A picture is worth a thousand words — if you’re renting a car, make that $1,444.61

This is Kathyria Padilla’s rental car. When she returned it to Avis last April, she took a few snapshots of the vehicle, just in case.

Good thing she did.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage. VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Almost one year later, she got a letter from Avis:

They are claiming that I caused $1,444.61 in damages to the rental.

I have pictures of the rental and there are no damages to the vehicle. I took pictures before I droped off the car in case anything like this ever arose.

I was told the car was OK when I droped it off and someone inspected it. I signed the car out and I’ve never heard from Avis until yesterday when I received the claim notice in the mail.

Trouble is, Padilla no longer had the rental agreement. Even though she still had photos (and in case you were wondering, the other side of the car looked equally pristine) she thought she might have to pay Avis.

Most rental claims are still filed by paper through the U.S. Mail, and it’s difficult to send email evidence to dispute a bill. What’s more, many car rental companies outsource their damage claims to a third party, which means you’re not even dealing with the company you rented from.

Before I get to the resolution, let me say that Padilla did the right thing when she rented from Avis. As a precautionary measure, she took pictures. Those images have a timestamp (Exif data) that prove she returned the car undamaged. Some cameras put a date stamp on the actual photo, too.

I have a few more brief tips here.

Simply put, there was no easy way for Padilla to fight this late claim with her digital photos. So I contacted the car rental company on her behalf. A few days later, I got the following note from her:

I received a call from Avis yesterday afternoon. They notified me that this claim was an error and that they will send me a letter in writing for my records. I just wanted to thank you for your assistance with this matter.

You’re welcome. And thanks to Avis, too, for dropping its claim in the face of this conclusive evidence.

I’m puzzled by the 11-month lag time for a damage claim. What were they thinking? Normally, a claim like this needs to be filed within weeks of the apparent damage. Pursuing a customer almost a year later shouldn’t be part of any car rental company’s practices.

What’s the longest you’ve waited for a damage claim?

%d bloggers like this: