Did Budget send me the wrong damage claim?

Photo of author

By Christopher Elliott

Budget wants Guilhem Ibos to pay $3,000 for damage to his rental car. But wait! Is that Ibos’ rental car in the photo? No, it isn’t.

Question

I recently rented a car from Budget in Nashville and returned it to New Orleans. It was in perfect shape when I brought it back.

A few weeks ago, I received a damage claim from the company. They asked me to pay more than $3,000 for repairs.

I’m not responsible for the damage. How do I know? Well, I can tell you that I returned the rental undamaged. But there are two things about Budget’s claim that don’t make sense, either.

First, I returned the car at the Budget Rent-a-Car agency in New Orleans, specifically on Canal Street. Canal Street is in the middle of town, surrounded by buildings. But the landscape in the pictures on my damage claim is completely different. There are no buildings at all. They must have moved the car before taking pictures of it. Who’s to say it wasn’t damaged then?

Second, there was a picture of the odometer in the claim. When I returned the car, the odometer out was at 22,265 miles and when I returned it, it was at 24,374 miles. But the odometer on their picture is 24,196 miles, which is impossible. I was driving the car when it reached that number.

I tried to contact Budget several times by phone, by email, even by mail. But they never responded. Now I’m being threatened by a collection agency. What should I do? — Guilhem Ibos, Chicago

Answer

Budget shouldn’t have sent you a $3,000 bill — at least not with that kind of documentation. Ideally, any damage to a rental car would be recorded when you return the vehicle and the renter would sign a form acknowledging it. This just looks like a “gotcha” — and a poorly-executed one, at that.

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

What kind of documentation is adequate? A time-stamped photo of your rental car, showing that shortly after you returned the vehicle, the company discovered damage; a picture of the odometer that verifies your claim; and a repair invoice. The paperwork you received was less than persuasive.

I’m not sure why Budget didn’t respond to your letters and emails. If you’re being ignored, you can always escalate your case to a manager. You can find a list of executives on the Budget website, Email addresses at Budget are formatted [email protected]. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

I also list Budget’s executives on my website.

One thing is clear: Without conclusive proof that damage to this car was noted — and repaired — shortly after your rental, Budget shouldn’t have sent you a $3,000 invoice. I’m not saying the company’s claim is invalid. Only that it needed to make a stronger case.

My advocacy team and I contacted Budget and asked it to review its claim. A representative called you and told you the company had withdrawn its bill.

Should Budget have dropped its claim?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
Photo of author

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 three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and 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 X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

Related Posts