different location. Drop the car off where you rent it, take no risk, and call a cab to get to the airport, which would have been probably the same $50, but not risk some screw up with the rental contract.

  • Jeff W.

    A few possible explainations.

    * Renting from a corporate facility (like an airport) and returning to a franchisee (neighborhood) will sometimes trigger this. Or vice versa.
    * The discount/corporate code used to book the rate. Not sure the Hertz lingo, but Avis it is AWD and National is Contract ID. Discount codes (or using none at all) can trigger this fee. Corporate codes often times do not have this charge.

    $1500 does seem a bit high, so advocate.

  • Bill___A

    Do either of these people (and others who complained) have rental agreements before they took the car with the rental charges clearly laid out and the drop off location clearly noted on the agreement, or does the agreement state that the car returns to the same location?

    Generally, when one gets a quote for a rental car, any and all charges are clearly laid out. If the fee for dropping off at a different location wasn’t noted, then it is an “unauthorized drop off in another location”.

    What’s the deal here? Did all of these people not stipulate where they were dropping off the car at time of rental? Or not? Where’s the original quote for dropping the car off elsewhere? If there is a quote and Hertz charged differently than the quote, then that’s an issue. However, I expect they do not like people dropping off cars at different locations without notice, and if that happened, I suspect that’s what is going on here. If you rent a car from someone, be fair and tell them where you want to drop it off. In advance.

  • Susie

    Unfortunately you are correct…I’m sure the rental contract clearly states the $1500 drop off fee. Every rental contract I have ever received clearly lists where you are picking up the car, where you are dropping it off and what you are paying for each day, fees, taxes…and drop off fees if you are using that option. I think it’s a sad reflection on Hertz that their agent didn’t bother mentioning this extraordinary amount to Ms. Saint James just to make sure that that was ok before she rented the car. That being said, I know I haven’t always stopped to read all their little fine print costs…I quickly look at the final price and if it coincides with my quote (and I always have a copy printed out), I’m ok with it. But recently I noticed that even I could have been “caught” with a hefty charge. I rented a Sat noon pick up to Sun noon drop off for $25 a day. I ran late a couple hours on Sun and fully expected to pay an additional $25 for an extra day. As I sat there waiting for the attendant to check me back in, I began reviewing the contract and saw that it stated that if you don’t return it on time you would be charged $90 for an extra day. I couldn’t believe I had missed that but it was written clearly on the contract. Fortunately they charged me an hourly rate for those 2 extra hours. But the point is if a frequent traveler like myself can miss a charge, how much easier is it for someone who is inexperienced to get caught.

  • Alan Gore

    It’s another case of one agent lying to the customer about the amount of the drop-off fee, knowing that he would not be held accountable later.

  • Did she book online or with the agent? The terms are usually quite evident, even when picking up the car.

  • C Schwartz

    I find this very strange. I recently did a one way rental from Hertz – pick up in Palm Springs and drop off at LAX, three days, and all prearranged and I did not have any dreadful charges. The total charge was less than 180 dollars as it was not a weekend rate, it was mid week business rate. What I notice is that the original poster said they had discussed the possibility with the agent of returning to a different location but it does not sound like the renter actually arranged that. What documentation does the op have? The possibility of returning sounds like a casual non binding conversation-and that prior confirmation of costs in terms of email or written document was not gotten before returning the car to a different location.

  • 42NYC

    Get the fee in writing? In a couple months i’m renting a car in Vegas and driving it to San Diego (half the cost of a flight and surprisingly there are no non-stops on this route). The reservation clearly states a $75 fee for this. If Enterprise decides that the fee should now be $1500, at least I have it in writing that its $75.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Usually the Pick up and the Drop Off station were stated on the contract and the calculation of the estimate cost at the time of the Reservation show it. There is a charge if there is any and sometimes it’s free. And certainly the drop off at different station option is printed on the contract.
    But 1500$ charge is certainly an aberration, and a abuse of trust. Not a honest way of doing business.

  • jim6555

    You didn’t look had enough for a flight. Southwest has 10 non-stop flights each day from LAS to SAN.

  • 42NYC

    good catch, thank you!! I forgot SWA doesnt show up on kayak (since they’re not much of a player out of NYC).

    The $101 flights are way too early in the morning, the midday flights are $240 which isnt much more than the total cost of the rental car. I’ve also heard driving from Vegas to Southern California on a Sunday can be a disaster so will assume this is a timesaver. Will book a flight today!!

  • just me

    Contract terms and conditions need to contain the clear language and the price. Also the contract with such terms needs to signed by the renter. An inspection of Hertz US website shows clearly that Hertz invites customers to Hertz if they need one-way rental, and mentions nothing about punitive charges if the contract is not specifically made for that.
    The charge should be disputed with the credit card as not authorized. Just because Hertz claims broken contract does not authorized the credit card to maintain the charge.
    In court Hertz would need to prove that the customer knew before entering into the contract that the charge for drop off elsewhere will be the specific amount. In addition if the rental return location is e.g. 20 miles away from the proper location – the court is unlikely to order $1,500 — at best Hertz will need to show the real cost of bringing that car back, and most importantly will need to show that it did bring it back to the original location.
    Of course as always is the case with courts – the results might be different in different parts of the country.

  • cscasi

    Many times, when you rent a car in one place and drop it off in another, the rate will change from unlimited mileage to a rate that includes cents per mile rate, plus a drop off charge. If that was how the contract was written, that could be why her bill was so high (if she drove a lot of miles during those 11 days). We do not know, because the details of the rental contract are not provided, so all we can do is speculate.
    I would say that the bottom line is that this young lady should have READ the contract BEFORE signing it and questioned anything she did not understand (like the total estimated charge for the rental).Too many people listen (or half listen) to the rental representative and think they understand everything, so they just sign and drive. A couple extra minutes reviewing a contract could save one a lot later on.

  • cowboyinbrla

    Written contracts almost always trump verbal ones. Especially if the written one took place after the verbal one – superseding, so to speak, the original deal.

  • Pegtoo

    I’m looking at a one way from MCO to Cape Canaveral. One agreement says there “may be additional charges for one way based on the location’s policies”. (This is on the rental summary based on inputting the two locations.) Of course, when I finally find these policies, they say NOTHING about one way charges. So am I safe or being set up for a surprise?

    Another says rental summary says Friday night stay is required for the rate…. but I put in dates that are Saturday to the next Monday. What????

    These are really confusing.

    A different company clearly shows me a one way charge in the rate. I’m sticking with them.

  • BMG4ME

    Hertz and most others do charge surcharges for one way rentals. Some don’t allow them at all. Hertz seems to be very inflexible as to what it calls a one way. Avis might allow you to rent at one airport in a city (like Dulles) and return to another (Baltimore) as if it were the same airport. Hertz would either charge a mileage charge which could end up quite large, or increase the daily rate. You could try advocating claiming ignorance on the part of the customer, but they should be aware that this is common practice with car rentals. I would never book a same pickup/return rental and then turn it into a one-way without asking first what the implications are.

  • Lindabator

    that’s where I think the problem is — when I change my corporate clients’ rentals, they actually have to go in and price for accuracy – and have NEVER had only $50 come up in an instance like this.

  • LonnieC

    Not to distract from the main issue, but why should a change in “e. Airline and Flight Number” have any effect at all on rental car rates???

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.