Can this trip be saved? Hey, you missed a scratch on your rental car


This is the front bumper of Jeffrey Scheid’s rental car in Reno. See anything? Yeah, neither do I.

But if you look at the bottom of the bumper, you’ll see “scratches” for which Enterprise is charging him an extra $500. Scheid is suspicious. So am I.

Before we go there, let’s rewind to when he picked up his rental three days earlier. An Enterprise agent inspected the vehicle before handing him the keys.

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Never once did he get on his hands and knees and inspect under the car and neither did I.

The garage at the airport was dark, the car was wet and there were numerous bug splats on the front bumper and scratches on the rear bumper from luggage loading. The only thing noted was a door “ding” in the right front door.

One other curious thing in an effort to sell me coverage was that he asked me what my insurance deductible and who my car insurance carrier was. I have never been asked this by any company and I assure you will never give that out again. Doug noted that on my contract.

A few red flags are raised with this pick-up. First, the condition of the vehicle. Never rent a dirty car. Bug splats and dirt can conceal a lot of damage.

Second, the dark garage. I know, all garages are dark, but sometimes I wonder if they keep them that way intentionally to prevent a thorough inspection.

And finally, the question about Scheid’s deductible was too much. Why ask such a question if the agency didn’t intend to make a claim?

Sure enough, when he returned the car, he found another employee ready to finish the job.

The very first thing he did was get down on his hands and knees and inspect under the car. He pointed out scratches on the bottom of the left-side of the bumper.

I am an honest person and implored I did nothing wrong with the car. He said since the scratches were not noted in my contract that I would be responsible and would have to pay for them.

Enterprise charged his credit card $542 — $42 for the rental and $500 for his deductible — within minutes of returning the car.

“I never signed any document or received any document showing that a claim was going to be filed,” he says. “Evidently I should have been given a loss-damage report but that issue was never discussed and charges were made without my approval.”

I’m sure Enterprise will follow up with the right documents, eventually. It might be nice to get a repair estimate before charging him, though.

Here’s my problem with this case: If Scheid damaged the front bumper of his rental — even if he wasn’t aware of the damage — then he should pay for it. He says he parked the car carefully when he drove it, and I’m sure he did. But if the scratches weren’t there before he rented and were there when he returned them, he’s still responsible.

But he’s not sure. “Those scratches could have easily been there but not pointed out in the beginning,” he told me.

I’ve seen this kind of thing before. No one checks the roof either, by the way.

Still, the odd experience when he picked up the vehicle makes me wonder if the good folks at Enterprise in Reno aren’t pulling a fast one. Here’s how Enterprise should be handling claims, according to its executive in charge of damages.

Is it following its own rules? If not, should I get involved?

Update (11:30 a.m.): This has been fixed. Scheid appealed to Enterprise’s executives, and they issued a refund.

66 thoughts on “Can this trip be saved? Hey, you missed a scratch on your rental car

  1. Oh, this is a no-brainer for you to get involved.  Smells of scam all over it.  Had this scenario happen IDENTICALLY with me with Europcar in Scotland once at GLA.  Told them to take their car off-line for several days while they repaired the 1/2 inch scuff and then send me a copy of the bill.  Fortunately, it never went any further.

    This is the kind of crap that car rentals need to be forbidden to do.  They would never take a productive car off-line for something that insignificant, so why are consumers being charged.  Was with friends in BCN this past week and their Alamo rental was presented to them with significant scratches on the side (i.e. multiple 8-12″ long scratches).  It was on their inspection sheet at pick-up, so there was never any question about it for our friends, but I wonder if Alamo charged the renters who originally damaged it and then simply pocketed the cash.

  2. I rented from this very same Enterprise location only a couple of month ago: at the Reno Airport. (First, the Amtrak California Zephyr, now the car rental location. I hope the hotel I stayed at in Tahoe isn’t going to pop up for some reason next.)

    Yes, the cars are located in a parking garage, as are those of the other rental companies at this particular airport. So, I think it’s a matter of convenience of location than intentionally trying to screw people, as this was one of my own concerns when I went to personally inspect the vehicle I rented. But a real problem with this set up is that I’m not sure this particular location has as much of an ability to clean their cars.

    One of the things that is stressed to me at my usual Enterprise rental location (not an airport) is that when it comes to scratches, they’re only looking for big ones, and they’re lenient about areas such as under the bumper of the front of the car or by the trunk.

    Of course those scratches could have been there when the OP picked up the car, but that shouldn’t matter: those scratches do not appear to be anything near enough to warrant a claim by Enterprise. Definitely mediate this one.

    That said, I had no problem my rental from this location, and I picked up a car that was fairly clean on the outside, and returned it rather dirty; I took the car over to Tahoe, where it snowed and rained much of the time.

    Lastly, even my usual location has started to ask me about my insurance carrier. So, it might be worth checking into to find out if this has become SOP in recent months and why.

  3. If you have a car rental employee conducting a pre-rental inspection, it is my suggestion to video tape the inspection if you have a phone with video recorder; a camcorder; etc.  Also, it makes sense to video tape the car when you return it.

  4. Scratches on bottoms of bumpers like this are common on most every car driven these days. The height of curbs and parking space dividers many times is higher than the bottom of the bumper and people scrape these things all the time.

    The fact that the guy immediately got down on his knees to do the inspection screams of SCAM. If I were the OP I would demand the last dozen rental records and see if they had tried this with anyone else. I’m willing to bet that they did. I would also dispute the $500 charge since they need to provide a claim showing the actual charges. A bumper like this can be fixed in a day for less that $500 by most any body shop.

    1. I’m wondering too, if the scam isn’t being perpetuated by Enterprise, but two “enterprising” employees. Where is that deductible going? Is it really going to Enterprise or are these two clowns pocketing it?

  5. Total scam, please get involved. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if these two employees were receiving bonuses for every deductible they collect off unwitting customers.

  6. My understanding was that rental car company’s couldn’t charge for anything that was normal wear and tear on a vehicle. Scratches on the underside of a vehicle would seem to meet this definition.

    What’s next … “Sir I’m sorry but we’re going to have to charge you $800 for a new set of tires. The tread isn’t at the same level as when you left.”

    1. Exactly. There has to be a line drawn somewhere between normal wear-and-tear and damage. No reasonable person expects that a vehicle they own isn’t going to accumulate a few scuffs and scratches over time; the rental car companies should not be allowed to penalize renters for what is in essence normal wear and tear.

      This goes double since you know the rental car companies aren’t actually paying to fix those tiny scratches and scuffs.

  7. Seems like Enterprise is number one in this sort of thing, would be interesting to see which car companies seem to be at the top of the list when it comes to sticking damage claims to past customers. 

  8. I vote mediate.

    Perhaps something can be done to require 1) a standardized checklist to be gone over on receipt and 2) rental places to keep a comprehensive database of damages and repairs for each car, updated after each rental but before the next, so as to make sure multiple people aren’t being “dinged” (ha, ha) for the same damage. I would prefer not involving the government (just another layer of graft and incompetence) but this current system seems a little too unregulated.

  9. I have never seen a car that did not have scratches under the bumper.  Even my car does, and I am very careful when I park it.  I bought it used, so they could have been there before, I didn’t even notice those when I bought it.  And frankly, I don’t care.  Who look sunder the bumper anyway?   I really think this screams of scam, and I doubt they will ever repair the car.
     
    I had a similar incident occur once in Denver.  I rented a car at Enterprise at the airport. The car was wet, I did the walk around, etc. it looked fine.  I parked it at my hotel, got out, and when I came back later, there were scrapes in the paint along the whole passenger side of the car.  I assumed this happened in the parking lot, someone hit it and took off.  I called the police and filed a report, unfortunately there were no security cameras at the hotel, so they couldn’t see who did it.  I also called Enterprise and they told me that they would have accident paperwork when I returned the car.  I called my credit card as well, as it provides full coverage against accidents when using a rental car if I rent it on my card.  They said they would mail me the paper work, and they would deal with the rental company, and told me not to pay the rental company anything.
     
    When I returned the car, Enterprise kept demanding I give them my insurance info and pay them my deductible.  I told them that I was using the insurance provided by my credit card which has a $0 deductible.  They kept insisting I give them my insurance info and pay the full deductible or they would call the police and report me for driving without insurance.  I refused and left, and soon after got a call from the police.  It was not because Enterprise called the police, it was because the police were entering my report, and found another report entered with the same license plate, for the same damage.  They told me that the damage must have already been there.  I called Enterprise from the airport and asked for the manager.  I explained the situation and the manager apologized and said that after he was made aware of the incident by his employees, he pulled the record and confirmed that the damage was already there, and that it did not happen while I had the car.  He was very nice, and very apologetic. 
     
    What shocked me more than anything was that scrapes in the paint are completely invisible when the car is wet.  I looked very closely and did not see them, and they were quite severe once the water dried.  I wonder how many people have been asked to pay for the same damage on that same car.

    1. My last rental with Enterprise, I was asked for my insurance info and told that, in the event of damage on return, they would immediately charge my credit card for the full deductible and sort out the differences later. I took this to be one more sales tool for buying the optional coverage. Maybe Chris can investigate to see what else is behind this…?

      Also, on one other recent Enterprise rental, I pointed out some scratches as we inspected the car at pickup. The Enterprise employee said they were already noted, then flipped his clipboard over to show me a template of the kind of damage they are looking for – sizable dents and scratches. He claimed they are not looking for minor stuff like parking lot door dings, but only things that would clearly stand out on any inspection (maybe not if the car is dirty or wet).

      I now always use my Flip Video camera to capture a full record of the car before and after rental, and also my interactions with the staff during inspection.

      All that said, I have never had any issues with an Enterprise rental, and most of the employees I have encountered have been pleasant, reasonably competent, and they act like they are glad to have the business.

  10. This definitely seems fishy, but I can tell you that as a former rental car agent (not for enterprise), we were taught to ask about their insurance deductible as a sales technique. Here’s the way it’s supposed to go:

    Sales Rep (SR): How much is your deductible on your auto insurance?
    Customer (C): $500
    SR: Oh, that’s quite a lot of money to spend if something happened to the car. Wouldn’t you rather spend a small $15 a day for our coverage knowing you won’t have to pay your expensive deductible if anything happens to your rental?

    That being said, writing down that info on the rental agreement seems fishy. I can also tell you that with the company I worked for, if the car was genuinely damaged, nobody received and “bonus” for spotting it. It would go to our claims department and they would contact the renter giving them the option to pay the repair invoice or go through their own insurance, and as we all know, the insurance will only pay the actual damage they get invoiced for, and will require proof of repair.

    1. Sounds like the Mafia was involved in the training for the insurance questioning.  “You never know when something might ‘accidentally’ happen, so you should pay us now so something doesn’t ‘accidentally’ happen.”  😉

  11. Don’t Mediate.

    Remember – the walk around inspection is for the customer and the rental car agent both.  Be proactive as a customer, look for damage and make sure it gets noted, because at the end of the inspection the customer then initials the damage inspection and that becomes a legally binding part of the rental agreement.  

    Like Chris said, rental car companies have the right to collect for damages to their vehicles – read your rental agreement back and front and this point will be crystallized nicely.  If the case is that the damage wasn’t noted when the car went out, and when it returned there was damage, then from a contractual and procedural perspective Enterprise is playing by the rules.  Is it possible a conspiracy at this branch exists to collect from customers for eroneus damages?  Anything is possible but it’s just as likely that with the competitve nature and tight margins of the industry, these lot attendents are trained to scrutinize cars for damages and make sure they collect becuase they are within their rights to do so. 

    As far as the denials of a particular customer, I think most rental car companies are used to hearing customers disavow responsibility for damage.  Some damage, like a door ding that occured in a parking lot, may happen when the renter is not even in the vehicle.  In a case like that, the car may be returned with the customer having no knowledge of the damage.  While there way be no fault for the customer, there is a legal contractual responsibility to return the car in the condition it was rented.  This is the cornerstone responsibility enumerated in the rental agreement. 
    From the rental car company’s perspective, when they sell that car it’s value is diminshed by any damage.  In many cases, the cars go through a reconditioning process to fix minor damages prior to being sold.  In either case there is a financial cost to the company for uncollected damages, even if the car is still rentable.

    1. If there was any obvious damage under that bumper in the photo, I’d agree. Since all we can see is dirt, there’s more to this story than just a customer being negligent in inspecting their rental car. We should not be held responsible for damage invented by the agents or company to pad their bottom line. That’s called fraud.

      Also, if I were this customer I’d have called my VISA company to deny the charge, and get their claims department to help me set this right.

    2. I would agree with you except for the fact that in the outgoing inspection the agent was relatively cursory, while in the return inspection the agent was exceptionally thorough.  That seems very strange if not downright deliberate to me.

      Its as if they don’t want to customer tod discover any pre-existing damages.

    3. i agree with you in general principle, but not in this particular case. 

      and since it has been noted on this site more than once that the same car is repeatedly found to have “damage”, and they repeatedly charge the customer for repair and clearly DO NOT repair it, to perpetuate the cycle, i find this case even more troubling.

    4. @Jason: There’s still the issue of what constitutes damage. For something obvious like a door ding, your point about contractual obligations is valid. But any car that is driven regularly is going to accumulate tiny scratches, especially in areas like the underside of the front bumper. It’s inevitable. There has to be some dividing line between damage and normal wear and tear. (Otherwise, rental car companies could charge us for taking a microscopic amount of tread off the tires every time we rent…after all, we’re not returning the tires in *exactly* the same condition as we received them.)

      And I find it impossible to believe that a few small scratches on the underside of the front bumper are going to knock $500 off the resale value of a used car. Actual cosmetic damage, maybe.

  12. Almost exactly the same thing happened to me with Hertz in Ireland some years ago.  According to the rep at Visa whom I dealt with later, they have had so many false claims from Irish rental-car offices (it’s evidently so rife there that it probably constitutes a significant percentage of their GDP!), that they now refuse to pay ANY of them, and it’s written right into their terms and conditions.  But the man at the Hertz airport-office where I dropped the car off, wrongly assumed out loud that I had paid for it with MasterCard, which is a far more common card in Europe–and MasterCard would pay for anything, a fact of which the Irish Hertz people were obviously keenly aware. 
     
    I had purchased insurance, but it had a 600-Euro deductible.  Hertz claimed that “scratches on the bumper,” which I know I did not make and which anyway could be easily removed with rubbing compound and a rag, would cost EXACTLY 600 Euros to “fix.”  Nobody had inspected the car, with or without me, when I first picked it up–so they later insisted that by their records, it was absolutely spotless, practically brand spanking-new, when I had gotten it.  Ya think?  An expensive lesson, learned the hard way… 

  13. Yes, you should mediate.  If the return agent is going to get down on hands and knees to inspect a car, they should do the same when a renter picks up the car in the first place.  Being charged for scratches under the bumper/fender is really ridiculous.

    I frequently rent from Enterprise and they have been asking the insurer/deductable question for at least three or four months now.  But I didn’t really get why until today.  It’s unbelievable that they would charge the full dedcutable to your credit card and then “sort it out” later! 

    I guess I will have to start making videos of the pre-pick up inspection now, too.  Sigh…

  14. I rent enterprise often (50-60 times a year) and am always careful to inspect the cards for scratches. Often when I point out a scratch I’m told by the agent that anything small ( 1/2 inch or so) isn’t recorded and isn’t important and won’t be charged against me.   I always make them sign for the suitcase scratches on the rear bumpers and scratches under the front of the car regardless of how small.  If they don’t indicate them then I do before they tear off the office copy…never had a problem

  15. This is Jeffrey here… Turns out Enterprise refunded the $500.  When I sent this to Christopher, I also sent letters to three top executives making my case.  I’m not sure if those were the turning point in the process or the damage dispute I did with customer service.  I got a call from the regional manager last week.  He got a copy of the letter from top management.  We discussed the whole deal.  He says it turns out the scratches were from prior reported damage and the damage report was bumped out.  I checked this morning the $500 was refunded.  The articles and travel history from his subscribers at elliott.org helped immensely in understanding what was going on. Thanks also to Christopher for pointing this issue to other unsuspecting renters.

    I told the Regional Mgr. that the vetting process before and after should be equal.  My impression from the conversation, the manager was going through the motions of closing the case and then move on.

    Question from this- if the damage was from a prior claim, why was the damage never fixed.  If someone paid to have it fixed they should have proof.

    I will have a very hard time renting a car from Enterprise ever again. What this whole thing taught me is be thorough when inspecting a car.  This hassle cost me a lot of time fighting it. 

    1.  You just hit the nail on the head, Jeff. If the rental companies are charging for every scratch and dent, why are we getting cars with scratches and dents?

      1. That’s easy:  They put the money in their pocket as extra profit and if they ever fix the damages at all it will be when they are finally done with the car and selling it.

        When my girlfriend was in college she had an apartment with plastic sinks. Not surprisingly, some previous tenant had melted a section of it with her curling iron. But it was never documented and the landlord ended up holding back part of their security deposit claiming they were responsible.  A couple years later they had friends renting that exact same apartment and, sure enough, it was the same sink. No doubt the landlord had charged every single renter for “replacing” the sink since it first happened.  Same strategy seems to be in place with car rental case.

        1. It is my understanding that the monies collected do not have to go toward fixing the car as it is their car and the resale value will just be lowered. The real problem here was that there was no estimate of damage cost and the fact that someone immediately got down and looked under the car.

          In my opinion, if a consumer pays for damage, then the damage should either get fixed 100% or a permanent notation should be placed in the rental records of that vehicle so that multiple people don’t pay for the same damage.

          1. Mike

            You are correct. There is no legal requirement that damage  be fixed.  By the same token no one should be charged for pre-existing damage that the company is aware of regardless of whether the customer reports it.

          2. Does this apply to personal insurance too?  The reason I ask is that my car got hit by someone a few years ago.  They were at fault, and their insurance agreed to pay for the damage.  However their insurance also stated that I could not receive a check, I must take my car to a body shop, and the body shop would bill the insurance directly, and the body shop would be paid directly.  When I asked about the arrangement they said too many people will report damage, pocket the check, and never get it fixed, and that making the claim just to keep the check and not actually get it fixed is insurance fraud.  So wouldn’t Enterprise have to get it fixed if they are making a claim on someone else’s insurance?  I am sure this probably varies widely by state.  But it does bother me that Enterprise would bring a claim on someone’s insurance, and then not even fix the car.

          3. The insurance company had no legal right to withhold a check from you. It is your decision where to take your vehicle or where not to take your vehicle. They are paying you for damages done to your vehicle and return it to pre-accident condition. There is no law that says you must return it to pre-accident condition. Most likely they had an agreement with that specific body shop for a drastically reduced rate. So the check may have had to be $4k, but the amount they would have paid the body shop was $2.5k.

            The only downside to not repairing would be a question should you be involved in an accident and have not repaired the damage. They may claim some of it was pre-existing. My insurance company tried to do that when I had been hit earlier this year by an uninsured driver. I had a small dent on the left side of a bumper ($600 cost including molding) and the damage had all been done to the right side. They argued there was damage already and I told them to put a new bumper on and then put a dent back on the left side if they wanted.

  16. I have no problem with paying for damage to a rental car – IF I caused it and what I pay for actually gets fixed.

    But there have been numerous times that I have rented a car and on return the check in agent immediately walks to one corner or another of the car and points at it and says “This (scratch, dent, ding, etc.) was NOT there when you received the car! You will have to pay for this!  Right now!!”  This is before they even enter the vehicle ID into their handheld device and could have any knowledge of that specific vehicle’s history.  Luckily I have had a signed inspection form for every time and have not yet had to actually pay.  This is especially annoying when you had to demand for the insection form because the guy letting you out of the rental lot tells you that because of your renting frequency they would never charge you for minor damage.

    I completly believe that this type of action by the rental agents is designed to scare frequent renters into buying the LDW insurance, which in many cases now costs more than the daily rental rate, to avoid this type of harassment on return and to scam as much money as possible out of the infrequent renters who don’t buy the insurance bacause they believe their credit card will protect them.  If you can charge 3 or 4 people for the same “minor damage” that has no impact on the rentability of the vehicle and never repair it until the vehicle is sold, why not?  It sure helps profitablilty.

    In this case I am convinced it is a money grab by Enterprise.

    1. Unforunately, as MikeZ pointed out, if you caused damage its your responsibility to pay for it. Whether the company fixes the car or not isn’t your concern.

      1. Same as when my insurance company pays for damage I cause if I have an accident in my own car and damage someone else’s vehicle.  I have no control over what is done with that money.  The recipient can go to Vegas and lose it all on the craps table, donate it to charity or buy illegal substances.  I don’t know this and really don’t care. 
         
        However, if that person attempts to use the damaged vehicle to claim additional funds from other people’s insurance by claiming they caused the damage that has already been paid for, that is insurance fraud and is illegal.  Why is the same thing when done by a car rental agency apparently not considered fraud?  The excuse of “oh, we misplaced the paperwork that documented the damage” is poor and most likely would not work in court.

  17. I would think that the deductible is between my insurance company and I.  Enterprise would have no business collecting a deductible even if there was a legitimate claim.

  18. I was asked what my deductible was today and I told the agent, “None of your business.” She seemed a little put off by that answer and tried again. I answered, “Enough for me worry about, and not enough for you scam it out of me.”

    She just shut up and gave me the keys.

  19. I’m happy to read that this one got handled without further intervention. It is a minefield out there.

    A couple of years ago we rented a car in Jerusalem. I asked for a complete walk-around with the agent – and the car turned out to be dinged, bashed, scraped and otherwise insulted on every panel – even the roof. Badges were missing. As we did the inspection in a chaotic hotel parking lot the agent dutifully made notes all over the rental form and my wife asked if we shouldn’t request another, less battle-scarred car. I demurred; after all, if we added anything how could they tell?

    It was only after we were on our way that we realized that the agent’s notes were all in script Hebrew. Now, we can muddle through printed text but script is beyond us. For all we knew he could have been noting his mother’s favorite recipes. Later we had a local friend confirm that the notations were, in fact, correct.

    In Israel, by the way, you’re warned up front, loud and clear, that the first $500 (US) damage to tires, wheels or undercarriage is all yours, insurance not applicable. Though road conditions in general have improved vastly over the years there are still some unimproved stretches in the desert and on private land. You can bet we were careful.

  20. This SMELLS OF A SCAM!!!  We have rented for years and have had something similar happen.  Now my husband takes the time no matter what, to video record every inch of the car inside and out and he takes pictures of ANY damage no matter how small.  He then insists that this recording be noted on the rental car contract which he gets the person to initial/sign and he initials/signs it also. The extra time this takes irritates the heck out of the person who inspects the vehicle with my husband when we pick it up but its worth it in the end. We also videotape it with the “inspector” when we return it so we don’t get hit with charges after we get home. Always remember to set the time and date on the video or pictures so there is nothing the company can dispute.

  21. Chris, I know Enterprise executives “fixed” the complaint, but I urge you to follow up with them on this case. Perhaps Mr. Van Horn can tell you what, if anything, went wrong here. Will the next customer who rents that car get to pay for those scratches under the bumper? Frankly, if I rent a car and find myself videotaping every inch of the car bring using an inspection mirror and waiting “as long as it takes” for a company representative to be available to pose for pictures beside the car perhaps I am renting from the wrong company. Will I have to bring my own strong light to illuminate any damage in the wheel wells?

  22. I always rent with enterprise.  When I pick up the car, I am always rushed through the inspection.  When I point out scratches or try to scrape away bugs, dirt, etc., they always say “Don’t worry about that…We don’t count things like that.”  And they never check the roof…as Chris reports.

    HOWEVER,  when i return the car, they are MUCH more diligent about checking and they ALWAYS check the roof!!

  23. I foollishly left a rental car at the body shop where my truck was repaired. The body shop is co-located with an Enterprise office.  I left the car on their lot because I was in a hurry and the onsite Enterprise agent wasn’t there.  You guessed it–I was charged for a windshield crack that DEFINITELY wasn’t there when I left the car! 

    I especially like the idea of video-recording the walk-arounds–wish I’d thought of that.  I’ll definitely do that next time–especially when dealing with Enterprise…

  24. I had this EXACT experience with Alamo about 10 years at London Heathrow.  I had the car less than 24 hours and only used it on major highways.  When I returned the car the inspector immediately got down on his hands and knees and looked under the front bumper.  The were 4 small inch length scratch at the very bottom and could only be seen by getting down on the ground.  Of course they insisted it was caused by me and tried to get me to sign a damage form.  After a half hour of heated argument and even a call to the bureau in the UK that regulates rental car agencies.  I simply wrote on the form “I do NOT agree that I caused this damage” with my signature beside the notation.  

    I was lucky.  I never heard from them again and they didn’t charge my card.  Of course that was when rental agencies where a little less agressive.  I have to admit though that I still never think to get down on my hands and knees to check for scratches under the bumper before taking a rental car.  

    After reading this, it looks like it something I should definitely start doing. 

  25. Why is everyone so concerned about this? Aren’t you all using a major credit card with rental car insurance included? They will cover the deductible for you as secondary coverage (and primary coverage is also available). They will fight with the rental car company for you. They will hold the payment to the rental car company until they substantiate the claim. I always use my American Express to rent cars and know that issues like the one in this story will be their battle, not mine.

    1. Have you ever actually tried to get any credit card to pay a claim?

      Most credit cards with rent car insurance do not pay the loss of use claims from the rental agency if they take the car out of service to have it repaired.  You are stuck with the equivalent of a full price per day rental for how ever many days the agancy says the car is out of service.

      Credit card rental car insurance is great to have, but it does not cover everything and is secondary meaning they only pay what your regular auto insurance does not pay.
       
      Nothing stopping the rental agency from sending a claim to a collection agency if your credit card refuses to pay. 

      1.  “Have you ever actually tried to get any credit card to pay a claim?”

        Yes, I have. I had a rental last year from Enterprise that was side-swiped and had some damage. I paid the deductible with Enterprise, then made a claim with Visa.

        Although it was a slow process – I had to check up on both Enterprise and Visa every couple of weeks – Visa did take care of the claim and I received a check for the amount of actual damages and Enterprise refunded me the remainder of the deductible.

  26. The issue here is the person went under the car to inspect the damge.  This is not done unless they knew it was there before hand and wanted to blame or bill someone for it.  As a customer you should not have to check the undercarriage of the car.

  27. After reading your column on these types of “scams” being perpetuated by the car rental companies, I’ve been taking more photos of the rental cars then of my vacations.  That’s just not right.

  28. Not to say that Enterprise wasn’t wrong, but before I read the story and when you had just shown the photo, I could see the scratches on the bottom of the bumper. Just sayin’ …

    1. Of course you can see the scratches. The photo was taken at bumper level, which on this car would mean that my head would have to be at knee level and I would be down on the dirty concrete doing a pre-inspection. Any normal height person would not be able to see these scratches without getting down on their knees. the reason why this case is so fishy is that the return agent immediately got down to “check” for damage. They most likely already knew it was there and was trying to get someone to pay for it. (perhaps for the second, third, fourth, etc time.)

      1. I think what he/she was referring to is the first line of the article where Chris asks if anybody can see anything and then says “Neither do I.”  It could just be dirt, but something is clearly visible. It doesn’t change anything about the case, it was just sort of an odd statement.

      2. I think what he/she was referring to is the first line of the article where Chris asks if anybody can see anything and then says “Neither do I.”  It could just be dirt, but something is clearly visible. It doesn’t change anything about the case, it was just sort of an odd statement.

  29. This is EXACTLY what happened to me at the Enterprise in Denver airport. I picked up the car at night in the rain (and the car was dark). We saw no damage to the car but when I returned it, the employee got down on his hands and knees and found a small puncture on the under side of the front bumper. They tried to charge me over $700 for the damage. I did not put it there as I did not even park anywhere where it could have occurred. It took five months to fight it and all the way up to the VP of customer service (whose contact I got from Christopher) to make it go away. The day I emailed the VP I received an email back saying it was dropped. I now take pictures of everything before I leave any rental car agency.

  30. Nothing like whipping out  your camera phone and take lots of photos of the rental car before you drive it off of the lot if you are at all uncomfortable..IF it’s too dark use your phone, mine does not have a flash, use your digital camera with flash, if they were thinking of scamming you, and I’ve had this happen, this will make you look like a hard sell, also repeat this photo process when you return the car. I had this happen with a tiny be be hole in a windshield under the wiper, they totally knew it was there it was dark when I got the car, when I returned it they immediately saw it…Threatened to sue them in small claims court, they backed down…

  31. I worked for a then new and small off airport car rental company over 35 years ago and I quit because of some of the hanky panky going on with the “dents” and scratches on the cars, that were charged to different renters OVER and OVER again with the same cars (that were never sent to the body shop)

    Had been head hunted away from a Major top car company (still is) to be the Manager of this new location at a major airport, and was told to keep my mouth shut by the regional Vice Pres, and I left.

    But learned my lesson, they are still doing it and now that I have Gray hair and walk with a cane, am considered fair game.

    Car companies consider “dents” a source of extra revenue. And keep it under a certain amount and the renter (who has already signed all their rights away when signing that rental agreement) is not going to fight it.

     I still feel that the smaller companies, that advertise cheaper rates have to make it up somehow, and they can be worse

    My former company knew that the average business person is in a hurry and wants to jump in that car and get going..

    A vacation family.trying to load  the tired kids from the plane ride and all the luggage, diaper bags, stroller into the car or minivan, is normally stressed out and wants to get on their way.

    You would not believe how often this still happens and most of the time that person checking you in, or the cute young car rental counter agent knows EXACTLY what is going on.  No paper, NO tv show wants to expose these car companies because they advertise a lot.

    If a renter was with a BIG Corporate account. we avoided trying to pull this with those drivers. WE “gave them the VIP” treatment.

  32. Good grief!

    Chris, I’ve been following your blog(s) for a couple of years now. 

    As an Aussie planning to visit the States again after a long absence, I’m appalled by the repeated stories of this kind of scam.  Is there a car rental company that is less dishonest than the rest?  I need to know.

    Sure, I do understand that it’s not only happening in the USA but elsewhere; Ireland and even good old Australia (hello, Europcar?).

    I’ll make sure to use my video camera.

    1. A company that is less dishonest? Unfortunately, I think it’s pretty much impossible to say.

      At a guess, I’d say you’re less likely to have a problem with a location that is NOT at an airport. But so often, it seems that these stories are more about a rogue employee or location, rather than it being the company as a whole.

  33. You know, ever since National tried to pin me with a chip in the windshield in Las Vegas years ago, I have made certain I do a thorough examination of the car — including the underside of the bumpers, which can get scratched really easily on those parking space concrete stops.  Because I’m part of the Emerald Club, I never have an agent that inspects the car, so I make sure I take digital photos with the time/date stamp on.  Mostly, though, I refuse to rent a car that I think could get me blamed.

  34. Travel is expensive on the mind and the purse strings. Trust nobody ever. This car had damage and was assessed to the first person that rented the car next. I had a great brand new Durango in Seattle. I got into the car to drive off, decided to follow my own advise, looked at the passenger side of the car and there was a scratch from 1 end to the other. Nothing was marked on the contract. After my mild explosion on the 800 number, the manager was immediately called, a 50% discount was offered, and off I went, now secure. Who? Enterprise!

  35. For the record, Enterprise asked me the exact same questions about insurance and deductibles when I rented a car in Omaha on June 10.

  36. Your stories on rental car companies over and over again make me afraid of the day I ever have to rent a car!

  37. Enterprise is THE worst rental car company by far and I will never rent from them again. When I had to rent a car due to my husband’s car being totalled and waiting for things to be worked out, I went to Enterprise because I’d had to rent from them years ago during an insurance claim. At that time the company only charged my daily maximum for the car rental and worked with me every step of the way to insure that I did not pay anything. This time around after everything was said and done they charged my credit card $500 because they said the rental went over my limit. What got me was that I looked up on their website and if I had just rented a car during the exact same time period (actually would have worked out to a couple of days longer) it would have cost me UNDER $500 total. So not only did they take my money and my insurance company’s money but they lied to me from the beginning. My mistake came in being upset because we needed a car, my husband was hurt and we had a 3 month old baby who was crying so I didn’t take time to ask the right questions or read what I was signing. Sucks when people take advantage of you at your weakest.

  38. I had a rental car through Enterprise recently.  They asked the insurance question as well.  I asked why.  The answer was since I refused their insurance and am relying on mine they would be the ones to submit the claim and submit the deductible.  The obligation would to be to pay them the full amount of the deductible.  Pretty shady if you ask me, and I wonder if they have the legal ability to do this.  In the end things were fine, but I will not do business with them any more.

  39. I don’t understand how Enterprise can charge for such a thing.  Under bumper scratches is a given due to small rocks that can cause it.

  40. Enterprise, you take the time( when it’s convenient for you) to pick people up to spend money on your service. Why is it when we have the vehicle and may need some assistance that you don’t care to assist. I locked the keys in the car when I turned it on to warm it up. You could at least have a spare key for situations like this instead of telling us to call a locksmith. Maybe a note in cars such as this would also prevent things like this from happening. We spend money on your service, it wouldn’t hurt to act like you car after we have the service.

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