How much did you say that windshield costs, Advantage?

How much should Matthew Beale pay for a “damaged” windshield on his Advantage rental?

If you guessed about $400 for a new windshield on the late-model Kia Sorento, which is the going rate, guess again.

Try doubling it to $800 — that’s $700 for the repair and an $100 “administrative” fee.

Our advocates asked Advantage about this huge repair bill weeks ago. We haven’t heard a peep from them. Now Beale is left with a difficult decision. Maybe you can help.

Beale says he rented the car for four days in February.

When I initially got the keys to the car, I noted that the front windshield was already cracked. I marked this on the Advantage-provided damage form, returned to the counter, and provided the carbon copy to the employee there, who acknowledged the damage and took receipt of the copy.

I also noted the damage to the guard at the exit of the parking lot, who signed the form and told me I was fine as long as I had noted it.

Almost two months later, I received this damage claim from Advantage. I find this particularly mystifying because it looks like they took the car in for repairs in mid-February (the 17th), but did not notify me until now.

Unfortunately, I did not think to take pictures of the damage. I’m kicking myself for this now as I usually do it, but I had been waiting for the car for about an hour and a half (an extremely inefficient Advantage rental location), it was about 11 p.m., and I still had a couple of hours of driving to do in dodgy weather.

Doubly unfortunately, I cannot find my copy of the damage slip where I noted the cracked windshield, due to the fact that this happened almost two months ago. FWIW, my fiancée was with me and corroborates my version of events.

Advantage sent Beale photos of the rear windshield and repeated its demand:

You were the renter or authorized driver of a rental vehicle which sustained damage or loss. Pursuant to the rental contract, you are responsible for all damages or loss to the rented property while it was in your care, custody or control, regardless of fault.

Conveniently, Advantage didn’t send the rental agreement, which Beale says would have exonerated him.

When our advocates reviewed his case, we believed it was a slam dunk. We contacted Advantage on Beale’s behalf and hoped for the best, as we always do.

The response? Nada.

Beale tracked down the form, which showed the damage. He sent it to Advantage.

Again, nothing.

Frivolous car rental damage cases are exceptionally difficult. A rental company can send you an inflated bill with junk fees, as Advantage did, and photos of the wrong part of the car, which it also did, and it can still win. Why? Because if you don’t pay up, it will have a corporate tantrum — reporting you to a credit agency, a collection agency, suing you and finally adding you to its “Do Not Rent” list.

Beale’s options are limited. Here’s what he can do:

  • He can refuse to pay. That’s what a lot of rental customers do when they are broadsided with a bogus bill. He may get his credit scores dinged and he’ll never be able to rent from Advantage again. But does he really want to rent from them? I wouldn’t.
  • He can fight it. I outline some of the steps he can use to appeal this in our car rental FAQ section. This is a relatively small claim, and if he pushes hard enough, Advantage could back down. It’s definitely an option.
  • He could go on the offensive. You know, lawyer up or file a nuisance lawsuit in small claims court, demanding it pay him for lost work time or some other equally dubious claim. Hey, it’s small claims court. Anything goes!

I’m not sure what to tell Beale. I think we’ve done all we can to help him. Now what?

What should Beale do?

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Update: We just heard from Beale. Advantage has dropped the claim.

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