Is the car rental industry’s damage claims process fair to travelers?

Always, always, always take pictures of your rental car.
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Do car rental companies make it too hard to report pre-existing damage?

Question: Please help me with a bogus damage charge by Alamo. We picked up our car in Kona, Hawaii, at dusk and saw numerous small dents and dings and scratches on the vehicle. We couldn’t find a form to report the damage.
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A $481 bill for damage I didn’t do?

Question: I’m trying to resolve an issue with Alamo and have not been able to communicate directly with anyone at the claims department. Now they’re threatening collections and legal action. I’m in the process of buying a house and can’t afford a ding on my credit rating.
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No damage to rental car, but they called a collection agency anyway

Richard Hartman rented a car from Alamo in Montreal this summer. It’s a decision he regrets.

“When I returned their rental car on June 21st, the Alamo staff reported no damage after their inspection but,” he says. But a few weeks later, the car rental company changed its tune. It now claimed he owed $646 for damage to his car.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: The needle may be on “F” but I’m not done paying

Question: I recently rented a car from Alamo, and I encountered a questionable practice that I wanted to let you know about.

I’ve used Alamo many times in the past, always returning the car with a full tank. Last month, after bringing back my rental in Tucson, Ariz., an Alamo attendant verified the full tank and gave us a receipt.

After we left, apparently Alamo felt the need to try and squeeze more gas in the tank, even after their employee confirmed a full tank, and charged us the inflated rental-gas price for two gallons.

They didn’t even try to notify us by phone, email or letter. This seems very sneaky and underhanded. I wrote them two emails, but never got any reply or explanation.

It’s not a huge amount of money, but rather the principle and the deceitful tactics to make a few extra dollars. I thought you’d be interested in this episode, if you haven’t heard of this practice, and perhaps could warn others in your column. — Stephen Farr, Sacramento, Calif.

Answer: When the car rental agent checked your tank and offered you a receipt, you shouldn’t have been charged extra. But if Alamo decided you owed it money, the least it could have done was to let you know — not find out when you checked your credit card bill.
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