Warning! Dropping off your rental car doesn’t mean you’re off the hook

Budget Rent a Car recently quoted Roy Bonney a $96 rate for a one-day rental from Norfolk to Washington. But it sent him a bill for $3,374.

The reason? A tire on Bonney’s car went flat only a few hours before his flight back home to Alaska, while he was parked at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, in the District. There was no spare, so he had to call Budget Roadside Assistance for help. Budget promised to send another car and a tow truck to pick up the car with the flat, but it gave an estimated arrival time of more than two hours — not soon enough to catch his flight.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb. Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

“I asked if I could leave the car for Budget to pick up, since they were sending a tow truck anyway, and I’d make other arrangements to get to the airport,” he said. “A Budget employee agreed.”

Bonney assumed that the phone conversation was an official transfer of the vehicle back to Budget. It wasn’t. The tow truck couldn’t access Bonney’s vehicle because it wasn’t allowed on base. So Budget treated the rental as if he’d never returned it, broadsiding him with a $3,278 bill.

Car-rental company representatives say it’s simple: Unless the vehicle is in their possession, it’s your responsibility. The rental contract, which you sign when you pick up the car, is clear on that point. And in an industry that often has razor-thin margins, car-rental companies claim they can’t afford to look the other way if a car is damaged on the parking lot after hours or stuck on a military base.

Someone must pay.

“Consumers should do more to protect themselves,” says Sharon Faulkner, executive director of the American Car Rental Association, a trade group.

Of course, most rentals don’t end as dramatically as Bonney’s. If a car isn’t returned in person, it normally sits on the lot without incident. But there are exceptions. Faulkner recently heard from a car-rental customer who returned her vehicle at 3 a.m., even though the location didn’t accept after-hour returns. It took the company five days to find the car, and it billed her for every minute of it.

“The rule of thumb is that the unit you rented is still on rent and is your responsibility until the office opens and the car is inspected,” she says. “If damage is found at that time, the renter is charged.”

Faulkner says instances of renters dropping off their car when a business is closed and then getting charged for damage that may have occurred after the drop-off are rare. When she owned a Dollar and a Thrifty franchise, she recalls only one such case.

But they appear to be happening more often, if my own case files are any indication. One memorable instance involves Ann Colmus, a reader from Manchester, Md., who contacted me after her 33-year-old son returned his Alamo rental car after business hours.

“Nine days later he got a phone call from them saying the car looked like it had been rear-ended,” she told me. “He was shocked because nothing was wrong with the car when he parked it.”

Colmus’s son insisted he’d returned the car as good as new, but Alamo was just as insistent that he pay $785 to fix the bumper. The company sent him pictures and demanded his insurance information.

“He would rather go to court than pay for something he did not do,” she says.

Their tenacity paid off. I sent Colmus the names of several Alamo executives, to whom she directed her complaint. The company dropped its claim against her son.

Bonney’s case also had a happy ending. After I contacted Budget on his behalf, it reviewed the circumstances of his return again. According to its records, the Air Force wouldn’t allow Budget’s roadside assistance provider to enter the base for “many weeks” without clearance through the proper military channels and without being accompanied by a rental-company representative.

“In the process of obtaining the required documents, the rental charges continued to accumulate,” a representative said in an e-mail to Bonney. In the end, the military gave Budget permission to enter the base. Budget agreed to drop its claim against Bonney.

So how do you make sure this doesn’t happen to you? Avoid returning a car when a car rental location is closed. Ideally, you should bring back your car during daylight hours and ask a representative to inspect the vehicle in bright light.

If there’s any question about a ding or dent, don’t assume it’s normal wear-and-tear. Phrases such as “Anything smaller than a quarter doesn’t matter” — usually uttered by a car-rental representative when you return the car — should be interpreted as warnings, not reassurances. In my experience, that often means a damage claim is imminent.

And take pictures — lots of pictures. “Before” and “after” snapshots of your rental are a must. Had Colmus’s son taken pictures proving he returned his vehicle in good shape, it’s doubtful Alamo’s claim would have gone as far as it did.

But sometimes, as was the case with Bonney, a big bill is unavoidable. And you have to remember: If you haven’t officially returned the car, it’s still your responsibility.

Do car rental companies treat returns during off-hours fairly?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

156 thoughts on “Warning! Dropping off your rental car doesn’t mean you’re off the hook

    1. I ALWAYS do that, in addition to still photos. All of the above. VIN, Plate, and the guy who gives you the car, and takes it back. Inside, outside, upside, underside. All angles. 1080p hi def pocket camera. Yup. Car rental companies are really in the scamming business if they can stick it to the unsuspecting.

      1. One thing that tells me it’s a great idea is, the car companies don’t seem to like it. 😉 I always have to go above and beyond, explaining what I’m doing.

          1. Just because the guys in charge of a business like to rip people off doesn’t mean that the poor schmo who is turning over the car to you is interested. He doesn’t make more money because they screw you after the rental is over, why should he be mad if you protect yourself?

          2. Actually he does, counter reps are usually financially incentivized to increase their billable’s. The more they upsell or “take in”, qualifies them for bonuses, prizes, and promotions.

          3. They’re going to incentivize counter reps for something to do with false damage claims? Explain how they have anything to do with that.

  1. Sharon Falkner, a shill for the rental car companies, can go take a flying leap. The rule of thumb is that when you take receipt of the car or it’s on your property, I no longer have possession or responsibility. It’s not possible for the renter who no longer has the keys to be responsible for something they can no longer access. Shills like that are why people don’t believe these self-serving “associations”. Chris, let’s avoid having self-serving shills quoted in articles from now on.

    In the case of the OP, once the car has a flat and Budget has not provided the renter any way of repairing said flat, then the car no longer has a fitness for purpose. By calling Budget and informing them of this and with them agreeing to deal with the matter, he no longer has any responsibility for the car.

    As a frequent traveler, I don’t usually have to deal with these types of headaches because organizations don’t like to tick off their best customers. But I remember that I once rented a car via Avis on a weekly rate. Not needing it for the last couple days of my trip, I went to drop it off. I didn’t want or expect a refund, I just was returning it early for them to use again. They wanted to charge me a higher rate and actually refused (at first) to take the car back! So I pointed to a nearby highway overpass and said fine, I’m going to leave the *expletive* car off up there on the side of the road and they could pick it up in a couple of days. They decided it was in their best interest to take the car back. Stupid companies.

    1. “In the case of the OP, once the car has a flat and Budget has not provided the renter any way of repairing said flat…”

      They did: “Budget promised to send another car and a tow truck to pick up the car with the flat, but it gave an estimated arrival time of more than two hours — not soon enough to catch his flight.”

      We don’t know all of the details about the logistics about the location of the military base to the Budget’s repair location and/or rental location; the time of the day (i.e. rush hour; a high rental period; etc.); the usage of vehicles at the time of the flat (i.e. the rental location may had little or no vehicles available and there was a wait for the replacement car); the tow truck could have been picking up another disabled vehicle; the tow truck could have been a contractor to Budget so it took time to make the arrangements; etc.

      The times that I had to call AAA for a tow or a battery jump, it usually take an hour. Once or twice, it has been between 60 minutes and 90 minutes because I called during a peak time. Without knowing all of the details, I think that a 2 to 3 hour wait is acceptable.

      The real problem in this case was that the OP was going to miss his flight and he didn’t want to wait for the next flight back. It sucks when real life (i.e. a flat tire; traffic delays caused by accidents, constructions; etc) happens but a person needs to deal with it and take responsibility instead of abandoning a $ 20,000+ asset of another company that they have been entrusted with in a parking lot.

        1. Yes but didn’t the OP noticed that when he did his inspection of the car and requested a car with a spare? I have been assigned rental cars with no jacks or spare tires and I requested and received another rental vehicle.

          If I travel to ‘snow country’, I make sure that there is a snow brushice scraper in the car…if not or it is cheap plastic one that is the size of my hand, I will go to a store and buy a real ice scrapersnow brush.

          1. I agree with most of what you posted. But not checking for a spare is not negligence on the part of the LW. The pre-rental check is for body damage.

          2. Eventually, they’ll start dinging renters for failing to check the oil and transmission fluid before it leaves the lot. 🙂

          3. I always inspect the car. I don’t want this kind of surprise. The only time I have rented a car without spare, it had a fixing kit.

            And when I travel int’l, I also check the traffic rules for my destination. Like the need to carry a breathalyzer in France or two safety triangles in Argentina.

          4. Breathalyzer in France is new to me, but I’ve not gone there in many years. Why do they want that?

            As far as safety triangles, I made a very large one of those on the inside of my trunk lid with reflective striped tape, for safety. Edges of my doors as well.

          5. Google “renting a car in France breathalyzer”. Part of France’s push to crack down on drunk driving. Since the BAC there is .05, the articles are all saying that drivers are encouraged to test themselves with the breathalyzer before driving if they have had anything to drink.

          6. Since July 2012, you must carry a disposal breathalyzer in France in order to “test yourself” if you have drunk prior driving, to make sure you are able to drive. (IMO, a kind of silly law, because if you have the doubt, you are probably inept to legally drive)

            Regarding Argentina and a couple other countries in South America, you must deploy the triangles in a certain distance from the car, one at the front of the car and other behind, to alert other drivers. I don’t think the cops will buy that an “inside” triangle has the same effect… 😉

        2. Budget screwed up of not replacing the spare tire but NOT having a spare tire, does that gives you the right of abandoning the car in a parking lot?

          1. Are they gonna pay for their screw up if it costs him thousands of dollars in changed airfares to wait for their tow truck?

          2. Some cars are sold without spare tire, but some customers want / choose these cars… Must the rental add a spare for these cars?

          3. Should they rent out a car that has no spare?

            Should they tell the renter that this little piece of snot doesn’t have a spare tire?

          4. No, not really if they get a flat they call and either get told where the emergency kit is or they send a tow. Most companies don’t want you to fix it yourself, they would prefer to charge you for the roadside assistance.

          5. They want to charge you for THEIR screw-up? I guess you can tell I don’t rent many cars lately, and certainly not bottom-tier skoshabongs.

          6. Well yeah, you make more money if you charge for your mistakes and the clients mistakes. Your a mechanic doing a tune up on a car drop a screwdriver, punctures the radiator, tell the customer they have a leaking radiator and give them an estimate to fix it. Your working on a computer system and short a bus, you then blame the original repair on the shorted bus, and of course you offer them an estimate to replace it.

            Airlines do the same thing they oversell a flight but they will still charge you a change fee to change your flight even though at the gate they are going to ask for volunteers and give them compensation, and change their flights any way.

          7. The question is:

            Is spare tire a mandatory piece of equipment in USA?

            I really don’t know, but according to what I had read, no. If I want a car with this piece of equipment, it’s my obligation to check if the car has it. The same about ABS, all wheel disk brakes, number of airbags, etc. (only to stick with safety items)

            Therefore, yes, they should and the can rent a car without spares. And they aren’t obligated to tell the renter about it.

            BUT, if one or some of the above items are important to the renter (spare tire included), he should had spent a minute or two checking about them, and requesting another car if this particular one doesn’t fulfill his expectations or needs.

            It isn’t rental staff responsibility tell everything the car has or hasn’t. It is the renter personal responsibility to assure the car meets his needs & requests.

          8. I wouldn’t believe that a spare is the same as ABS, disk brakes, airbags, etc. Car will work fine w/o those. Won’t work with a flat. Ergo, NOT the same thing.
            It SHOULD be the staff’s responsibility to tell the renter that if he has a flat tire, he’s STRANDED. ABS failure doesn’t strand you. See the dif?

          9. Another poster complained about a clutch failure. Nobody carries a clutch, because nobody expects a clutch failure. And despite you can have a flat, nobody really expects it. If a flat tire is a common occurrence, it should be mandatory. It seems it isn’t, because it isn’t mandatory to carry one – at least at USA.

            (BTW, I didn’t have a flat for at least 7 years)

            If you want a non-mandatory item, you must request it and check if the car has it, not expect that the staff will tell you about it.

          10. Ask any 100 people on the street if cars come with spare tires, and I’d wager that more than 90 of them would expect to find a spare in the car. Only people who are advocating the defense of sneaky commercial firms who take every opportunity to give the shaft to their customers would argue that line of reasoning. Comparing a clutch failure to a tire failure is bogus. The fact that it isn’t mandatory is because it was always normal to have one in the car. Now, they are not including them because there’s no law requiring it. Doesn’t mean that it’s not a responsibility of the car rental company to ensure that the renter is not inconvenienced.
            Rental company should be out there in a matter of minutes.

            Andrews is not so far from any rental agency that it should take them two hours to go to the guy. They didn’t care enough to get to him to permit him to make the connection to his airplane.

            Did anyone consider that he may have been on MILITARY ORDERS, and had to fly out on a military aircraft? Failure to do so could be MISSING A SAILING, which, last time I looked, is a court martial offense. They could have sent someone out too Andrews WHILE HE WAS THERE and taken possession of the automobile, but instead chose to treat it as just another normal incident which, in this case, it wasn’t. This required special access to the base, and, with the guy gone, became a goat-rope exercise. THEN they try to blame the renter for their not going in a timely manner to redress the failure. Still others try to find every excuse imaginable to put the blame on the renter for the flat tire, such as there’s no REQUIREMENT to have a spare in the car.

            There’s always some excuse offered for failure to provide service, and there’s always someone who, for one reason or another, will take the side of the dirtbag rental agency against the customer. The customer is always wrong, and exists to be scrood and fleeced. Why else is it necessary to photograph the cars extensively in order to ward off attempts at false accusations of damages? Why is it people are defending the failure of the rental agency to go take care of the problem before the guy missed his airplane? THAT is the crux of the matter, and the discussion over whether or not there should be a spare in the car is a diversionary tactic to attempt to deflect blame away from the rental agency and put it on to the renter.

            It’s the rental agency’s fault.

          11. The repair staff isn’t necessarily located at the closest rental branch.

            If LW is military, he must know that special authorization must be granted to allow the repair truck to go inside the base.
            The fact that you expect something, doesn’t mean you will receive something.

            I agree that all cars must have spare tires, but I disagree that isn’t the renter responsibility to check it, even because there is no law obligating it.

            Both parts are wrong, but LW is more wrong – he didn’t check the car, he assumed that anyone can go inside a military base, and the didn’t confirm the car was returned to the rental. 3 errors, mistakes, omissions, whatever.

            The company could had called him to advise they weren’t able to collect the car. 1 error.

          12. Another excuse. Didn’t need a repair staff. Needed someone to come take possession of the car. He asked them if he could leave it for them to come and get it; was told they would do that. Does he need to swear them in on a Bible to ensure that they will do what they say they will do?

            I believe the renter did what he should have done, and the rental agency is at total fault for this.

          13. Now you are turning the facts to fit your argument.

            They asked two hours to come and fix the car – not to repossess the car. And even in this case, the closest rental branch doesn’t necessarily have extra staff to go out to pick a car.

            And Budget tried to reach the car. They didn’t expect it was sitting in a secure area! It seems LW just forgot this fact (when he “did what he should have done”), and he assumed that everybody could access the base like himself.

            I’m now expecting you to argue that was also Budget fault for not asking if they could reach the provided address. After all, they supposed they could.

          14. Here’s the fact, as stated in the letter:

            “I asked if I could leave the car for Budget to pick up, since they were
            sending a tow truck anyway, and I’d make other arrangements to get to the airport,”
            he said. “A Budget employee agreed.”

            How am I twisting the facts?

            Yup, they were at fault for not asking if they could reach the provided address. It’s a military base. The totality of military bases are now secure since 9/11. The MPs physically handle your ID card, tap the front where your name and the expiration date is, and then let you in.

            However, I find it difficult to believe that they couldn’t gain access to Bolling field for “many weeks”. How long did it take for the tow driver to report to Budget that they couldn’t get on base? An hour? What did Budget do about it? They didn’t really care, because they figured that the rental charges would add up. If one has business on the base, it’s a simple matter of signing in at the MP station, getting checked, and going in to do the business. The rental company’s claim that they couldn’t gain access to the base is balderdash.

            Lemme tell ya about Budget. Many many years ago, we were TDY to Oakland Army Base, and rented a car from Budget. The snotty beach at the desk, upon returning the auto, refused to honor the government rate. We got a higher-up in the company on the phone, and he DIRECTED her to give us the government rate. She hung up, and then told us she wouldn’t give us the government rate.

            She was stupid. She failed to understand exactly with whom it was that she was dealing, and annoying. Yep, the outfit which wrote the contracts for DoD with rental car companies. One who was in our group was the authorizing official of the contract with Budget for that current year. Naturally, he knew the CEO of Budget on a professional and social basis. Wanna try to guess what happened after we got back to the office?

            So, lemme tell ya. Their claim that it took weeks to get on to Bolling field to retrieve the automobile is absolute hogwash. The rental company is responsible. $96 one-way rental sure looks like the government rate to me. Likely was on TDY orders, but, even if not, doesn’t matter because government rate is available in any case, and the DTR 4500.9R governs. They SHOULD know this, and it shouldn’t take them WEEKS to find out. They should have called the base TMO to arrange for access, which would have been granted forthwith. The LW should have made a complaint through channels to the DTMO in Alexandria, VA. Might have got them debarred for cause. A wonderful trick to pull on smart-alecks who try to game the system for weeks, letting the bills mount up because the rental agreement says he has to turn it in to them personally, 4500.9R and implementers to it override. Sorry.

          15. Now I see you had a personal problem with Budget, therefore you cannot agree that LW is at least partially responsible for all this mess.

            I give up.

          16. I don’t have a personal problem with Budget. You are trying to divert the discussion from the issue at hand. Whether I have a problem with Budget is beside the point; I merely related those stories to illustrate how Budget has pulled cute tricks in the past. You are trying to say that somehow changes the issue, which it does not. YOU have a problem with reality. Can’t confuse you with the facts.

            Do you have any idea what DTR 4500.9R is? TDY? DTMO? I’d wager not. That said, you continue in your posturing but you don’t really understand the issues. As a military guy, he’s covered by DTR 4500.9R and implementers. Budget screwed around for weeks instead of contacting the TMO on base to gain access. The guy on the phone said they’d come get it, but someone in that office figured they’d screw the guy over by leaving the car on base and then claiming they couldn’t get on base to retrieve the car. That is totally false, and anyone who believes that story – I have a bridge for sale and well-irrigated land in Florida for ya.

            You want to defend Budget for some reason. Either you own stock in them, or you are simply one of those people who want to take the side of the business against the customer, no matter what.

            There is no educating you with facts, governance regulations, or reality. Maybe you are one of those people in the travel industry to be avoided.

          17. You believe Budget is the sole responsible for the problems.

            I believe LW is also responsible.

            We will never agree.

          18. A secure military base..right? Please tell me that on military bases there are NO other wrecker services ON the base that routinely move cars around..fully licensed, permitted and authorized! All the rental company had to do ..and they were too lazy, cheap or stupid to do so..was to contact the base commanders office and sub out the pick up of the rental car and have it delivered to an off base location…then they possibly could have billed the renter for that relatively small charge and everyone would be fairly happy…again..I just can’t believe that there are no other tow truck operators..civilian or military that could not have been contacted on that base!

          19. I disagree totally….do you check to see if it has the proper oil and transmission fluid…is the liquid in the battery topped up…is there really an air filter in the car…do all of the signal lights work…does the car have a proper emission control system, have you done a brake inspection… a spare tire has been an industry standard for many years…that is how professionals are judged…appraisers, real estate agents, lawyers…”what is the expected service from ones peers’….just because you are “budget” doesn’t mean you get to rent something that is not industry standard….I have always assumed that I had a spare but then again I never rent anything that says “budget”, Economy or any such reference…I don’t see the point…they are going to make up the difference on one end or the other…snagging you in this manner is just another way of secretly charging you the same fee as the “big boys”….most people spend way more time and money getting the right hotel or airplane reservation and then overlook or try to go dirt cheap on their auto transportation…which often is a significant part of their trip…I have heard so many bad things about the discount rental companies..I just won’t use them…yes, occasionally the big ones screw up too! I will give you that…

          20. A lot of things was industry standard and it isn’t anymore…

            Spare tires used to be much more necessary in the past than nowadays. I don’t have a flat for at least 5 years…

            Two years ago I rented a Mercedes B Class in France without spare tire – with Hertz.

            Isn’t France a good example? OK, maybe an AAA 2013 list with all cars without spare in USA helps you?
            newsroom . aaa.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Vehicles-without-a-spare-tire_Aug_20131.pdf

        3. Many cars these days no longer come from the factory with a spare, and many of them have no place to put one even if you did have a spare.

          Tires are more puncture-resistant than they used to be, the thing weighs a lot (even the donuts are heavy when you are trying to trim every last pound for MPG purposes), and most people used them wrong (drove too fast, too long, with too little air), so the decision was made to get rid of them, and replace them with a can of fix-a-flat and an air compressor or “run-flat” tires (but you can’t actually run on a run-flat very long… if you don’t pull over and call a tow truck, you won’t have a blowout, but the tire will be unrepairable.)

          1. All valid, but how does that fix his problem of missing the flight and paying hundreds or thousands of dollars more to wait for their tow truck to come with a tire? Of course, all should have coordinated to let the rental co come get the car and the guy goes on to his flight. Everyone involved shares blame.

        4. I agree, he should have missed his flight and dealt with airline penalties (or maybe not as he literally comes under the flat tire rule).

          1. Seriously?

            I imagine that if he did, you and ARW would then be blaming him if he tried to seek redress for the increased costs for his cancellation penalty and subsequent higher price. Why should the OP have to suffer hundreds of dollars in penalties because the rental car company didn’t either put runflat tires on or include a spare – both of which are pretty normal things in this day and age?

            And for all of ARW’s bluster, he wouldn’t wait. It’s quite interesting how his stories change when he’s at the center of things and not someone else.

          2. There is no official flat tire rule, it is nothing more than a courtesy, and there are many people who don’t get the advantage of that courtesy.

        5. You’d think that but I bought a Hyundai Accent and it doesn’t have a spare. And they don’t even sell a spare for it either. I’d have to take my precious cargo space up to put a spare in the car.

          I just make sure my AAA is paid for in case I get a flat.

          1. Well, if that’s the car you wanted, it’s your decision. However, one expects a rental car to have a spare.

          2. Thats not a current expectation, that’s like expecting your economy class domestic airfare to include a meal. Spares just arent common anymore.

          3. That’s if you are renting a bottom tier car. Well, I won’t rent an economy-class skoshabong, just as I avoid anchovy, er…. ECONOMY, yeah, that’s it, economy class if I can avoid it. If I DO have to go in steerage, I’ll pack a good snack.

          4. Well you may have issues unless your renting an SUV, as everything from compact, economy, intermediate, up to full size pretty much doesn’t come with a spare. Even on a Lexus a spare is now only an option.

          5. You aren’t correct about that. If the car makers don’t spares for the car, the car rentals can’t offer one so remove the expectation. Many of the economy cars that get high gas mileage don’t have spares.

        6. No most new entry level cars don’t come with a spare anymore. The “Emergency roadside kit” is an air pump and a can of fix it flat, maybe a cheap flash light and a orange triangle reflector.

          Sometimes you can buy a spare as an option or the dealer will give it to you to make a sale (sometimes its not even available), but many trunks dont have a spare well to fit a spare.

          1. You may be correct on that score. Honda cars have room enuf only for the donut, not a full size spare.

          2. That’s correct -the car has no place to put a spare either. And Hyundais are frequently used as rental cars. Trust me, if I had a choice I would have bought something that had a spare but I needed a car with high gas mileage. Didn’t have a choice and neither do car rental companies that use cars that don’t have spares.

      1. Mr. Bonney was flying from DC to Alaska, a distance of about 3500 air miles. Depending on the class of service and whether the air ticket was changeable/refundable, waiting for the next flight could cost cost him hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The rental car company wasn’t about to reimburse him for the additional costs just because they didn’t provide a spare tire (as they should have). If I were in that situation, I probably would have done exactly what Mr. Bonney did.

        1. It has been reported on this blog from several readers that their airline waived the change fee when they reported a flat tire or accident on the way to the airport.

          Also, a person can purchase a travel insurance policy or even an inexpensive annual travel insurance policy which will cover this situation.

          If a renter hit your car on their way back to the airport and they told you “I can’t stay for the police report because I will miss my flight”…I don’t think that you will allow that person to leave. I know that it wasn’t an accident in this situation but it is taking responsibility.

          1. >> I don’t think that you will allow that person to leave.
            No, I wouldn’t. But in this case, according to the renter, a Budget employee agreed that he could leave the scene.

          2. Yes, sometimes, if you catch the right person at the ticket counter or on the phone, you may get the fee waived, but more often than not, it doesn’t happen.

            Travel insurance for a domestic business trip is not something that I have ever bought and I’m sure that most other business travelers don’t purchase it. Besides, we are talking about Mr. Bonney’s state of mind when his rental car’s tire went flat and he was at least 200 miles from any of the Washington metro airports.

            Your police report analogy doesn’t work. He did not know at the time that there would be a problem for a tow truck to get onto the base to retrieve the vehicle.

            It is Budget that lacked responsibility by not providing a spare tire in the vehicle.

        2. I would have done the same thing, the only difference I would have done was call the gate and inform them a tow truck was coming to retrieve the car. At that point with the time I have and haven received approval from the rental agent I would of left.

          1. Calling the gate would not have gotten the tow truck to the car. Unless you have a military or DoD ID card, or you are a regular contractor that is already authorized to enter the installation, you have to be “sponsored” by someone on the installation to get you in. I visited Bolling twice and both times the IRS agents we were meeting with had to be pre-cleared – and they have federal ID badges. That is one of the most secure installations because it’s in D.C. I am not surprised that it took a long time for Budget to get access to their car.

    2. “Not needing it for the last couple days of my trip, I went to drop it off. I didn’t want or expect a refund, I just was returning it early for them to use again. They wanted to charge me a higher rate…”

      I have been renting cars for 20 years…unless there was a special event (i.e. Super Bowl; a large convention; etc.) was going on…the weekly rate has always been lower than the weekday daily rate when dividing the weekly rate by 5/6/7 days and comparing it to the weekday daily rate. Sometimes the weekend daily rate is cheaper especially in marketslocations that has a lot of Monday to Friday rentals (i.e. business travelers) but the weekend rate is only the ‘weekends’ (ThuFri to SunMon).

      I know travelers that rent a car for the week (5, 6 or 7 days) to get the weekly rate when they know upfront that they only need the car for two or three days. Since these travelers do not do pre-paid rentals, their rental rate of the weekly rate is prorated thus saving money. In other words, gamers or scammers who want to get a lower rate.

      You will say that the rental company can rent the car again. With the exception of Enterprise, business travelers represents the majority of week-day renters; therefore, they may not be able to rent the car again. Unless their fleet is large (i.e. they have surplus of 100 cars) or they are located in a small market (i.e. they only do 20 rentals a week), the car will probably be rented out again during the period that it should have been rented.

      Even if they can rent the car again…the real point is the lost of revenues for the car rental. Please remember that you signed a contract for a weekly rental (assuming that it wasn’t a non-refundable and pre-paid rental) not a two day rental…your rate was based upon a week not 2 days for example. In other words, the rental company lost revenues (i.e..the daily rate was $ 50 compared to $ 40 per day for the weekly rate).

      Given all of the scammers and gamers out there, I think that it is now stated on most rental agreements that a change in the rental period could change the price of the rental.

      Over 20 years, I probably had three or four early returns (one day earlier) on weekly rentals and the car rental company didn’t want to charge me a higher rate.

      1. How do they have “lost revenues”? I paid $1000 for a 7 day rental. I return it after day 5. I’m still paying $1000. Therefore, there are no “lost revenues”. They can rent the car again or not – but their revenue is still the same.

        If a 7 day rental is less than a 5 day rental, that’s their problem, not mine. Here’s the car. Take it or not. If not, it will still be here in two days with the keys in it. Either way, it’s returned.

        1. I often rent through the Enterprise long term rental program, which is for rentals that are longer than 20 days, I get a great rate and its prorated based on the original rate if I return early.

      2. That makes no sense. He stated that he didn’t want those days refunded. So why would the company lose money by having the car on their lot if those two days were still paid for?

        1. They would have rerated the rental at the daily instead of the weekly rate, and even though they ket the money for the 2 days for the early return, their position is they would have gotten more if they had rerated the rental at the daily rate.

          Assume a weekly rental rate of $140 ($20 a day for a week), the renter returns the rental after 5 days ($100). If the agency can re rate the rental at the walk up daily rate of say $35, for 5 days that’s $175 which even if they keep the full weekly amount of $140 and they can rent the car for those extra 2 days from their point of view they are missing out on $35 and they are going to want you to pay that.

          1. The few times that I have returned a weekly rental early, there has been a note on my bill saying that they kept the weekly rates because it was cheaper for me than repricing it.

          2. That was nice of them you must be a valued customer. Less valued customers can and are rerated at the daily rate so the rental company gets more money.

          3. Actually, back then I wasn’t. I had been renting with Hertz for maybe a year. No status or anything.

      3. OK. I get repricing the rental, say the daily rate is $200 and I rent the car for a week at $700 (i.e. $100 per day), If I keep the car for 4 days, I can see them keeping the full $700. I cannot see them repricing and charging me $800

    3. “The rule of thumb is that when you take receipt of the car or it’s on your property, I no longer have possession or responsibility.”

      Okay, but she was talking about the situation where you leave a car after hours at a place that doesn’t have after hours returns. What you said is true and what she said is true.

      1. “It is a rental, who cares?” I have heard this phrase hundreds of times over the 20 years that I have been renting cars on the rental shuttle bus; as a passenger in a rental car driven by a co-worker, etc; in business meetings; at conferences, seminars, symposiums, etc; etc.

    1. I treat a rental far better than my own car, for several reasons. 1) I’m in strange surroundings, & must take extra time to ensure I get to my destination.
      2) I don’t want to “ding” or have an accident so that the rental company can give me the “treatment”.
      So I drive very carefully. When I return the vehicle I take photos again, front, back, sides, & top. But I like the suggestion of video better.

    2. I have to admit; as someone that rents a lot of cars each year, I treat every one of them as if I’m trying out for the Dukes of Hazzard.

      1. I don’t do that but I’m pretty indifferent about my treatment of rental cars. I do things to them I wouldn’t do if it was my own car. Ive had damage done to a car that was my fault and just passed it off to the next person. I’m a valued renter, so I’m sure enterprise passes it on to the next person and blames them for it. I’ve actually had rental agents say “We don’t worry about those things with you sir, it’s the next persons problem”.

    3. Gee, some of us do. I even added a quart of oil to a rental several years ago, when I noticed that it was down. (And I never mentioned it to the rental company, either). My wife gets a kick out of my doing stuff like that….

      1. And if you would have mentioned it, you probably would have gotten a penalty charge for unauthorized maintenance performed without notifying the rental company.

          1. It’s very uninteresting It had rained that day (actually for several days) where I picked up the car and so the car ( a white Nissan) was well dirty. It was a weekend rental that I picked up on Friday. Saturday night I ended up with an impromptu blind date, dates in the city I fill up with gas and get the $5 car wash at the station. Next day I’m returning the car before leaving and the rental agent accuses me of concealing something because the car is too clean. He wants me to fill out an accident report, I said no, wants my insurance card (I don’t have one as I don’t own a car), he starts saying he’s going to call the police. I let him rant a bit and then the manager comes over I explain that the car was not damaged in anyway to my knowledge. If they find any they can contact my bank as they provide insurance and that I would be happy to forward the video to both my bank cards insurance and casualty division. I said I had to go to catch the car rental van/bus to the terminal. The manager offers to drive me to the terminal herself in the car I returned. I agree 15 minutes later she apologizes for the misunderstanding and wishes me a great flight.

            I realize the offer of a ride was her way of determining if the car was drivable and anything was wrong with it (did she think I pushed it back to the rental agency?).

            A couple weeks later I get an insurance claim filed with my bank. The car rental company claimed that I had “damaged” the cars outer protective paint coat, and they wanted $300 for repainting it. The bank card representative was confused, about what happened. I explained to her that I had washed the car because the dirty rain had impacted my visibility and made driving the car unsafe. I sent her a link with the before and after videos. The next day I got a message that the issue had been “resolved” and thanking me for my assistance. A month later I received a free upgrade certificate by email from the car rental company.

          2. That’s just the strangest thing I’ve ever heard. Clean car = damaged car. if anything, I would have thought a clean car would show up any damages.

            I would have loved to have been a fly on the proverbial wall if the agent had called the police. He would have told the police, I believe the car was in an accident because it’s too clean. I’m sure the police would have appreciated that.

  2. So, the car is on a military base and he doesn’t arrange access with anyone other than Budget? He didn’t talk to the people he was there seeing or the MP’s on whether his plan was acceptable? Would the military have allowed the tow driver in if he had been there or would they not have had clearance anyway? Is the LW in the military or civilian dealing with the military a lot? It just seems as if he should have realized access was going to be a problem.
    Whether we like it or not, every rental company is very clear about after hours drop offs. It seems disingenuous to me to believe all the responsibility for risk would fall on the rental company rather than the renter? What would prevent renters who damaged their vehicle from waiting until after hours and claiming no responsibility?

    1. It amazes me that someone that is in the military, a military contractor or a military vendor expects a military base to allow a vehicle without clearance to enter the facility.

  3. Why does anyone think that a car rental company isn’t going to charge you for every hour or portion of an hour that the car isn’t available for them to rent to someone else?
    Leaving a car after hours is basically telling the company to charge you for whatever they want in the morning.
    Take pictures, take video, record every conversation.

  4. The LW’s complaint is totally Budget’s fault because it did not provide a spare tire. When a flat occurs under these conditions, the car becomes as “broken” as if the transmission were to have dropped out. At that point it becomes Budget’s responsibility to retrieve it, no matter the inconvenience of the location. And “Roadside Assistance” should be a lot faster than what LW was quoted for a point in DC.

    Now wouldn’t a military post “in the District” have some arrangement for getting a civilian car out in case of trouble? This would mean at least towing it to the gate, so Budget could recover it.

    1. Budget screwed up of not replacing the spare tire but NOT having a spare tire, does that gives you the right of abandoning the car in a parking lot?

      More importantly, when the OP did his inspection of the rental vehicle at pick-up…did he noticed the missing spare? If OP noticed the missing spare, he should have requested a spare or a car with a spare.

      It is my guess that the OP assumed that there was a spare. Also, it is a possibility that a previous renter had a flat and left the flat at roadside..given how some spare are stored and some spares are real tires, the Budget maintenance dept assumed that the spare was there. Or a previous renter took the spare in the case of a local rental…I can’t believe the number of rentals that I have had over the years that have been missing accessories especially in SUVs that I have rented.

      I have been assigned rental cars with no jacks or spare tires and I requested and received another rental vehicle.

      More importantly…NOT having a spare tire…does that gives you the right of abandoning the car in a parking lot?

      1. If OP noticed the missing spare, he should have requested a spare or a car with a spare.

        That implies that accepting a car without a spare was wrong/negligence/imprudent of the OP. That’s clearly not true as many cars no longer have spares.

        1. The problem with that is that the majority of a newish car fleet wouldn’t have vehicles with spares, requesting or requiring an actual spare, would likely have gotten the response “sorry” we have nothing for you. If you have to have a spare you need to rent an SUV and a car rental company is going to charge you for that class of rental.

      2. My car doesn’t come with a spare and isn’t equipped for one either. Budget can’t make space for a spare if there is no place to put it in the car. Please understand that many cars today don’t have spares.

      3. He didn’t just abandon the car. He reported it to Budget right away. They should have gotten an alternative ride to him in time but they didn’t. Their fault again. Of course, they folded like a stepped-on beer can when this Became A Case and they “reviewed the circumstances.”

        And no, a casual renter cannot be expected to verify the car’s whole inventory of should-have accessories before driving off. That’s Budget’s job. What about the old spare-that’s-flat problem?

    2. Many cars today are not (and cannot be) equipped with a spare tire. You get a can of fix-a-flat and an air compressor. (or the tires are “run-flats”… which is kind of a misnomer; it just means you won’t have a blowout, not that the tire doesn’t need prompt repair.)

      1. Had this been one of those cars, they would have told him. Otherwise, no experienced renter is going to risk being dinged $500 for a tire that had been run while flat.

        1. The new cars come with an Emergency Repair Kit that comes with a can of fix it flat and a compressor, maybe a flash light, and a orange triangle reflector.

    1. Not exactly – it was LW obligation to provide access to Budget personnel. A military base isn’t the regular neighbor, where everybody can have access.

      Let’s imagine a different scenario: LW is at his condo, he finds te flat tire at his parking spot, calls Budget and leaves. Budget truck arrives, but the janitor doesn’t allow its entrance, because LW have forgotten to advise him.

      Is it still Budget fault?!?

  5. The title is misleading. Saying that leaving the car in any parking lot other than the rental company’s constitutes “dropping off” your rental car is quite a stretch.

  6. This is just an article about people who can’t take personal responsibility or don’t understand how renting a car works. It’s not worth the internet space it takes up.

  7. And why can’t 33 year old sons complain for themselves? Why does Mommy have to be the one to write Elliott (think hearsay)?

      1. It’s an international phenomenon:

        The Italians call them “mammon”, or “mama’s boys”.

        The Japanese call them “parasaito shinguru”, or “parasite singles”.

        In the United States they are known as “boomerangs” or “kangaroos”

        In the U.K. they are called “KIPPERS”, which is short for “kids in parents’ pockets eroding retirement savings”.

    1. It could be hearsay but probably the same reason why the mother of an employee that was 27 year old asked me for a pay raise for her son…

      …over the years, the younger generation have stopped learning to solve problems and entertain themselves because their parents are quick to jump in and fix things for them. It’s done out of love and with the best of intentions, but over time their parents have gone from caring for their children to caretaking.

      Like the old proverb, “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” This concept applies to your children; your employees; your co-workers; team members; etc. If you continue to do things for them, they will never learn and you will end up continue to do things for them for a lifetime.

      1. I’ll do you one better. The mother of an admin, who had quit the day before, called me wanting to know why I let her daughter quit. She then proceeded to imply I was a racist for letting her daughter quit.

          1. Oh, she was going to get fired within the next couple of days. This young lady was easily the worse admin I have ever, ever had. Oh the stories…

    2. Because the 33 y.o. son has never heard of Christopher Elliott. If it’s not on HuffPo or “The Daily Show”, it doesn’t exist.

      My 33 and 35 y.o. sons *have* heard of Christopher Elliott because I’m always sending them links to articles on here. If one of them had the problem posted on here, they might ask me how to get in touch with CE, but I really doubt that either of them would forget to take pictures of a rental after all the stuff I’ve sent them.

  8. I once returned a rental car while deathly ill, on my way to the hospital for a 2+ week stay, because I was sure they’d screw me royally for daring to get ill and not returning it “on time.”

  9. QUOTE: “Consumers should do more to protect themselves,” says Sharon Faulkner” Gee, you think? How in the world could you leave a rental on a military base (I’m assuming that’s what a joint base is) because somebody told you on the phone that it was OK? I’ll accept that he was frazzled and crazed at the time, but why wouldn’t he follow up with Budget the next day? Come on, guys, stop the whining and start THINKING before you get into trouble.

  10. It’s a nice suggestion to only turn in a rental car with the agency is open but that is not practical. I have been forced to travel for business at hours when the airport rental desk was not open and available to turn in the car. My employer gave me no choice about the time of the flight, the rental car agency selected, or even whether I had to get a car versus taking taxis (public transportation was not an option at most locations I visited). I suspect that some rental agencies use the unattended drop off as a means to try to extort money for repairs they know the renter isn’t responsible for, given the sharp practices some of them use even when the renter is present when the car is dropped off. So far I’ve been lucky and haven’t had an issue. I wonder whether they act differently when the car is rented by an individual versus a corporate entity, which might be visible to them when the reservation is made and/or when the credit card is presented.

  11. As for the first case, the renter informed Budget of the location of his vehicle. It is Budget’s responsibility, but not his, to review the location, assess the route, and make necessary arrangement for retrieval before verbally consenting to this retrieval arrangement. It was unfortunate that the Budget employee didn’t realize that there would be certain restrictions to get to the vehicle. Nevertheless, the employee agreed on this arrangement. After all, nobody forced the employee to agree on this. Besides, access restrictions to the base was imposed and implemented by the military base authority. The renter cannot be held responsible for something beyond his control.
    I am curious as to how the renter returned the key. Did he go to the rental agency’s office at the airport? If he received a receipt with a return date and time, he could argue that that officially terminated the rental.

  12. “Phrases such as “Anything smaller than a quarter doesn’t matter” — usually uttered by a car-rental representative when you return the car — should be interpreted as warnings, not reassurances. In my experience, that often means a damage claim is imminent.”

    Well, of course that’s Chris’s experience. In general, people don’t write to consumer advocates to tell them when things went well. I also treat any such comment (“smaller than a quarter doesn’t matter”) with great care — for example, I try to report any visible damage before I leave with the car, even if it’s small. But on occasion I’ve failed to do that where they’ve made the “smaller than a quarter” type promise. And I’ve NEVER been charged. I suspect most people have that experience. We just don’t write Chris about it.

  13. before i even read any other comments, mr bonney should have known right off that any “non-military” personnel would not be allowed onto a military base without proper ID! that protocol has been in effect for years and years! (i had to have proper papers even back in the 70s as a dependent, and in the 80s as a relative. so this is nothing new. )
    and of course, it’s much more stringent in the past 13 years since 9/11. what was he thinking? you can’t leave a rental car on a military base and expect someone without proper credentials to just come in and pick it up!

  14. I once had a rental from Hertz in Boulder, CO (I had rented it at the Denver airport). I ended up in the hospital and had surgery. My sister came and picked me up and drove me to the airport. I called Hertz and I can’t remember all of the details, but they somehow handled the situation and never charged me extra for it. I’ve never forgotten it.

  15. Last year, I rented a car from Hertz at Washington DC Union Station and returned it on a Saturday after Hertz closed. As instructed, I parked adjacent to the agents’ booth and put the keys and rental agreement in the lock box there. Weeks later I got a call from the Hertz “vehicle recovery unit” wanting their car back. I told them what had happened and they refused to believe me and told me it was up to me to prove the car had been returned. Fortunately, when I was finally able to reach the Union Station Hertz office, the woman who answered the phone remembered having processed my return and said, accurately, that she’d straighten everything out. It ended well, but I was a little surprised at Hertz’ corporates view that it’s your problem, not ours.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: