I want a full refund for my broken down rental car

Deborah Gray’s rental car broke down and she wants her money back. Hertz won’t pay her. She’d like me to encourage the company to reconsider.

The circumstances surrounding the mechanical failure are unfortunate. Complicating things further, there’s no provision in Hertz’ rental agreement for a refund. It appears to be at the discretion of each location.

(Disclosure: Hertz sponsors Away is Home, a family travel site that I contribute to, and that my partner, Kari, edits. You’ll let me know if I’m going easy on the company, won’t you?)

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.

As is the case every Monday, this is a completely unvetted problem. We’re not trying to determine what happened, but whether this case is worth bringing to the company’s attention. So let’s get started.

Gray, a frequent renter with Hertz, rented an SUV to drive from Boston to Richmond with her husband and daughter this summer. The University of Virginia was trying to recruit her daughter.

She continues,

We arrived on campus early so parked the car in a garage and went for lunch. When we returned to pick up the car to drive to our meeting with the coach, the car would not start.

My husband called Hertz to let them know about the issue. After being on hold for quite a while, they said they would send a mechanic. We did not want to miss our time with the coach so my husband stayed in the garage to wait for the mechanic and I and my daughter walked over to the meeting without my husband.

The Hertz mechanic arrived and after much trying could not get the car started and said he didn’t know what was wrong. My husband called Hertz to let them know.

After another agonizing wait time, he finally got a live person who told him to leave the car in the garage and they would come pick it up. Now we had no way to get to the airport so we called a taxi.

What a hassle. Gray expected that Hertz would zero out her bill as an apology, but it didn’t.

Instead …

They not only did not comp us, they charged us a $50 service charge, I presume for the mechanic’s time or a pick up charge, and for a full tank of gas since it wasn’t full when they retrieved the car ($26.70). We were flabbergasted.

I would have been, too.

Gray sent a brief, polite complaint to Hertz, describing her disappointment. She also detailed the charges for her $151 taxi ride to the Richmond airport.

Here’s how Hertz responded:

We are very sorry for the condition of your rental vehicle and the inconvenience you experienced.

All Hertz vehicles should be properly cleaned, serviced, and in good mechanical condition before being released for rental.

We always want to provide quality vehicles to our customers and certainly appreciate your letting us know of your experience. This matter will be reviewed with our maintenance personnel.

As a gesture of our concern, a credit of $50.00 will be processed to the account billed for this rental. The adjustment is being made at this time, but may not appear on the next monthly statement due to billing cut-off dates.

Every effort will be made to serve your future needs in a manner more consistent with your expectations and our standards.

Huh? How about the fees and the taxi charge?

“This does not come close to compensating us for the expenses we incurred due to the malfunctioning car,” she told me. “Considering that we have been longtime Gold members, I would think that Hertz would reimburse us for the entire rental due to the time and aggravation caused by the car not working.”

Gray is willing to accept less — say, the fees and expenses they charged her. But she also wants something for the trouble.

And I agree. It looks as if additional compensation is definitely in order, although I should note that I haven’t yet asked Hertz about the case. It might have a different story to tell.

The question is, how much? Should she get a full refund, which is her ideal resolution?

Her rental agreement makes no mention of a refund, even when a car stops working. It’s up to the discretion of the company to refund her rental charges. There’s also this: She did have access to a car for part of the time and Hertz should be paid for it, right? (This is similar to the non-working first class seat. It’s difficult to argue for a full refund when the airline provided transportation.)

I think I need to contact Hertz about this. But what should I ask it to do?

Hertz should:

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143 thoughts on “I want a full refund for my broken down rental car

  1. Chris, this seems like a pretty open and shut case to me. Hertz is supposed to provide a working car, and when they cannot, either they need to replace the vehicle or provide a full refund. Personally, I like Hertz and I cannot believe that they even considered charging a mechanic fee or for a tank of gas, when not refueling the car was beyond the customer’s control. While it is not mentioned if non-start was customer induced or not, I cannot imagine that it would have been and that it was nothing but a mechanical defect which should have been caught by Hertz in the first place.

    1. They could have left the lights on, but I would assume that the first thing the mechanic tried was a jump start. I defense of Hertz, it’s quite possible that whatever problem caused this was something that failed without warning. But once it happened, Hertz should have stepped up and made this right, instead of nickel-and-diming one of their best customers.

    2. The car did work. It made it from Boston to Richmond, VA. That’s a very, very long drive so to say it wasn’t working is patently false. After a 550 mile drive – was it single day drive? Multi-day drive? A full refund just seems insane.

      Assuming it was a “mechanical defect” is creating a lot of details where none was provided, especially assuming this defect existed when the car was picked up. Could happened during the 550 mile drive – rock in the undercarriage? Hit something on the road? Ignored check engine lights? Low oil? Who knows.

      1. The vehicle being an SUV, the charge for the rental was probably greater than if they rented a mid-size sedan. I’m sure that their was also a hefty charge for dropping off the vehicle in a distant city. Therefore, there is a reasonable pool of money from this transaction for Hertz to make things right. Here’s what I think is a fair solution.

        Gray had the use of the vehicle for the trip from Boston to Richmond. When the vehicle broke down, she did not have a way to get it out of the parking garage and to the Richmond airport. The $50 service charge and the $26 fuel charge need to go away. Gray also needs to be reimbursed for her $151 cab fare. Since she had no other way to get her and her family to the airport and needed to catch a flight. The cab fare is not unreasonable since it is 80 miles from the school to the airport.

        Hertz could have mitigated this problem if they had offered to provide a substitute vehicle for Gray to drive from Charlottesville to Richmond. According to their web site, they have four rental locations in Charlottesville.

  2. The primary reason you rent a car is for transportation. A broken car doesn’t provide transportation (unlike a broken airline seat). At a maximum I can see Hertz charging 1 day rental. But if they do that then they also need to refund the gas and mechanic fee and pay for the taxi too. If Hertz wanted to do the right thing then they should refund everything, drop the excess charges, and pay for the taxi. They severely inconvenienced the LW to the point where the father couldn’t meet with the coach.

  3. Hertz was paid for the rental of a car, but that car rental was not “the car” it was transportation. Hertz didn’t provide the transportation aspect of the service rental. They aren’t owed anything more than zeroing out the balance and giving them a full refund. It was their election to take a taxi, and they could have (the letter makes no mention of it) requested another vehicle or rented from another car rental agency.

    I don’t see much use in Hertz giving them anything for good will, Hertz abandoned them, and they aren’t going to forget that. Hertz has likely lost them as customers.

    I would suggest the LW contact their credit card company and file a dispute the goods and services were not merchantable, and were defective.

    1. I disagree about Hertz losing them as customers. That’s what service recovery is all about. Hertz screwed up…twice. But both are recoverable screw ups if someone with authority, and ‘nads, steps up and fixes this.

      If the daughter had missed her interview or something catastrophic happened, then you’d be correct.

      I’m confident Chris can fix this.

      1. Sorry, Hertz burned this bridge. No one stepped up, they didn’t take care of the customer and then added insult to injury charged them for gas and the maintenance call, as well as the full rental. They have already contacted Hertz and Hertz gave them a pity $50 credit. That would have been the last opportunity to zero out the bill and send them a check for the taxi with an apology. If you have to go to an advocate to make things right, your going to remember that, and your going to think

        “Why give this company my business when I’ve been a great customer, and they just bailed on us. I don’t want to have to depend on a consumer advocate to get the basics of customer service”

        Anytime, I was booking an auto rental in the future I’d go with the company that I don’t have a bad history with.

        1. How do you know they burned the bridge? There is nothing posted in the story that says they will never used them again.

          What if Hertz steps up and refunds everything and gives them the “cherry on top”, that they won’t rent from them because they had a problem and Hertz took care of the issue????

          1. Hertz didn’t take care of the issue. Taking care of the issue would be on the second call having the representative say “We are very sorry for the problems and inconvenience, how can we help? We understand you have a plane to catch. We can provide you another car from our location.” etc. Hertz did nothing they left this family to fend for themselves, that’s not customer service that’s someone who doesn’t care about customers at all. Hanging up the phone is not a solution. I don’t want to do business with people or organizations like that. However after making my own way and writing them, a summary heres, $50 eat the cab fair yourself and were billing you for the gas and the defective rental. Would be an insult, and its not taking care of the issue.

            Shaming a company by a consumer advocate into a satisfactory customer response is not customer care or customer service, it’s PR management.

          2. of course not would you give anyone anything if they said “regardless of the outcome we are never using going to rent from you again”?

          3. But you are making assumptions that are not supported by any of the information.

            Maybe the LW only rents from Hertz because they had far worse experiences with other companies and Hertz is their last choice because they refuse to use any other company. (See, I can assume too.)

          4. First off Hertz should have replaced the car rather than sending a “mechanic”.
            After that kind of hassle I would never rent Hertz again. Lots of competition out there.

          5. That’s an assumption. All we know is that under these circumstances Hertz would have lost you as a customer. This is the art of service recovery.

  4. How long was the rental? One day? What was the billed total besides the service charge and gas charge?

    The $50 service charge seems bogus. Hertz ultimately provided a $50 credit, but they refer to it as “a gesture of concern”, not as a reversal of the service charge.

    If they insist on charging her for gas instead of waiving that for the inconvenience, I sure hope they used the actual cost, not the premium per-gallon fee they normally charge.

    If she communicated that she needed to get back to the airport by a certain time, and Hertz refused to or was unable to arrange such transportation, then I think they ought to compensate her for the $151.

    Or, alternatively in that case, if $151 is more than the total for the rental, then zeroing out her bill seems like a reasonable request.

  5. If I understand the circumstances correctly, the renter did receive some value for the one-way vehicle rental from Massachusetts to Virginia. If that one-way journey was the intended journey, then there’s probably a nominal amount due to Ms. Gray, and Hertz offer might be enough. But if the intention was to drive round-trip, and as a result of the failure, the renter could not use the vehicle for a significant part of the rental period (and was the air transportation from Virginia to Massachusetts a result of no longer having a working rental vehicle?), then a greater amount of compensation is due. I would need some more information before deciding whether or not to take the case. That is, is the loss of use de minimus or significant?

    1. Since they were going back to the Richmond airport, we can guess there was some mangling of the letter going on, and they had flown from Boston to Richmond and drove to Charlottesville. (I expect the flights are much cheaper.)

      1. That was my take as well. They flew into richmond, rented a car at the airport drove to the meeting, and were intending on driving back to the airport and getting on a plane for home.

        1. I realize that. I’m saying that I think some wires got crossed in the e-mail back-and-forth. UVA is in Charlottesville, VA; it makes sense to go neither through nor to Richmond to get there via car. However, it would make total sense to FLY to Richmond to get to Charlottesville, there are some decent fares between BOS and RIC, non-stop, even!

  6. did she get the full coverage?

    i have told this story before;
    -i got full coverage
    -i ran over a road kill-deer in a snow storm.
    -i barely made it back to my hotel
    – this was 3 days in to a 19 day rental

    i was not charged a service fee or told to go to a mechanic. they sent me a new car the next day, and i just had to fill out an accident report 16 days later.

    1. So we’re supposed to buy their overpriced coverage because we don’t know if they ever changed the oil? Get an Amex card. They provide PRIMARY coverage on the vehicle for up to $100,000 dollars and up to 30 days for a flat $24.95 fee.

      1. That’s pretty pricy for a short rental. Some cards provide primary coverage free. I use my Chase Sapphire plus card for car rentals.

      2. Doubt the AMEX coverage would have done anything to help here since it is collision and theft coverage, neither of which happened in this case.

    2. The couple of times I’ve had this problem Enterprise brings out a mechanic in a tow and a desk agent with a new car. I hop in the new car, drive away.

      1. True – wonder if since she stated they drove from Boston, she rented from the local office, and if would have had to wait for the Richmond one to come up with a car, and didn’t want to deal with it at that point. Need more info here!

        1. It also sounds like frustration is also a factor in this case. People can get frustrated to the point they just don’t let the company help anymore.

    3. I had a Hertz car die on me. Hertz replaced the car, it was after a 4 hour wait and after they sent a mechanic to try and get it running. Did not have any of the Hertz insurance. Was not charged a penny extra.

      If I had run over something and damaged the vehicle, it would have been a different outcome as far as the charges go.

      1. I had the same experience, they sent a new vehicle out with a mechanic, and ended up towing the old vehicle back. I wasn’t charged anything. There was a long wait however.

  7. I’ve been through the service with hertz when there was a breakdown (flat tire caused by me) and the experience was very good. They replaced the car (okay, it was two flat tires!), even though I was in Louisiana and I rented it in Texas, they charged me a nominal fee for the tire and I was on my way. Yes, it was a bit of time for a tow truck to come and such but overall they handled it.

    There’s a bunch of information missing here. Usually when there is a breakdown, I expect they replace the vehicle. Why didn’t they do that? There is no mention of this.

    Need more information to give an opinion.
    This isn’t like Hertz at all, they are top notch with their customer service.

  8. This seems to be a no brainer, Hertz should have refunded the amoint of her contratc that was unused, I mean they drove the car from Boston, Ma. to Richmond, Va. then the car brokle down and Hertz basically left them stranded with no way home? Did they even offer to provide a replacement vehicle to drive back to Boston? They should be refunded the extra costs of getting back hom plu the pro-rated amount of the ramining contract and the fees they were charged by Hertz for not having a full tank of gas (a money grab if ever there was one) etc.
    I have never used Hertz and based on this and other stories of theur lack of customer service I never will

  9. I vote mediate.

    I’m assuming that this was a one way rental. In that case, the LW received most of the value that she paid for. Walking across campus seems minor.

    Where Hertz dropped the ball: the $50 service charge is bogus as is the fuel charge. As several other posters note, Hertz is usually a good company so I am assuming that those charges were in error.

    The taxi ride to the airport is a little more difficult. Hertz is absolutely responsible for transporting the LW and family to the airport. I don’t think that’s the issue. The question is how much is a reasonable reimbursement. Originally, I was going to say that $151 was high. But it appears it would cost $170.00 to rent a mid-sized SUV for a one way rental to the airport. Plus, of course the LW would have had to get to the local edition rental, i.e. perhaps an additional taxi charge.

    A cheaper option might have been an airport shuttle. But that’s not exactly fair to the LW. Using an airport shuttle has two big negatives, you’re sharing the space with strangers and it takes far longer because it has to come to you and will stop to pick up other passengers. I live 30 minutes from SFO yet the latest that Super Shuttle will pick me up is 3 hours before flight time. I can easily imagine the LW not having the additional time. That’s why, upon further reflection, the taxi was a reasonable option.

  10. Mediate. Ask for a refund of the airport taxi cost, the service charge and whatever cost per day they had left on the rental. They should’ve replaced the vehicle if it couldn’t be repaired, not left them high and dry.

  11. The part of the story that’s missing is in between the mechanic not being able to fix the car and getting the taxi. They may not have been able to tell something was wrong with the car before renting it to the OP. But…

    Why didn’t they bring a new car? Why not offer to take them to the airport? Those details are almost crucial.

    1. We need to hear Hertz response. Though hanging up the phone and not doing anything is clearly unacceptable.

      My instinct reaction is that Hertz probably did offer them something in the way of another car or a ride, but they were on a tight schedule and had to get back to the airport to catch their departing flight.

          1. My guess is they had to get back to the airport to catch a flight, and getting them a new car would take up too much time

          2. I’m not seeing anything in the story that said they were in an all-fire hurry to get to the airport. They complain about the hold time to get a hold of a person on the phone, but not a peep about how long it would have taken the place to deliver a new car to them. It doesn’t fit.

          3. It reads to me like it was a planned one-way rental with the trip from the college to the airport being their final stretch. They probably weren’t in a huge hurry to get to the airport (they still had appointments on campus, for example) but by the time a mechanic was dispatched and ultimately failed to get the car running it’s easy to see how time could have started to get tight. Hertz thought the mechanic was fixing it so they wouldn’t have likely done anything concerning a replacement vehicle until after the mechanic told them he had failed. I can see them not wanting to wait any longer as it could easily take an hour or more to dispatch another vehicle.

  12. On the surface it appears that Hertz had performed poorly here. But I want to know if this is a one-way rental or was supposed to be round trip (it appears to be a one-way) and for how long the rental period was for. She did not mention asking for a replacement vehicle to be delivered or telling Hertz they needed to get to Richmond. I know you said you are not looking to determine what happened but just want to know if you should mediate. As you mention periodically, you like the details before agreeing to do so. You need all the information before going ahead here as some important details are not mentioned. I am leaning toward mediation but not without all the details.

      1. Clearly says pick up in Boston for drive to Richmond. She complains about the taxi fare but not about purchasing tickets to fly back to Boston. So I think it is one-way but she does not mention that.

        1. UVA isn’t in Richmond, it’s in Charlottesville. It’s out of the way to drive through Richmond to get there, but if you are flying, it’s the nearest airport with decent fares.

          I think some wires got crossed in the story; I don’t think it was an inexplicable one-way trip from Boston to Richmond (to get to UVA)… I think it was a pickup/return at the Richmond airport. There are direct flights between BOS and RIC on Delta and JetBlue.

  13. What I can’t figure out is why Hertz did not swap out the car for a working one… there’s a Hertz in Charlottesville, and I’ve never had problems in the past swapping out a car rented in an airport for one at a local location if there’s a problem.

    1. We need to hear Hertz response. Though hanging up the phone and not doing anything is clearly unacceptable.

      My instinct reaction is that Hertz probably did offer them something in the way of another car or a ride, but they were on a tight schedule and had to get back to the airport to catch their departing flight.

      1. Actually, the way it reads they were in a circumstance where Hertz couldn’t offer them much. Sounds like it was a one-way rental and the trip to the airport from the college was the last they needed the car.

        1. My impression is that its a round trip, fly to Richmond, rent car at airport, drive to Charlottesville, drive back to airport, fly home. All the delay for the mechanic, etc cut into their time, and they had to get back to the airport.

  14. Normally, what would be fair would be a refund of 1/2 the rental charge + $151 for the cab fare (or the whole rental charge, whichever is less). They rented a car, got some use out of it but the thing broke down. Things happen and that’s a fair settlement – the customer pays for some use of the car, but Hertz covers the unused portion of the rental, some inconvenience charge and the cab fare to the airport.

    But, given they also tried to tack on additional charges – which is ABSURD – plus didn’t step up and do the right thing, the proper fix here is a refund of the whole rental charge (for being jerks about it) plus the $151 cab fare (in credit) in order to try to win them back as customers.

    As an aside, I think the OP should just reverse the charge on the credit card if Hertz doesn’t play ball. I had the same thing happen to me renting a Ryder truck many years ago – the truck broke down repeatedly and they finally had to tow me to my destination (they wanted me to transfer everything to a new truck – I refused without help since some stuff I couldn’t lift myself and had help waiting for me when I arrived at my destination). When I got the bill, not only did they charge me full price, but also charged me because it wasn’t full PLUS extra mileage (which couldn’t have happened since the truck broke down!). I was willing to pay a prorated portion of the rental, but when the Ryder dealer decided to try to stick it to me, I just contacted my CC company. They charged the whole thing back.

      1. From the sounds of it a new car wouldn’t have helped much. They only needed to get to the airport and by the time they waited for the mechanic and he failed to get it running they were out of time and needed to take a taxi.

  15. LW says they drove the car from Boston to Richmond, then went to the airport presumably to fly back to Boston? Or did they rent a new car at Richmond to drive back to Boston? Presumably they would have incurred some extra expenses on last minute plane tickets or on a one-way rental that are not mentioned?? Or did Hertz just give them a car in Richmond to drive back to and return in Boston?

    I’d be very curious to know this before casting my vote and we could be dealing with potentially a couple thousand $ in additional expenses.

  16. Something smells here and I don’t think its the trash can under my desk….

    First, I didn’t vote today. If it was me, before you ask for anything, find out Hertz’s side of the story. I’m not sure what would justify this but its possible that there’s something else here and their actions were justified. Second, I’d get a better understanding of why the LW went to the airport. Was it to rent a new car or fly home? Either way, it might help the negotiation with Hertz.

  17. The car successfully made the drive from Boston to Virginia. It sounded like it was a one way rental with a flight returning from Richmond to Boston. How someone thinks that justifies a full refund is way beyond my understanding.

    The car got you to Richmond – Safely and on time. Once on campus, they walked to the meeting – AKA explored the campus which a responsible visitor should do anyway. The husband couldn’t make the meeting which was annoying, I’m sure. Then there was a cab to the airport for the return flight. That’s the only mentioned “hassle”.

    With that being the case, a short walk is in no way a hardship or a serious issue. A refund of the fees they wouldn’t have had to pay with a working car and a “free upgrade” or something should be it. In addition to the $50 covers it? That would be fair.

    1. So, because the rental car didn’t work, and because Hertz could not (or would not) replace it in time to get them to the airport, this customer should eat the $151 cab fare they had to spend instead, in addition to the price paid for the rental? Why?

      1. As I said above, “A refund of the fees they wouldn’t have had to pay with a working car and a “free upgrade” or something should be it.”

        I clarified my response.

        Also to be clear, the car DID work. It got them from Boston , MA to Richmond, VA – 98% (or more) of the entire trip? 550 miles is the distance from Boston to Richmond. Walking on campus – maybe a 1/2 mile? 1 mile? 1/8 of a mile?

        1. If that were all, I’d agree. I may be reading the article incorrectly, but I’m assuming that they had further to go with the rental, and that the $151 cab fare was necessary because the rental car wasn’t working. If that’s the case, a refund of the cab fare is in order. If they were planning to drop off the rental car near campus and just saw an opportunity to have a high-dollar cab fare reimbursed by Hertz, then I’m with you.

          1. Yea, the details made it sound like the car was going to be returned @ the Richmond airport prior to the return flight.

        2. But the dad had to miss the meeting with the coach and spend at least 2 or more hours waiting for the mechanic to show up. So not only did they have a broken car, they had to spend THEIR time on attempting to get it fixed when it was not their responsibility. Frankly, Hertz should reimburse them at $50 an hour for the three hours of their time spent attempting to deal with this fiasco.

      2. But there’s nothing in the letter that says they even asked Hertz for a replacement. With the other things they complained about, the lack of complaint about not being offered (or not being offered a timely) replacement is significant to me.

        1. Ah. Looks like I’m projecting what I’d do onto the situation, instead of using my reading comprehension skills. Good catch!

        2. I’m assuming that they needed to get to the airport and time was a factor.

          The other thing is that she rented an SUV. Many local edition rentals don’t carry SUVs so that could be an issue as well.

          1. Fair enough, but with no discussion of the necessity of an SUV as opposed to, say, a full-sized car or a minivan, I’m not keen on them getting the taxi fee back. If there was no reason they couldn’t fit themselves and their luggage into a cab, then there’s no reason they couldn’t have accepted a smaller but free alternate vehicle.

            Again, it’s the glaring holes in the story that make me suspicious.

    2. FYI, UVA is in Charlottesville. Their return flight would have gone through RIC because the fares are cheaper than Charlottesville.

      (I don’t understand why the article says they drove to Richmond to begin with… Richmond is only on the way to Charlottesville if you are coming from the South or East, not the North.)

  18. I’ve been a loyal, longtime Hertz customer, and after several rentals marked by indifferent customer service and older, higher mileage cars, I began to wonder why. As an experiment, I rented my next car from Avis, and I haven’t looked back. I know everyone thinks of Hertz as the gold standard of the rental car world, but I’m not sure that’s still true. They certainly weren’t in this instance.

    1. I had exactly the opposite experience. The Avis vehicles I got were old, high mileage, and often smelled of smoke. Not to mention higher priced for the same rental period. Hertz does occasionally have older high mileage vehicles when I rent, but a higher percentage are acceptable. I think it just depends on what locations you rent from and if those are corporate or franchise operations.

      1. Now that you mention it, I DO often get Avis cars that smell like smoke. It doesn’t really bother me, so it doesn’t register as a negative, but I can certainly see how it would be a problem for most people. As to the newness of the cars, I wonder if there is any information publicly available that tracks fleet age/mileage? It would be interesting to know who has the newest cars from a non-anecdotal perspective.

        1. Have not had a lot of time to poke around, but found a WSJ article that states the average miles on a rental vehicle when sold by the rental company is now up around 40K where in 2005 it was closer to 20K and that cars are being kept an average of 18 month which is up from 6 – 9 months in 2005.

          This is average across the board and, as they say, your mileage may vary. 😉

          1. The basic premise of the rental car market was to extract fairly high rates for a newish car and then sell it on the used market while there is still decent resale value. They buy at fleet sale prices and sell at retail fairly lightly used. While the thought of a rental car being abused sends warning signs to many, that they’re generally well maintained and get fixed (which a private owner may put off) when needed is a selling point. I think they can also take depreciation.

            I’m not sure how letting them get older fits into the business model. I have heard that fleet discounts aren’t what they used to be.

            Now the last few times I rented the cars had around 10K miles, and one reached 10K while I drove it.

          2. There was a lot more to the article I read and some of it did go into the current lack of fleet pricing deals (at the time the article was written which was middle of last year). I’m sure it all makes sense to a accountant somewhere.

            I have noticed that in the last 6 months or so the cars I get and others I see on the lots when I rent do seem to be newer than they were for a while. There is the occasional one with 40K miles, but those are getting more rare. I also seem to get the type of car I asked for when renting more now and not get the upgrades to more expensive models as was often the situation over the past 5 years.

          3. I once rented a car with 4 miles on the odometer. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was delivered right to the rental location from the docks.

            I doubt it’s typical though. Every rental is a brand, spanking new one once.

        1. True, though that restriction doesn’t effect my usage. If I’m going to another state I fly there and then rent a car in that location.

          1. Had a client have his business car totaled by a another driver. His insurance company, as most do, had a contract with Enterprise. His business requires him to drive out of state, via Nevada and Enterprise doesn’t (or did, as I haven’t checked since I never rent them) allow cars from CA to enter NV. He had to rent from Hertz and it was a huge hassle to get that approved.

    2. I had three big issues with Hertz–one right after the other. Customer service was AWOL. I resorted to a credit card dispute to get money back from a pre-paid rental that was significantly downgraded. (Specialty sports car down to a full size sedan.) I am not loyal to anyone car company any more.

  19. Hertz was wrong to charge for the extra fees (gas, service, etc), but if these people were long time renters from Hertz, why didn’t they ask for a replacement vehicle instead of taking a cab? Hertz had the responsibility of giving them *some* kind of transportation, even if they didn’t give them another SUV. Taking a cab that costs $150 would not have been my first thought — or even in my top ten options — and I’m not a gold member of any rental car company.

    Go after Hertz for the refund of the fees, and at least a partial refund of the rental itself, but do not ask for the cab fare. That is on the LW’s head.

    1. Probably a timing issue. They apparently had a plane to catch. Hertz may have offered a replacement vehicle (should have been mentioned in the article one way or the other) but the time to get it to them would have made them miss their flight so they chose the taxi.

      1. That’s where things aren’t clear: why rent a car one way and fly back? Was that planned in advance or did they buy tickets to get home because of the car? Did they TELL Hertz that they were needing to get to the airport? These details are missing. They complain about the “agonizing” wait times to get to a live operator, so I would assume they would complain similarly about being told that they couldn’t have another car if they tried asking for one.

        Information is missing. We need Hertz’s side of things to get a better idea of what really happened.

        1. I think if they had to buy additional plane tickets to get back to Boston (where the rental started) that would definitely be mentioned. But, yes, there are lots of details missing.

          1. If they can show that Hertz refused them a replacement vehicle, then I’d say that they’re due the cab fare.

            And I think the LW should consider building more wiggle room into future travel plans: if they did have to rush to the airport from the uni so quickly they couldn’t wait for a replacement car to be delivered, then they weren’t prepared for *any* kind of delay that might have popped up. They’d have been running just as late if the car had gotten a flat on the way to the airport.

          2. They didn’t plan on an extra three or four hours trying to get the broken car fixed! A flat tire would take 20 minutes, maximum, to fix. Don’t blame them for Hertz’s defective car.

        2. They may want to know how long it takes to drive back and forth to the school, so rented a car to drive. Then they flew back due to some time restriction. They are, after all, checking out the school. The fly/drive times are something they would want to know.

      2. But there is no mention of getting a vehicle from the local Hertz office in Charlottesville. I find that a rather glaring omission. Why did that office not come into play for a replacement vehicle?

    1. Yeah, I was trying to wrap my head around why they would drive from Boston to Charlottesville, via Richmond, and then fly back one way from Richmond. Unless they just wanted a scenic drive? I think the story is a little garbled and they must have flown RT between Boston and Richmond, renting the car to get to Charlottesville.

      1. Boston to Richmond was the rental car routing, but it was probably Boston to Charlottesville and then to Richmond Airport by rental car, and back to Boston by plane.

    2. I think a possible route was suggested, but it was likely Boston to UVA first, and then to Richmond where they’d drop it off at the airport and take a flight home to Boston. It also sounds like they broke down on or around the UVa campus.

  20. This is not the first story we’ve read about Hertz and the other prominent names in the car rental business. If I were CEO of Hertz, I’d change the company’s financial relationship with the managers. I suspect there is presently some financial rewarding for all the shenanigans that we read about in these pages; from the ploy about scratches, undisclosed damages, and bogus charges for repairs that were not the renter’s fault. Probably these things don’t happen to company accounts or gold card members.

    I also suspect that the cases we read about from Elliott are only the tip of the iceberg. Many people just pay the dishonest charges rather than spend the time fighting and being threatened with damage to their credit by having the bill turned over to a collection agency.

    Some attorney general somewhere should send investigators to see how many consecutive renters were charged for the same dented bumper. If they find more than one, the company should be charged with fraudulent practice and it should get plenty of publicity. That would put an end to the practice.

    1. Christopher, I have a quick question. I know you don’t recommend buying insurance from the companies, but I’m self-employed and expenses are covered by my customers. I had one instance, and my personal insurance did cover it, but our rates went up. My credit card will only cover what my personal insurance won’t. I don’t want to penalize myself personally when it’s business. What do you think in that instance?

      1. If you can expense the insurance on a rental and your client is OK with it, then I would go for it. But often, the insurance offered by car rental companies is a little pricey. You may be able to get less costly coverage from a credit card, car insurance or travel insurance.

        1. Appreciate the recommendation–I’ll do some checking into that. Most of the time, my clients provide transportation, so I probably rent a car about 15% of the time. Depending on the price, it may or may not be worth it. My clients do cover the cost of the rental, including the insurance, so that is helpful.

        2. Appreciate the heads up on TravelGuard–I ended up talking to them, and based on their policy and cost, I took out a policy. Thank you!

  21. The car broke down. What else is there to say? And Hertz is trying to wriggle out of responsibility. They should of had another vehicle delivered to them. Why didn’t that happen? I never have a problem with Hertz in London but I have had plenty of problems with them here.

  22. Man, I very rarely say a company should refund everything but this is definitely one of those situations. Seems like this was a mess from the start, and LR’s were more than patient when they waited for a mechanic to fix their rental. Adding a fee for fuel usage was a slap in the face to the consumer. I expect more from Hertz, I like to think they’re one of the better car rental companies out there, usually above the fray on the damage return scams you see at other companies.

  23. There was no option for what I think. I Think Hertz should have brought out another car then they picked up the broken car, traded them out, and left the OP with the working car, and not charged anything for this. Perhaps a free rental coupon for the trouble, but I don’t think that was necessary. I am shocked Hertz picket up the car and left them with nothing, that just shocks me. And charging for gas adds insult to injury.

  24. Chris, can you verify that they DROVE from Boston to Richmond (and presumably had a one-way return to Boston)? This makes no sense at all; UVA is in Charlottesville. You drive neither to nor through Richmond to get there. However, if you are flying both ways, RIchmond makes a lot more sense. (It’s the nearest airport with decent fares.)

    In any case, I’d be interested to know if they called the Charlottesville Hertz office, I’ve never personally had any trouble swapping out a car even at a local location for a car originally picked up at an airport.

  25. I had a similar situation with Budget only with much worse circumstances. I rented a full size SUV to drive from ID to CO to pick up my grandchildren. On the return trip the car started making a roaring sound from the rear end. We stopped in Evanston, WY (look it up on the map) and called Roadside Assistance. Took the FORD Expedition to a CHEVY dealership at the instructions of RA where it was rather quickly determined there was water in the differential and it could not be repaired quickly. (Budget didn’t make arrangements for billing at the dealership so I paid it.) After spending the entire afternoon in a city park with an 8 and 4 year old (and two dogs) and enduring a series of what I presume to be lies from RA regarding failed faxes and broken down wreckers, we had to get a motel room. The next day we finally got the replacement vehicle, a small KIA SUV, even after my constant reminders that we had a full size vehicle and needed a like replacement. RA insisted the replacement was another Expedition….uhhh….no….I’m looking at a KIA. All this with a major airport location in Salt Lake City 100 miles from where we were. 32 hours after the breakdown we were on our way, finally, in a Chevy Tahoe.
    Budget immediately credited me for the full rental upon returning the vehicle in Boise and I asked for reimbursement for the hotel and dealership cost from the local manager then followed up with an email, no response. Two weeks later another email, no response. Three weeks after that an email to corporate customer service who promptly sent $75 in vouchers and told me the case was closed. I then contacted one of the Company VP’s from an email address I obtained on this site…no response. Two weeks later I forwarded the email with a one sentence follow up “I would appreciate the courtesy of a response.” Two hours later I received a telephone call and my request for reimbursement was honored with a credit on my card. All that to say this…following the advice on this site, being persistent, courteous works. Thanks Chris for the advice and yeah, I would certainly step in on this one.

  26. Give her all of it back. The car broke down and then Hertz charged her for the mechanic and gas. Gimme a break.

    Hertz, I am disappointed.

  27. So many are questioning the OP’s itinerary. Why? It was summer, with a child that is looking to attend college. Perhaps they made a vacation out of this. Perhaps they visited other colleges. It doesn’t matter to the treatment she received from Hertz.

    1. If they had the car a month and lost out on a day, is it really ok for it to be a “free” rental? If they picked up the car that morning, it changes what might be an acceptable solution.

      1. We don’t know if the flew out of Richmond that day or but she doesn’t say they lost out on days with the rental, but she does want the entire rental period pay for, which seems unreasonable.

  28. Should do and will do are two different things as always. If you look at it objectively, I think without question the fees go away. Had the mechanic been able to get the car to start, and it was an ‘idiot’ move on the part of the renter, then those fees might be appropriate, but not in this case. The taxi fees should probably be refunded as well, though.. $151 for a cab ride seems a bit much (But, I don’t know the area well). Documentation would be required for reimbursement of that.

    Since this seems to be a one-way rental, and they did drive the car to the destination.. I think the rental fee stands. Hertz is probably still owing them money even with that in play. Would it be good customer service to refund all or part of the rental fee? Yes, but..

    All in all, Hertz should have dealt with this at the time of the problem. Rather than sending a mechanic, they should have sent a replacement car.

  29. I got that exact same letter from Hertz 20 years ago. That’s when they lost a gold member. Dump the creeps. You get nothing more that you really need from them.

  30. Chris, keep us posted on the outcome. As a single woman traveler, I depend on rental car companies to treat me according to the contract and to assure my safety. I’d hate to be in their situation.

  31. Assuming the LW did not cause the car problem (and we have no way of knowing that from the info provided), then they are at least entitled to the refund of the fees and the gas charge. I would think they are entitled to a refund of the car price, but i guess it depends what the contract says. Same with the taxi.

  32. I Am Not A Lawyer, but it seems to me there’s an implied contract here that the car provides the service that the customer paid for. Where the car fails to provide this service, Hertz could claim the limit of their liability is (-all of-) the money the customer paid for the failed service. But it seems to me that Hertz is -fully liable- for that amount in the event they fail to live up to their part of the bargain.

    1. And now a similar but happy experience: More than 10 years ago I had a Hertz rental car die on me in Germany, the day before I was to drive that car from Heidelberg to Trier (to meet a friend for lunch) and then to FRA airport.

      I took a cab to the local Hertz office, turned in the keys for their dead car, and picked up a 6-speed turbo diesel Passat wagon (the dead car was a Renault Clio, and this was not the first problem I had with a rented Clio). I then drove that Passat on an empty autobahn at “autobahn speeds”, with a little bit left in the car when I said, “fast enough for me” (140mph?) That experience was worth the cab fare to pick up the new car. There were no other charges from Hertz, and as far as I was concerned, their contract was fulfilled.

  33. I once had a five-car rental from Hertz. I paid for 1 week for a trip and return home. The tl;dr is: Hertz gave me 1 car with an expiring registration and 3 clunkers until I finally got one that worked.

    Car one: Reserved for a downtown location. Get there and they’ve run out of cars, but the airport has some. They loan me and three others a car (that has to go to the airport for repairs) to get us there. Rent a car at the airport. Go to dinner with friends. As we get into the rental car someone says, “Did you know the registration on this expires in two days?” Call Hertz the next morning and they tell me if I bring it in they’ll give me a new car.

    Car two: They upgraded me from a sedan to a Volvo station wagon. Plush. I go start loading the car. Unfortunately, I can’t get the back hatch to unlock. The only way to do it is either directly with the key or by turning the key in the driver’s door twice, and neither works. I call Hertz auto service. Their rep, in turn, repeatedly and condescendingly tells me the same thing. I say, “I already did that” and explain exactly what I tried. Each time the rep interrupts me to say, “You’re not listening to me.” After 10 minutes of this, I say, “YOU are not listening to ME. Get me your supervisor.” Supervisor says there’s a problem with the car, and to bring the car back and they’ll give me another.

    Car three: Back to a sedan. Get it packed up and get on the road, 4 hours after I planned. Get tired after about 400 miles and pull into a motel. Bright and too early the next morning, go to leave. Unlock the car — and the alarm goes off. And it won’t stop. Call Hertz auto service, who again has me do everything I’ve tried again (try to start the car, try closing the door and reunlocking it, etc.) Finally had to pull the battery. They say, “We’ll send you another car where you are.” Car comes… 5 hours later.

    Car four: Get to my destination, in a major city. Next morning, am out running errands when the check engine light comes on and the car starts acting jerky. I immediately figure I must have not tightened the gas cap properly and go out to redo it (it was fine). An hour later, it’s still acting up. I call Hertz, who says, “We can’t help you. There’s a political convention in town and all cars are taken!” I say, “I don’t care. This is the FOURTH unacceptable car from you people. You will get me a working car.” They did, and it only took an hour.

    Car five lasted for the rest of the trip and got me home.

    1. Hertz in downtown Chicago on a Sunday, gave us a car with expired registration. They had one person working with a line out the door when we drove down the parking ramp to tell them. So we drove to the airport while I was on the phone with Hertz to have them know what had happened. It was a pain, everyone apologized, and fortunately no traffic stop by a police officer.

      1. I got pulled over in a recent Hertz rental because the plate expired at noon on the day I was returning it to the airport. It was a brand new car and had a temporary tag on it that I forgot to check. Cop was nice enough to not write a ticket. Hertz comped the rental. Not the first time I got a car with expired plates recently at Hertz so I am checking more closely from now on.

        1. We only rent from Hertz and that was the first and so far, only time we have encountered this, but it is something we now check.

  34. Hello Hertz? We expect your cars to work. If they don’t work, you need to make us whole, apologize to us for our inconvenience and give us a token of your sincere regret. Anything else is unaccceptable. Go get ’em Chris!

  35. I am very surprised they didn’t replace the car, there is at least one Hertz location in Richmond. They didn’t say how much gas was left but $26.70 to fill a tank of gas doesn’t seem excessive although they could have waived that as a gesture of good will. The $50 charge was excessive but they refunded that. If they didn’t have any SUVs then they should have paid for a taxi to get them to the airport or provided a smaller car. Also it should have been the mechanic not the renter who called Hertz to explain that he couldn’t get it to work.

    1. Hertz charges around $9.50 a gallon to fill your vehicle if it is not full when returned at the end of your rental at every rental location in the US I have used over the past year unless you pre purchase the gas option. They may have charged actual retail gas price in this case.

      1. Yes that’s what I was thinking, that they charged retail price rather than the full service price, which to me would be fair, they did after all use the gas.

  36. As usual, you didn’t give enough choices. Thry should have bern reimbursed for the last rental day, the fees and rhe cab cost. They should have simply delivered another car. But the LW had use of the car from the day they left Boston until it broke down so they don’t deserve everything back either.

  37. This really isn’t the same as a not getting your first class seat. This is the case of booking a flight to California, and the airline dropping you off in Detroit. I’d say a full refund is in order.

  38. I voted for full refund since other option was not listed.

    I wish there were a choice of

    1) Compensate the cab charges to OP
    2) refund for the gas charges and service fees
    3) no refunds for the actual reservation.

    (1) and (2) would not have happened had the Hertz vehicle started after the mechanic tried to fix it, on Hertz time. About (3), OP did use the vehicle for half the travel and the remaining travel by cab (if) compensated per (1).

  39. Is there any newer update on this — I’d love to know what happened…

    The way I see it is this — they contracted with Hertz for a rental car from Boston to Richmond, VA… while in Charlottesville, VA, the car died.

    If I’m the renter, I’m not expecting Hertz to come out with a mechanic — I’m expecting them to deliver a vehicle comparable to the one that I have — and I’m also expecting them (maybe too much here) to help me move my stuff from one vehicle to the other, since it is _apparently_ their fault.

    If they don’t show up with a car in an appropriate amount of time, and I have to be somewhere (the airport, in this case), then I expect them to provide me with transportation to the airport, because I was going to use _their_ service to get there…

    Now.. the extra fees… $50? why? _Their_ car broke down. Unless it’s my fault, Hertz is eating that fee. Gas? Yeah. I’ll pay that. At whatever the current _market_ rate is in Richmond, right outside the airport. I used the gas, I’ll have to pay for it.

    Taxicab? No way — I am _expecting_ Hertz to pay for it, since their service broke down. By the way, I’m also expecting Hertz to cover the last day of the rental as well…

    Am I expecting a full refund of the rental charge? No… I did, after all, use the car for an amount of time. I do expect a not-quite-pro-rated refund (as I mentioned above — the last day) of _all_ the taxes, fees, charges, etc, associated with the rental…

  40. I frequently get Failed To Verify Referrer messages when I’m attempting to vote on your columns. In any case, Hertz should give ALL her money back, including the cost of the taxi they had to take to the airport.

  41. A quick google of Hertz’s Charlottesville in-town locations show that both of them are closed Sunday and one of them is closed Saturday. I’d like to know if LW was experiencing all these problems over the weekend, when Hertz was essentially closed.

  42. She should get a full refund. The rental agreement is for a functioning automobile and that is not what she received. I think she actually should go through her credit card on this one – surely they recall the payment from Hertz.

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