When Duc Nguyen returns his Avis car rental, the company claims he scratched the roof and sends him a bill. Is this for real?
Question: I recently rented a car for one day from Avis in Las Vegas. I did a walk through of the car using my phone flashlight, discovered no major damage. No agent from Avis was available during the inspection.
I returned the car the next day in Los Angeles. I conducted another inspection and saw no damage. No agent was available during the walk through again, but since there was no incident during the rental period I decided to check out, surrendered the car keys and received the final car rental receipt.
Two months later, Avis contacted me saying there have been some scratches on the roof of the car, and held me liable for the damage. When asked for further information, the Avis agent could not provide reasonable answers regarding the timing of the damage and the delay between the car rental period and the damage report. The agent would only say I was being held liable for the damage. Avis could not prove I was responsible.
Avis wants about $600 of which $361 for labor and parts a $50 “admin” fee and about $210 for three days’ “loss of use.”
I would like to fight the claim. My car insurance company declined to cover this claim, so now everything’s on me. Can you help? — Duc Nguyen, Charlotte
Answer: Ah, the ol’ scratched roof scam. We’ve seen that one before. I thought the legitimate car rental companies had stopped doing that.
First, let’s talk about what you could have done differently. Your rental car needs “before” and “after” pictures.
Every. Single. Time.
You can’t just do a solo inspection and assume the rental company will arrive at the same conclusion when it does the once-over. I’ve always wondered why car rental companies wait days, weeks, even months after your rental to conduct their own inspection. Is that so they can just charge you whatever they want?
Avis should have conducted an in-person inspection and noted any damage before and after. You could have then agreed to pay for the damage — or not — rather than having to wait two months for a mystery bill.
Bottom line: This just doesn’t look right, and it’s definitely not how the system is supposed to work. I outline a better way in my frequently asked questions on car rentals.
You could have appealed this case to someone higher up at the car rental company. I list Avis’ executive contacts on my consumer advocacy site.
I contacted Avis on your behalf. After several more months of back and forth, the company dropped its claim.