Do I really have to pay $623 for these “scratches” on my Beemer?

Nicholas MacIlvaine’s problem with his BMW 3 Series is common. Unfortunately, the resolution is even more common.

Or should I say, the lack of resolution.

This is the weekly feature called Case Dismissed!, where I try — and fail — to help someone. But as I’ve always said, your failures can teach you more than your successes.

Certainly, MacIlvaine’s did.

MacIlvaine was an American expatriate living in Amsterdam last year. He rented the vehicles from Sixt for a total of 12 months, switching cars several times.

“When I returned one of the cars, they said that I had to pay 500 euros in damage because there were scuffs on the bumper,” he says. “They sent photos of the scuffs, and they are there.”

The 500 euro ($623) charge raised an immediate red flag with me because it’s about the same amount as an insurance deductible. Car rental agencies are known to hit their customers with these charges, hoping to avoid dealing with their insurance company.

“I dispute that I caused the scuffs and that 500 euros is a reasonable damage claim for a scuffed bumper,” says MacIlvaine.

Sixt promptly forwarded the claim to a collection agency. What followed was a series of tense exchanges in which he refused to pay, and Sixt’s collections agency threatens to take him to court. Not an ideal ending to a long-time business relationship. MacIlvaine estimates he paid Sixt a total of 13,000 euro last year, making him one of the company’s best customers. Too bad they’re willing to throw it all away over a scuffed bumper, he says.

I reviewed the entire case file and found that a few important things were missing. The 500 euro charge seemed suspicious, but the fact that the Amsterdam location hadn’t asked MacIlvaine to sign a form acknowledging the damage made me wonder: Were they just looking for a reason to ding him with a 500 euro bill?

Let me be clear on this issue: If you damage a rental car, you’re responsible.

When MacIlvaine rented the car, it was not new. A form showed pre-existing damage on the vehicle — little dings and scuffs that existed from the previous rental.

“I’ve never paid much attention to those,” he says. “Scuffs and scratches on a bumper should be considered normal wear and tear, anyway. We are not talking about a dented door, or broken grill or anything. We’re talking about bumpers, which normally do get scratched and scuffed.”

I thought this case was worth bringing to Sixt. So I did. Here’s its response:

Mr MacIlvaine hired a BMW 3 Series Estate with no previous damage. A note is always made of any vehicle damage in the hire contract, such that our customers are aware of the state of their hire car when they accept it. Any such damage is also explicitly brought to the customer’s attention at the counter before they sign the hire contract.

When Mr MacIlvaine returned the BMW, scratches were found on both sides of the front bumper. These scratches were considerable in nature and went through all the layers of paintwork. The new damage was recorded in a vehicle return form in the presence of Mr MacIlvaine, which he then signed.

Sixt had the damage examined by the GKK Gutachtenzentrale company. The company’s experts determined that damage had been caused in the amount of 1,420.82 euros (incl. VAT). As Mr MacIlvaine had taken out comprehensive cover with a reduced excess of 500 euros, he was only invoiced for this amount, in accordance with the contractual agreements.

In his letter to you, Mr MacIlvaine stated that he suspected Sixt of using damage of this nature as an additional source of revenues. We resolutely repudiate this. Sixt deals with every instance of damage to one of its fleet vehicles in accordance with a structured damage process and makes its costs and procedures transparent to its customers at all times. As Sixt is a service company, customer satisfaction and understandable procedures are its top priorities. Mr MacIlvaine was also provided with all the relevant documents regarding this instance of damage.

Based on the contractual agreements with the customer and the expert opinions, it can therefore be said that Sixt has behaved correctly.

So there you have it. The 500 was because MacIlvaine had Sixt’s optional insurance (something the correspondence MacIlvaine shared with me didn’t make clear). The damage to his Beemer actually cost 1,420 euro to fix, which, on reflection, doesn’t sound like a minor scuff.

I don’t know if there’s anything else I can do except to write about this case and warn anyone who will listen. Take those “before” and “after” photos of your rental. When you return the car, get an associate to acknowledge your return in writing, if possible, to verify the car is undamaged.

Does MacIlvaine really have to pay $623 for the damage? I’m afraid so. Should he have to? That remains an open question.

Should Sixt have turned down Nicholas MacIlvaine's case?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, 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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend