Dollar raised my rate from $105 to $431 — but why?

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By Christopher Elliott

Farid Currimbhoy can’t figure out why the price of his Dollar rental just tripled. Our advocates help him with the car rental math.

Question

I recently rented a car from Dollar in Chicago. My rental cost $105 with an additional charge of $5.65 per hour if late.

I arrived in Chicago early and was billed $431 for the rental. According to a Dollar employee, it was “because I came early my original contract is invalid.”

What the …!

Why not add another day to my original contract or use the $5.65 an hour as specified in the original contract? I spent a lot of time in line waiting to speak with a supervisor. But it was a long wait, so I left.

I should have canceled and started over at Dollar or another rental company, but by then I was too angry. Can you help me get a refund? — Farid Currimbhoy, Winsted, Minn.

Answer

That’s a bizarre bill you received from Dollar. The length of your rental period changed by only a few hours when your flight arrived early, but your bill increased by $326. Maybe you should have waited.

The car rental industry is trying anything to make extra money. When you arrived early in Chicago, Dollar discarded your old reservation and made a new one at the walk-up rate, typically the highest price you can pay for a rental. The car rental industry is not the only business that does this. Airlines are more than happy to offer a walk-up rate if you’re a no-show for your flight. (Related: Dollar didn’t have my rental car — but it still charged me $82!)

battleface delivers insurance that doesn’t quit when circumstances change. We provide specialty travel insurance services and benefits to travelers visiting or working internationally, including in the world’s most hard to reach places. Currently selling in 54 countries and growing, our mission is to deliver simple solutions to travelers worldwide heading out on their next adventure.

Fair? To the airline or car rental company, perhaps. After all they missed an opportunity to make money when you showed up early or late. But to you? Not really. (Related: Double-booked on Dollar — does CarRentals.com owe me a refund?)

Executive contacts for Dollar can be found on this site. A brief, polite appeal to one of them might have helped.

Our advocacy team contacted Dollar to find out if your new rate had been calculated correctly. It had. But Dollar had second thoughts about charging you so much.

“Please accept my personal apology that the rate assessed on your rental was higher than your confirmed reservation due to the change in the time of pick up,” it said in an email to you. In an effort to “regain your confidence” in Dollar, it issued a $226 credit, which covers part of your rental. Not all of it, but enough to make you happy. And if you’re happy, we’re happy.

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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 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 São Paulo.

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