Should I have to pay for my car rental to be towed?

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By Christopher Elliott

Kathy O’Leary gets a bill from Hertz for towing it after she had a flat – a bill she thinks she shouldn’t have to pay. Her credit card company sides with her. Now Hertz has sent a collections agency after her. What should she do?

Question

We rented a car from Hertz in Ireland and had a flat tire. After a lengthy dispute between Hertz and our credit card company, we’re getting letters from a collection agency. I hope you can help me.

Here’s what happened: When we rented the car, we purchased Hertz’s optional insurance and collision damage waiver, which covers everything except wheels, tires, fuel contamination or keys. On the first day of the rental, we had a flat tire and a bent rim. We couldn’t drive to the nearest garage because the car didn’t have a spare.

After the vehicle was repaired and we returned to the States, Hertz attempted to bill our credit card for the repair and the tow. We realized that the cost of the tire and wheel would be our responsibility but were surprised that insurance did not cover the tow. Our contract did not state any limitation of our insurance’s towing coverage.

Unexpected collection agency threat

We disputed part of the bill with our credit card, and it credited us $527, which is the entire charge on the vehicle damage report. Our bank settled the dispute in my favor because the rental contract lacked language indicating that the customer understands potential delayed and amended charges, and that they may be charged to the credit card. Apparently, Europe requires this language for vehicle damage charges to be applied to a credit card.

But that wasn’t the end. I just received a letter from a collection agency. It is attempting to collect a debt on Hertz’s behalf, and is threatening to damage my credit rating. My husband is a full-time U.S. military member. We are good people that have suffered an unfortunate event on what should have been the vacation of a lifetime. Can you help? — Kathy O’Leary, Ballston Spa, N.Y.

Answer

Hertz should have let this go. It made too many mistakes with your rental. Handing you the keys to a car that didn’t have a spare tire and failing to adequately explain what you would — and wouldn’t — be liable for.

You thought that by buying its optional insurance, your tow would be covered. As a matter of fact, when a car rental company sells you its pricey insurance, it often promises you’ll have “nothing to worry about,” and I can imagine your agent giving you similar assurances.

Here’s how you could have avoided this: First, you might have checked your rental car for a spare tire. If your vehicle doesn’t have one, ask for a different car. With a spare, you might have avoided a costly tow. (Related: AAA Emergency Roadside Services: Don’t call us, summon us online.)

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands includes CheapOair and OneTravel. We are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Calling Hertz roadside assistance was the right move after your flat. You could have made inquiries at the time you returned your car before leaving the country about what damages you’d be liable for. That’s the best time to address what might be on your bill — not when you’re 3,000 miles away. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problem.)

I personally believe that if you purchased Hertz insurance, it should have covered your tow. And if your credit card company sided with you (even if it was for other reasons) then Hertz should have just let this go.

My advocacy team and I contacted the company on your behalf, and it dropped its collection claim.

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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. He is based in Panamá City.

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