I thought car rental insurance was optional

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By Christopher Elliott

Brian Perez-Daple rents a car in Mexico through Hotwire. But his car rental company insists he needs to buy extra insurance, which he doesn’t. Is there any way to get his money back?

Question

For nearly a month now, I’ve been fighting to recover more than $280 from Hertz in connection with a reservation for a Mexican rental I made through Hotwire.

I reserved a Hertz car for a week in Mexico for an estimated $113 — a flat $90 for the rental of the car, and an estimated $23 in taxes and fees. I did not pay Hotwire at the time of the reservation and understood that I would pay Hertz directly when I rented the car.

At the Hertz desk in Mexico, I was presented with an entirely different set of charges. There, I heard for the first time about the mandatory Mexican liability insurance. I did not have the option of declining the insurance, which amounted to approximately $110 for the week.

Surprising charges and price discrepancies

But that wasn’t the only surprising charge. The price of the car had mysteriously risen to around $108, and I was assessed a “service charge” of approximately $135. No one at Hertz or Hotwire has yet been able to tell me what that’s about. Together with two smaller fees of about $44, my total bill came to $397.

The day after I returned from Mexico, I contacted both Hotwire and Hertz. Although their stories have varied slightly over the weeks, each company tells me that I should go talk to the other. Hotwire says it has no control over what Hertz bills me, and Hertz says it has no control over what Hotwire quotes me.

Due to the enormous price discrepancy and the hours I’ve spent trying to resolve this matter, I am requesting a refund of the full $283 difference between the $113 reservation price and the $397 charge. Hertz has my money, but Hotwire made the representations that led me to the Hertz desk in Mexico. Can you help me get my refund? — Brian Perez-Daple, Arlington, Va.

Answer

You should have been charged the rate you were quoted. When you weren’t, Hotwire should have asked Hertz to refund the money on your behalf.

I checked with both Hotwire and Hertz, but could find nothing that specifically addresses your situation. (Hertz has a lengthy page with disclaimers about its protection plans that came the closest.)

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.

Did someone in Mexico pull a fast one on your rental? Possibly. After you returned, a Hertz representative in the States informed you that insurance wasn’t required on your rental. If a Hertz employee in Mexico told you otherwise — and insisted that you buy insurance before allowing you to leave — then you can be forgiven for thinking your car rental company was attempting to separate you from your pesos. (Here’s how to find the best travel insurance.)

Preventing insurance misunderstandings

One of the best ways of preventing an insurance misunderstanding is to do a little homework before your trip. Contact your car rental company and get your insurance requirements in writing. Make a printout of your credit-card coverage and car insurance coverage, too. (Related: Forced to buy car rental insurance that didn’t cover her.)

If an agent demands that you buy “optional” insurance, take a step back from the counter and call the car rental company’s reservations line. Explain the situation, and ask for a resolution. It is in the car rental company’s best interests to fix the problem right then and there, and I’ve seen companies rise to the occasion time and again, when called. (Related: Why did TMShipping allow my car to be impounded?)

If you’ve already taken the insurance, stay off the phone. Instead, contact your travel agent or car rental company by email. Creating a paper trail (or in this case, a data trail) ensures that your grievance will be addressed quickly and taken as seriously as possible. (Related: Snared by the Mexican insruance scam.)

My advocacy team and I contacted Hotwire on your behalf. A Hertz representative contacted you and agreed to credit you the difference between the amount charged to your credit card and the amount quoted to you by Hotwire.

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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.

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