I didn’t lose the cargo cover in my rental car. Do I still have to pay this $1,202 damage claim from Enterprise?

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By Christopher Elliott

Did Jesse Treakle lose the cargo cover in the BMW x-5 he rented from Enterprise in Zürich, Switzerland? Of course not. So why is he getting these demand letters from PurCo, telling him he must pay a $1,202 damage claim in the next 10 days?

Treacle’s problem isn’t as uncommon as you would think. And it’s a timely reminder to always put everything back where you found it — whether you’re renting a car, a house, or a pair of skis. Also, sometimes things get lost in translation.

Along the road to a resolution of this Enterprise damage claim, let’s answer a few questions:

  • Who is responsible when something is missing from a rental car?
  • Can a company charge me if something gets lost in my rental car?
  • How can I fight a charge when I didn’t lose something in my rental?

And we’ll also find out if Treakle is on the hook for this damage claim — or if this case has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

“They ignored my messages”

Last summer, Treakle visited Zürich and rented a BMW. Now that sounds like fun. But when he returned the car, Enterprise accused him of having too much fun.

No one mentioned the missing cargo cover when he returned the Beemer. But a few weeks after returning home, he received an email asking him where it was.

We regret to inform you that the luggage cover was missing from the vehicle you were assigned during a rental with us, and understand that you have reason to complain. However, we unfortunately cannot simply ignore it that has demonstrably occurred.

We can well understand your displeasure, as it is always very annoying for everyone. Unfortunately, no one is exempt from this.

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands, including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Now, when returning your rental vehicle, missing luggage cover has been detected, which according to the check-out protocol was neither present nor detected or recorded.

It is important to us that you know we are doing our best to ensure a fair and transparent process. Our claims department has sent an invoice and a return report to you.

We also ask you to consider that Switzerland is by far the country with the highest price/wage level in Europe, and the costs are therefore in no way comparable with other EU countries. All repairs or missing luggage cover may only be carried out by certified specialist workshops, over which we have no control.

We deeply regret your cause for complaint and appreciate that you found the time to share your perception with us.

And where was the missing cargo cover? Exactly where it was supposed to be.

Here’s your missing cargo cover — no damage claim necessary

Information from BWM manual on luggage covers.

Like a good renter, Treakle had stowed the cargo cover. 

And that’s where Enterprise would have found it. 

Information from BWM manual on luggage covers.

“I replied by email explaining where I stored the cargo cover,” he says. “I said there’s no reason for me to pay for something that is not actually missing.”

Enterprise never replied to his message.

Instead, they sent a claim through PurCo, a third party that handles car rental damage claims.

And PurCo wasn’t messing around. In addition to the cargo cover, it also wanted him to pay $65 for “loss of use” and a $150 “administrative fee” for the trouble — a total of $1,202.

Treakle protested. In a follow-up email to Enterprise and PurCo, he laid out his case.

“Please note that I stored the luggage cover inside the vehicle trunk according to the owner’s manual instructions,” he wrote. “I trust that your staff at the airport will check the storage space inside the back of the vehicle and they will find the luggage cover. Please let me know when they find it and then kindly remove these charges.”

Instead, PurCo insisted that he pay immediately.

Who is responsible when something is missing from a rental car?

Rental car contracts are clear: The lessee — that’s you — is responsible for the cost of replacing anything missing, damaged, or destroyed if the vehicle is not returned in the condition it was released.

Rental companies hold drivers liable for anything that happens to the vehicle during the rental period, even if the incident that caused the damage was out of the driver’s control. (Related: Dinged for ‘normal wear and tear’ by Enterprise.)

So for Treakle, it didn’t matter if he didn’t take the cargo cover. All that mattered was that Enterprise couldn’t find it.

It’s that simple. They send him a damage claim.

Can a company send me a damage claim if something gets lost in my rental car?

Enterprise was well within its rights to charge Treakle for the cargo cover. I’m working on another case now where a headrest went missing from a rental car, and the story is the same. If the car rental company can’t find it, you’re on the hook.

An ethical car rental company will send you a bill and ask you to pay. But there are plenty of less ethical companies that simply charge the card you have on file. (Related: Why is Enterprise making a damage claim against me?)

Does insurance or the credit card you use cover lost items? Generally, no. You need to have a police report documenting the damage to your vehicle before you can file a claim. A lost cargo cover or headrest is not covered by insurance or by your card.

So, in a way, Enterprise and PurCo were not being evil. They didn’t just charge Treakle’s credit card, as some other car rental companies would have done. But they should have read his emails more closely. Maybe they would have found the cargo cover and avoided all this unpleasantness.

How can I fight a damage claim when I didn’t lose something in my rental?

If you’re in this situation, don’t worry. You can dispute these charges and win. Here are some tips on how to fight an unfair charge from your car rental company:

Take “before” and “after” photos of your rental

Take images or videos of the car’s condition when you pick it up and drop it off. Make sure the rental agreement reflects the state of the car and don’t forget to get a copy of it. And if you can, ask a rental agent to inspect the car when you return it (get that person’s name, too). In Treakle’s case, a picture of the trunk and the cargo cover would have been helpful. 

Keep all your documents and receipts

Don’t throw out your rental contract, confirmation email, credit card statement, or any other paperwork related to your rental. If you run into trouble, you may need them. Often, these documents are helpful in establishing what you rented — make and model. If anything goes missing, you will know what should have been in the car in the first place.

If the car rental company charges you, dispute your bill

If you receive a bill for damage you didn’t cause or for an item in the car that has gone missing, get in touch with the rental company immediately. Get a detailed explanation of the charge, including photos of the missing items and a repair estimate. Remember the Elliott Method — be patient, persistent and polite. And if that doesn’t work? File a credit card dispute if your car rental company has already charged you. (Related: How Enterprise determines if you damaged a rental (updated).)

Get professional help

If you’re renting in the United States, your car rental company is regulated at the state level, so file a complaint with the state Attorney General. Of course, my advocacy team is always ready to help.

So does he have to pay for the cargo cover?

I contacted Enterprise on Treakle’s behalf. After a few weeks, good news:

“The luggage cover was recovered and the charge has been removed,” a representative told me. “The renter should have no further issues here.”

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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