How To Avoid Charges for Damage to Rental Cars That You Didn't Cause

Take precautions to avoid being charged for damage that occurred before or after you drove a rental car

Avoiding Charges for Damage to Rental Cars That You Didn't Cause
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February 23, 2018

It sometimes happens to the best of us. You pick up a rental car, sign the paperwork and drive off only to notice that there was some damage that you didn't see. Will you be charged for it? Sometimes you might get charged for damage that happens after you drop off the car.

you're held liable for damage, even if out of your control

Rental car agencies will hold you liable for anything that happens to the car while you are renting it, even if the damage is outside your control. You can even be charged for damages that occur after you drop off the vehicle, such as if you use an overnight drop or if an employee isn't available to check you in. The cost of doing business has gone up, so companies are being aggressive about recouping their costs.

problem is greater with car-sharing services

Car-sharing services, which allow you to drive off with a parked vehicle, are particularly problematic for hitting consumers with fees. No one is inspecting these vehicles before or after you use them, so the companies rely on the next user to report damage. The problem comes when the driver after you damages the car and then lies about it, saying instead that it was damaged when picked up, or if the car is damaged after you park it but before the next driver arrives.

inspect the vehicle before and after

We all want to take someone's word, but before you sign that agreement or accept the vehicle, you should inspect it thoroughly. Walk around the car taking note of any scratches, dings, and dents Look inside the car and note any strange smells, stains, or tears. Make sure this damage gets noted on the rental agreement. You'll also want to do this after you rent the car, but you'll want the rental agreement to note that there are no additional damages. You always want written confirmation.

use your smartphone

Who doesn't have a smartphone these days? Take out yours and record the condition of the vehicle before and after you rent it. Get a close-up of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and record the mileage. Notice any strange smells? Say so on the video. Don't be afraid to say that the car smells like cigarettes or that the car is dirty. Make sure the video is one complete video, not broken into segments. Creating this recording showing the damages, or lack of damages, can help protect you later. This is helpful if you have to drop off the vehicle after hours. This is also a good time to note the amount of fuel in the tank as companies will often charge you for not returning with enough fuel, even if you do.

Protecting yourself from other damage, such as collision

Most people run into unexpected expenses from unfair damage charges. But what if damage occurs while you are renting it?

You may want to consider supplemental insurance or damage waivers from the rental car agency. Some credit card companies offer free rental car insurance if you use the card to pay for the rental in full.