Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Disputing Car Rental Charges

At some point in life, most people will encounter a situation wherein they do not agree with a charge that a car rental company has imposed.  In most instances, these issues can be resolved amicably between the car rental company and the customer.  However, this isn't always the case.  First and foremost, the best way to handle these potential problems is by avoiding them in the first place.  This starts with the search and reservation process.

All auto rental companies operate under their own set of policies and rules.  When one is searching for a rental, that person needs to be fully aware of all policies that the company of their choice has set.  Anyone who books a vehicle, etc, without reading each of the company's policies is inviting problems from the start.  When searching for a company to use for your rental, make sure contact is made as soon as possible with the auto rental company if you've booked online.  This will present the opportunity to get a "feel" for the company and how its employees' morale rates.  Remember, the lowest price isn't always the best route to go.  

Second, once you arrive to pick up your vehicle from the company's office, make sure that you review the entire rental agreement front and rear and ask any questions before you affix your signature to anything!  A rental agreement (regardless of what any attorney, etc may claim) is a legal and binding document that will stand up in court proceedings if it gets to that point.  Also, if you are unsure of the exact time that the vehicle will be returning, ensure that there are no penalties for returning early or late (yes, many companies penalize for early returns).  Being informed and studious will provide peace of mind that you will not receive any undue charges upon the return of the vehicle.  

Lastly, and on of the largest disputed areas with auto rentals, is damage to the automobile.  Many companies will simply give a "walk around" form and expect the customer to note existing damage on said form.  These work well, but are most definitely imperfect.  The best way to protect yourself against being blamed for damage that you did not cause is to take pictures - of everything!  If you have a smart phone, the best way would be to record a video or multiple pictures of the entire vehicle including the roof.  Also, make sure that the interior is completely detailed in terms of broken or missing parts, etc.  

So you've done everything you're supposed to do and still the company is attempting to charge for something that you feel you should not have to pay for.  Before proceeding any further, make sure that you have done due diligence in terms of re-reading all of the terms and conditions on the rental agreement.  If the cause of the charge is something that was overlooked on your rental agreement, you are best off to stop right there.  By pushing the company and making demands in a situation where it was your mistake, most companies are not going to listen to your pleas.  However, if you still want to push the issue, remember that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Any negotiation should start with the facts followed by discussion with facts being what the rental agreement states.      
Disputing late fees, mileage, fuel, etc, are all aspects that should be clearly shown on the agreement.  For instance, the fuel in and fuel out should match.  If they do not, if you have taken a picture of the fuel gauge with the odometer, you will have proof that the fuel level was inaccurately entered in the rental agreement.  The same is true with mileage disputes or late fees.  All times, mileages, and overtime charge amounts should appear on the originally signed rental agreement.  Many companies will be willing to adjust certain charges within reason in the interest of customer service, but making demands and threats will almost never get you anywhere!  Be nice, understanding, and reasonable.  Auto rental companies are in business to make money.  The expectation of the company to lose money in the interest of customer service (especially if the customer was at fault) is both unreasonable and morally reprehensible.  This is not to say that companies are free from making mistakes. If that is the case, if you've done everything as outlined, you should not encounter any problems.  If you do, you will have the proof and ammunition to dispute the charges.  

The last piece of advice I would like to offer has to do with damage to a rental vehicle.  The vehicle that you are renting is the property of the auto rental company.  Imagine that you are borrowing the vehicle from a friend when you rent.  If you damaged the friend's vehicle, whether you are at fault or not, it is your responsibility to return the vehicle in the same condition as it was rented.  I have encountered a number of people that have emphatically denied damaging a vehicle despite the fact that the vehicle was literally brand new with no damage when rented.  Recall that denying damaging a vehicle when you actually did cause the damage is considered fraud.  In addition, if an admonition of damaging the vehicle is given, most auto rental companies will be much more agreeable and willing to work with you in getting the situation resolved!   

-Eric Libby is Operations Manager for Carl's Van Rentals - the largest van specific auto rental company in the Southeastern United States. He is based in Orlando, Florida and oversees multiple operations in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. With over ten years experience, he is well-versed in all aspects of the auto rental industry and considered an authority on the subject. You can email eric@carlsvans.com or visit their website at www.carlsvans.com


  1. To resolve disputes regarding car rental charges, it is better to take whole idea about services along with their charges. Each car rental service providers have their own charges policies so before hiring any one do proper research and then take a decision according to your need.

  2. Clued-up post! Your accepted wisdom is great. Thanks for keep me notify. For more information I will be in touch.