Survey: Car rental companies should only pursue claims when damage is acknowledged by driver

We’ve had quite the discussion about car rental damages this week, but now it’s your turn to sound off.

A weekend poll asked when you think it’s appropriate for a car rental agency to come after you with a damage claim, and a majority of you (about 75 percent) said the only time it’s OK is when you acknowledge the damage and sign a claim form.

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Less than a quarter (22 percent) said damage claims should go out if the previous rental car was recorded as being returned undamaged, but it is now.

A fraction of respondents — about 8 percent — said claims should go out if the car has damage, and you were the last person to rent it.

Your comments on the subject were just as interesting.

Many of you said the key to solving the problem of unwarranted claims was a pre-rental inspection. Barb Nahoumi suggests,

Before signing for the car, the agent should do a walk-around with the renter. Any previous dings should be recorded, thus the new renter would not be held responsible for them.

If a claim is made, the car rental company needs evidence — irrefutable evidence — that the damage was caused by the renter, says reader Tim Carpenter.

There [should be] undeniable proof that the damage was done during the rental. ie, crash damage that can easily be seen, such as broken head/tailights, body damage to an extent that it can’t be denied. They should not be pursuing claims for minor dings/dents/scrathes/glass chips.

What kind of proof does a car rental company need? Josh Mastronarde has an idea.

If the rental company has photographs showing the damage was not there when the car was delivered to the renter. I personally don’t have a problem with renters paying for actual proven damage during their rental (though I have issues with $800 repairs for minor dents that most of us would ignore on our own cars), but I don’t think the rental company just having random written notes from a previous checkin is sufficient (different agents may miss different things, etc).

Yes, renters need to protect themselves by noting damage at checkout, taking pictures, etc, but that doesn’t mean the rental company isn’t also responsible for giving real credible evidence of the damage from their perspective.

Bottom line: The claims process is badly dented and lacks credibility. That’s the assessment of Bunnee Butterfield.

I think car rental companies need a better process at both ends – giving the renter a status at the start of the rental which has to be confirmed by the renter after seeing the car and checking it and giving the renter a status at the end of the rental – same thing.

I know rental companies are slammed sometimes when people are turning in cars and have no time to do a thorough check, so I suspect neither of these processes will ever be instituted.

Kathleen Eaton seconds that suggestion, asking,

Why isn’t there a uniform process in place at all rental companies to have cars inspected by both parties at the time of receipt and an acknowledgement signed on the condition of the vehicle with digital photos of any damages? Why isn’t the same process employed when a car is returned? Wouldn’t that be a simple way to avoid endless claims and disputes?

I have a feeling this won’t be the last time I’ll write about car rental claims. In the meantime, my advice to car renters is to remain vigilant. Take pictures and video of your car, both before and after the rental, and wherever possible, get someone to sign off on the car after you’ve returned it.