Don Litchfield’s car rental on Hawaii’s Big Island was a case of good news and bad news.
The good news: Dollar Rent A Car’s agent offered him a “free” upgrade to a larger SUV because Litchfield would be transporting a wheelchair. The bad news: a final bill that was more than double what he had expected to pay. It could have been avoided if he had only done what he already knew he should do.
On his final bill, he was charged $29 a day for a collision damage waiver and $14 a day for a liability insurance supplement. For the nine-day rental, those charges increased his total bill by $391 over the original estimate of $254. Litchfield says he had declined the extra damage coverage as he routinely does when renting a vehicle.
So what happened this time?
“This upgrade was appreciated,” says Litchfield. “But I didn’t catch that the agent added insurance on the bill. I know I should have double-checked the estimated bill prior to leaving.” He didn’t review the agreement. Now he wants us to help him get back that $391.
This has similarities to another Dollar complaint I recently wrote about where the final bill had charges for two kinds of extra insurance coverage after the renter said “no.” In that prior case the renter said she didn’t look at the contract because she was in a hurry.
Regular readers of this site know that a charge for unwanted rental car insurance is an all-too-frequent complaint and that it usually results from the renter’s failure to review the contract. If you look at the Frequently Asked Questions section of this site, you will see lots of questions and answers about car rentals. In the context of Litchfield’s case, check out the question and answer about upgrade “roulette.” And then look at the next paragraph, which contains the following:
Some car rental employees have been known to “accidentally” check the option for insurance, and if you sign the contract accepting it, you will be charged the full amount, and there’s usually no way to get the money back.
There is nothing wrong with accepting a “free” upgrade if it’s really free. But don’t be blinded by it or by the spoken assurances of the rental agent. Review the contract.
I’m not suggesting that you stand at the counter and read all the contract’s fine print. However, car rental agreements generally have separate lines that you initial to indicate that you are declining their optional insurance coverage. It only takes a moment to look at those lines and write your initials on the agreement. Otherwise, those charges could show up on your final bill. You have to look out for yourself. The bottom line is that your signature on the rental agreement means that you have accepted its terms.
Litchfield phoned Dollar to try to get a refund but was told that the bill would not be adjusted. Writing would have been a better idea. In those FAQs, the section on resolving consumer disputes includes guidance on when it’s best to call, email or write a letter.
Dollar is owned by Hertz. We publish the names and contact information of the Hertz customer service executive contacts on our website. He could have written to one of them but reached out to us instead.
Our advocate asked him to first post this issue to our forum to get suggestions from other posters who have gone through similar problems. As of this writing, he has not done so.
For now, we’re waiting to see what, if anything, he does himself. Given that the only paperwork in this case is a rental contract that indicates he accepted the additional damage waiver and liability supplement, this might be a tough fight to win.