He got into an accident in his Avis car. Why won’t the company take back the vehicle?

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Christopher Elliott

When Mayank Kumar gets into an accident in his Avis rental car, he does everything in his power to return the vehicle to the company. But nothing seems to be working, and now Avis is asking about its car.

Question

I recently rented a vehicle from Avis in Seattle and had an accident while visiting Mount Rainier National Park. A local towing company towed the car away. I reported this to Avis and gave them the towing company’s contact number and address.
An Avis representative said they would work with the towing company to recover the vehicle from them and that I didn’t need to do anything. I still followed up with them almost every day for two weeks to ensure they had the car.

Avis hasn’t recovered the vehicle yet, and it is still at the towing company’s facility. An Avis representative keeps telling me the case is being processed and that the car will be recovered soon.

But now I’m dealing with a few other issues. My rental contract is open, and I keep getting billed for the vehicle. I am not sure what attempts Avis is making to recover the car. At the same time, I’m getting emails from the Avis loss prevention department asking me to return the vehicle.

I contacted the loss prevention department, and a representative asked me to disregard the email because their system wasn’t aware of the report I had filed, and they would recover the vehicle without me interfering.

But yesterday, I got a certified letter from Avis demanding that I return the vehicle. I’m worried that Avis will report the car as stolen. I am not sure how to proceed here. Any help will be appreciated. — Mayank Kumar, Seattle

Answer

I’m sorry you got into an accident in your rental car. Avis should have done what it said — taken the car back and marked it as returned. Waiting for days and sending you threatening letters is not a shining example of good customer service.

Here’s the problem: You should always call the car rental company before arranging to have a car towed. The vehicle belongs to the company, and it has procedures for handling an accident.

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You say you called Avis roadside assistance after the accident and then connected them to a tow truck driver at the accident scene. Avis insisted on sending its own tow truck to retrieve the car. But the local tow truck driver said it would take that it would take hours for Avis tow truck to arrive and that law enforcement wanted the car removed right away.

The Avis roadside assistance representative eventually allowed him to tow the car, according to you. But I think the company may have misunderstood what happened.

The good news: Avis marks the car returned

You were correct to be worried about the return. I would have called the company every day, too. And I would have called even more after I started receiving emails that the company told me not to worry about. When a company tells you not to worry, you should worry.

I think Avis would have eventually tracked down your damaged car. But in enough time to keep its loss prevention department from calling the cops? I don’t know about that. Other car rental companies have reported their customers to the police, with traumatizing results.

I might have appealed this to one of the Avis customer service contacts we list in the Elliott Advocacy database. At the very least, they could have sent you something in writing that assures you the return was processed.

I contacted Avis on your behalf. It closed out your rental and marked the car as returned.

Looking for more Avis shenanigans before you go? Here’s a doozy: How can I make Avis refund this surprise $4,228 charge?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, Forbes and the Washington Post. He also publishes Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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