Nailed by Enterprise for a flat tire

Curtis Brown rented a car from Enterprise in London recently, but he didn’t get far. Less than two days after picking it up, one of his tires went flat.

“The cause was a nail in the tread of the tire,” he says.

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Enterprise says he’s responsible for the damage, but he disagrees.

“The damage caused was great enough to warrant a completely new tire, not a simple plug as the repair mechanic had expected,” he says. “This suggested the nail was in the tire long before I rented the car. Also, the air pressure of the car’s front left tire displayed a lower pressure than the others within an hour into my journey — this also implies the nail was there from the start.”

No way, says Enterprise. It has rejected repeated requests to reduce the repair bill or prove that the nail wasn’t present. Brown wants me to encourage Enterprise to see things his way. But should I?

Here’s the bill:

Repair: 102.99GBP
Admin: 25.00GBP
Recovery of Vehicle: 72.00GBP
Total due: 199.99GBP

Brown asked for timestamped photos of the tires before his rental, which would have shown they were nail-free.

Here’s the reply:

Many thanks for your email.

Unfortunately, time stamped photographs is not something we are able to offer our customers.

We can assure and verify that all of our rental vehicles at Heathrow are thoroughly inspected when returned and prior to being re-rented.

The Roadside Assistance callout fee is a standard fee and has no bearing on the works carried out at the roadside.

With regards to administration fees applied by the Damage Recovery Unit, please do contact them directly on 0845 604 2881 or by emailing [email protected] in order to discuss specific damage charges further.

Unfortunately, as coverage was declined and signed on your rental agreement and the damage charge was not taken by the branch, we are not able to assist with regards to specific amounts/costs charged.

We apologise we are not able to assist you any further with this matter on this occasion at the branch but should you have any other enquiries relating to your rental, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Brown is incredulous.

“The Heathrow branch claims all their cars are carefully inspected, including tire treads, when they are returned and before they are rented out,” he says. “However, they will not provide any evidence to prove that claim in my case. I should not be expected to pay for a repair that was the responsibility of Enterprise.”

This is an interesting case. Our advice to inspect and photograph your rental before leaving the lot probably wouldn’t have caught an embedded nail.

I’ve watched car rental employees conduct their inspections. I’ve even asked a supervisor to show me how they train employees to inspect a car. And I can tell you that it’s highly unlikely that Enterprise would have noticed an embedded nail on a returned vehicle.

The real question here isn’t when the nail became embedded, but when the flat tire happened. And no one is disputing that it was on Brown’s watch.

There’s a larger question of whether Enterprise should cover a flat tire, since that’s something close to normal wear and tear. But there’s no doubt that Brown is responsible, no doubt that Enterprise needs to do nothing more than show a repair bill.

Oh, and about that bill. What kind of tire bill comes to 199.99GBP? What kind of “admin” fees did Brown incur? I find that whole invoice a little suspicious.

I suggested Brown appeal this to someone higher up at Enterprise. He did, and believe it or not, Enterprise dropped the entire claim.

Should Enterprise have zeroed out Brown's bill?

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