My rental stopped running and now they want me to pay $6,523!

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By Christopher Elliott

Everything seemed fine with the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that Vitor Soares rented from an independent rental company called Super Car Rentals in Aruba. But it wasn’t.

On the second afternoon of his two-day rental, the vehicle broke down.

“We tried to engage the reverse gear to get back to the correct path; the car simply stopped moving,” he remembers. “After that we immediately called Super Car Rentals, and they sent us a third-party towing truck to take care of the car.”

Jeep joyride turned nightmare

That’s when the trouble really started. The tow truck driver handed him a bill for $400, which he refused to pay, since he hadn’t dispatched the truck, and he considered it to be the car rental company’s responsibility.

This infuriated the tow truck driver.

“My friend,” the driver said, “someone will pay for that bill today! You screwed with the car, so you have to pay!”

Soares was escorted to an ATM, where he withdrew the cash for the tow truck driver. But he wasn’t done paying.

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Two days later, we got a phone message from Super Car Rentals saying that they had left an envelope for us in the front desk. Inside the envelope, there was a letter saying that we owned the company $6,270 because of the damage we supposedly had done to the car.

Along with the letter there was a “third party survey” of the Jeep. The survey explained nothing; all it said was that there was damage to the transmission.

Attached to the survey was a page from an internet seller of jeep parts (, with one item (the whole transmission for the jeep) added to the cart.

There was also a letter for me to sign in which I would agree to pay for all the costs incurred by the rental company due to the damage inflicted upon the car.

Soares refused to pay the new bill. Here’s why:

We rented a Jeep in good faith, and drove it around just to get to know the major tourist attractions of the island.

We did not drive the car to any exceptionally rough roads. We did not invent paths that didn’t exist. We drove to places hundreds of people drive every day using the same type of vehicle we were using.

Besides, our driver is a very experienced person that drives this type of car (4wd) in his home town. He knew perfectly well what he was doing.

He was also driving very carefully. He did not bump the car around like crazy. All of that means that this car should not have broken if it were in perfect or good condition before we rented it.

We are 100 percent sure that the car had been badly maintained.

Nightmare resolved

That may be true, but here’s the way car rentals work: When you rent one, you accept the responsibility for it. If you damage it, you — or your insurance — covers it. And if it was a manufacturers’ or a maintenance defect, then you, the driver, has to prove it.

On the flip side, the car rental company must show that, 1) the damage was done while you were renting it, and, 2) provide adequate documentation of the damage. And on the second count, Soares’ claim came up a little short.

Although Super Car Rentals charged his credit card, I advised him to check back with his card. A company can’t just charge your credit card with that kind of documentation. It should have provided him with a credible estimate from a third party, if not also an invoice from the repair shop. It did neither. (Related: Why are travelers rethinking rental cars?)

My advocacy team and I didn’t get involved in this dispute, except to advise Soares. A few weeks ago, I heard back from him. (Here’s our guide to renting a car.)

I just would like to thank you again for your advice. After talking to you we looked through the issue and found out that yes, indeed, we had the right to file a charge dispute with Visa. So we did that. And then they tried to contact the rental car company, but the company never answered their inquiries.

So they decided to suspend the charge. It seems they are not charging us anymore after all. Thanks a lot!

I’m happy this was resolved in his favor. Did he damage the Jeep? Maybe, maybe not. But Super Car Rentals needed to send him and his credit card the documentation for the repairs. If it couldn’t, then they have to let him off the hook.

Should Vitor Soares have paid for the damage to his rental?

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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.

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