How much did you say that windshield costs, Advantage?

How much should Matthew Beale pay for a “damaged” windshield on his Advantage rental?

If you guessed about $400 for a new windshield on the late-model Kia Sorento, which is the going rate, guess again.

Try doubling it to $800 — that’s $700 for the repair and an $100 “administrative” fee.

Our advocates asked Advantage about this huge repair bill weeks ago. We haven’t heard a peep from them. Now Beale is left with a difficult decision. Maybe you can help.

Beale says he rented the car for four days in February.

When I initially got the keys to the car, I noted that the front windshield was already cracked. I marked this on the Advantage-provided damage form, returned to the counter, and provided the carbon copy to the employee there, who acknowledged the damage and took receipt of the copy.

I also noted the damage to the guard at the exit of the parking lot, who signed the form and told me I was fine as long as I had noted it.

Almost two months later, I received this damage claim from Advantage. I find this particularly mystifying because it looks like they took the car in for repairs in mid-February (the 17th), but did not notify me until now.

Unfortunately, I did not think to take pictures of the damage. I’m kicking myself for this now as I usually do it, but I had been waiting for the car for about an hour and a half (an extremely inefficient Advantage rental location), it was about 11 p.m., and I still had a couple of hours of driving to do in dodgy weather.

Doubly unfortunately, I cannot find my copy of the damage slip where I noted the cracked windshield, due to the fact that this happened almost two months ago. FWIW, my fiancée was with me and corroborates my version of events.

Advantage sent Beale photos of the rear windshield and repeated its demand:

You were the renter or authorized driver of a rental vehicle which sustained damage or loss. Pursuant to the rental contract, you are responsible for all damages or loss to the rented property while it was in your care, custody or control, regardless of fault.

Conveniently, Advantage didn’t send the rental agreement, which Beale says would have exonerated him.

When our advocates reviewed his case, we believed it was a slam dunk. We contacted Advantage on Beale’s behalf and hoped for the best, as we always do.

The response? Nada.

Beale tracked down the form, which showed the damage. He sent it to Advantage.

Again, nothing.

Frivolous car rental damage cases are exceptionally difficult. A rental company can send you an inflated bill with junk fees, as Advantage did, and photos of the wrong part of the car, which it also did, and it can still win. Why? Because if you don’t pay up, it will have a corporate tantrum — reporting you to a credit agency, a collection agency, suing you and finally adding you to its “Do Not Rent” list.

Beale’s options are limited. Here’s what he can do:

  • He can refuse to pay. That’s what a lot of rental customers do when they are broadsided with a bogus bill. He may get his credit scores dinged and he’ll never be able to rent from Advantage again. But does he really want to rent from them? I wouldn’t.
  • He can fight it. I outline some of the steps he can use to appeal this in our car rental FAQ section. This is a relatively small claim, and if he pushes hard enough, Advantage could back down. It’s definitely an option.
  • He could go on the offensive. You know, lawyer up or file a nuisance lawsuit in small claims court, demanding it pay him for lost work time or some other equally dubious claim. Hey, it’s small claims court. Anything goes!

I’m not sure what to tell Beale. I think we’ve done all we can to help him. Now what?

What should Beale do?

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Update: We just heard from Beale. Advantage has dropped the claim.

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

  • He could also send the information to the state Attorney General and cc Advantage. The combination of a highly inflated windshield price plus documentation of prior damage should get their attention.

  • Rebecca

    So he has proof that he noted it before he left the lot and they still charged him? That’s just patently ridiculous. He needs to file a complaint with the AG in the state this happened. That’s outrageous.

  • KanExplore

    Unfortunately he apparently lost the proof. Too bad, because I suspect he’s probably right.


    I am confused here. The OP noted damage to the front windshield but Advantage is claiming damage to the rear windshield according to the post. So which is it?

  • It souds like job for the courts under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, maybe a

    complaint to the FTC along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    I would also pursue this with the State Attorney General. AND file a complaint asserting insurance fraud, as I am sure this was also filed with their insurance carrier.

    Throw the book at them.

  • MarkKelling

    “Beale tracked down the form, which showed the damage. He sent it to Advantage.”

    Apparently he did find it eventually. But given the confusion over front vs. rear glass in the article, not really sure which one they are charging for.

  • MarkKelling

    Me too. If he has proof about the FRONT glass and they are billing him for the REAR glass, then that is a whole ‘nother thing.

  • MF

    I’m a big fan of ‘running down parallel tracks’ to solve a problem. I find no conflict with doing 2 of 3, or even 3 of 3 of the suggestions listed, why be linear about this?

  • Rebecca

    The way I understood it was that they sent a picture of the wrong part of the car. Meaning, he was being charged for the front windshield:

    “…photos of the wrong part of the car, which it also did”


    But I am still curious if there was damage on the rear windshield. Seems odd they would send a photo showing no damage.

  • Rebecca

    I agree. However, we’ve seen stranger with damage claims. I just assumed it would have been pointed out if the photo showed a damamged rear windshield, it just said it showed the rear windshield. And the invoice was for the front windshield.

  • cscasi

    Probably depends on what the damage claim Advantage sent him, states. I am pretty sure it states what was damaged. He noted the front windshield was damaged and that was noted. However, did the back window/rear windshiled get damaged during his possession of the vehicle? It could be that and all Advantage is charging him for is the back window, not the front windshield and that is why they sent a picture of the back and not the front.
    Then again, perhaps the company is trying to get money from him because he has proof of the front windshield condition, so let’s tell him it is the back one we are charging him for.
    In any case, I would fight it.
    All the more reason to take photos all around the vehicle before you rent it and again when you return it. It is a shame it has come to this, but one has to protect himself/herself or submit to buying the rental car company’s insurance, buy insurance like AMEX offers/or use a credit card that covers rental cars and is “primary” insurance.

  • Chris Johnson

    I rented from Advantage once and it was a horrendous experience in so many ways. They are really the bottom of the barrel – not a “second tier” company like Thrifty, Dollar or Enterprise or even a “third tier” company like Payless. It’s not worth the money you save. Spend an extra $5-10/day and rent from another company while preserving your sanity. I remember the location I rented from having countless marks on the wall from people kicking it in frustration and employees with zero professionalism who should be working at a towing yard instead. You get what you pay for.

  • Steve Rabin

    OK, being cynical here. Here’s what I think rental companies do: they see the damage, and go backwards from the last renter, keep trying to charge someone until one of them is dumb or guilty enough to pay. In the meantime, they fix the car (a windshield can be replaced in 30 minutes on site–I know, I’ve had it done!) and get it back on the road making money. And, they have the audacity to charge you for “time lost” when the car probably was out for less than a day. When you call them on it, they either threaten you or move on to the next sap up the list.

    I warned you, I’m being cynical, but I’m betting there some shred of truth here.

  • Byron Cooper

    I would have contacted my auto insurance unless I had primary credit card rental insurance. Windshield damage is generally comprehensive rather than collision and may have a lower deductible. Also a comprehensive claim may not raise your rates depending on your state or insurance company. Chase has free primary car rental insurance for some cards and American Express offers it for a small fee.

  • Carrie

    The customer brings up a good point about time of day. What can the renter do if it’s evening and dark? Especially if there is not adequate lighting to for video or photos?

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