Dinged for ‘normal wear and tear’ by Enterprise

Alex Silverstein’s rental car is damaged before he picks it up. It’s still damaged, but now Enterprise wants him to pay for it. Should he?

Question: I need your help with a rental car damage claim. Enterprise Rent-A-Car says that I scratched the bottom of the front fender of a car I recently rented.

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At the time of rental, I mentioned a small scratch on the front bumper to the representative; he said it was “normal wear and tear” and not to worry about it. I took a photo anyway.

Upon returning the car, the representative wrote up the scratches and asked me to sign a form acknowledging the damage, but I declined to sign it. I later received a notice followed by an invoice for more than $800.

In the photos taken by the damage-recovery personnel, it looks to me like they intentionally caused additional damage to the bumper. This seems bordering on fraudulent, unless it is just a camera angle.

Anyway, the long and short of it: I didn’t cause this damage. Additionally, a co-worker was with me at all times when the car was driven over two days, and he will attest to the same.

If you can help me resolve this, I would really appreciate it. Note that I didn’t purchase the additional insurance that is offered at the time of rental, although I am an insured driver through my normal car policy. — Alex Silverstein, Ballston Spa, New York

Answer: If you flagged the damage to your car and have a photo to prove it, then this should have been a slam-dunk case. When you returned the car, you should have shown the rental employee the image of the scratched-up front.

Scratch that. When you were handed the keys to a scratched-up car, you shouldn’t have taken snapshots. You should have politely asked for a different vehicle. I know, the representative told you it was “normal wear and tear,” but could you show me the definition of what that means? I’ll wait while you look.

And, please, don’t let them start talking about quarters. I hear a lot about “quarter-size dents or less” in the damage claims that cross my desk. As in, “If it’s a quarter-size dent or less, it’s normal wear and tear.” Trust me, they have no idea. Don’t let anyone give you a car with dents or scratches — ever.

The damage claim you refused to sign referred to a “gash” in the front bumper with the vague observation that “customer was aware.”

This is a strange case, because you had photographic evidence of the damage taken at the start of your rental. Enterprise came after you anyway. The damage looked worse in the picture it sent you. Personally, after reviewing both photos, I believe Enterprise is trying to charge you for the same damage.

The odds of your car being scratched in the same place during your rental are infinitesimally small. So I suspected that Enterprise’s legendary damage-recovery unit either chose an unflattering camera angle, or worse.

It looks as if you tried to appeal this to Enterprise, with no luck. By the way, I list the executives in charge of customer service on my site (http://elliott.org/company-contacts/enterprise/).

I contacted Enterprise on your behalf to get its side of the story. It reviewed your file and dropped the claim.


14 thoughts on “Dinged for ‘normal wear and tear’ by Enterprise

  1. I hate situations like this and glad Chris was able to get it resolved. How are you supposed to rent a “scratch free” car? There are scratches on just about all of them, and some fleets are in pretty rough shape. I can think of a lot of times where I would have gone without a car in that case. I actually don’t like renting cars because of all the stories I read like this….I’m glad it was fixed, but it surely caused stress.

  2. When will someone go after these sort of companies as a criminal enterprise, attempting to defraud customers by charging them for damage they didn’t do & likely billing 9 other customers for the same scratch? A clever D.A. or TV station could make hay from this!

  3. I actually don’t mind renting a car with scratches. I simply mark up the entire form, on every panel possible. This way, there is no possible place left to “ding” me on silly damages.

    1. Deja vue! I once rented a car which happened to be off site from the rental desk. Instead of going through the bother of fetching the car for a checkup, the rental agent just put x’s on every section of the diagram. When I picked up the car, I found out that the agent was accurate! Any dents I might have put in were lost in the background noise. No bill for repairs either.

    2. Thanks for the idea. I’ll be picking up a rental at night in a couple months… and wasn’t quite sure how I was going to handle the “once-over” in the dark. This should take care of it!

  4. I see no reason to rent at Enterprise. Save some bucks but end up with lot of headaches.
    It seems their Bogus Claims are not accidental, but more systematic.

      1. I rent solely thru Alamo and/or National and I’ve never had any issues in 15 years. YMMV, but my experiences have *knock wood* so far always been very positive, even when I blew thru a toll. The charge was $3.95, and that was it, so I was happy.

  5. In one place it says the OP was being charged for scratches to the fender but in another spot it says it was additional damage to the bumper section where he’d reported the scratches before renting. Was it both or is that an error?

  6. This case is blatant, but situations like these, where the renter gets charged for damage s/he didn’t do to the car, seem to be so common that it’s making me wonder if car rental agencies do this as part of their business model.

  7. The one thing the OP missed doing is taking another photo when they returned the car. This would certainly have prevented this entire case in the first place. Whilst it’s a nice idea to refuse to take a car with any scratches or dings ever it’s not really practical. Unless new fleet has just rolled off the delivery truck, finding a rental car without any scuff marks, stone chips or small scratches is nigh on impossible. Best bet is to cover yourself with detailed photos both at pick up and on return of the car. Video helps too.

  8. Am I the only one who has noticed that the complaints about bogus claims for damages and other hassles always seem to involve the same two or three rental car companies? My advice, which I practice, is to pay a few more dollars, stick with one of the top two companies and join their frequent renter program.

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