Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of fighting a car rental company on an insurance claim — especially over a ding or scratch that you know was there before you drove off the lot — knows that it’s often a losing battle. But travel journalist Christopher Elliott has some tips for putting up a good fight.
In a post on Elliott.org, he offers the following five suggestions for strengthening your side in the claim game:
1. Take video of the vehicle — before and after
Just because you show pre-existing damage to a rental associate before you pull out of the garage doesn’t mean that the staffer will actually remember to note that damage properly in the paperwork. Almost every new phone has video capabilities now, so get thorough footage of anything you might come back to haunt you at a later date.
2. Get the “all clear” when you return the car
When you return the car, wait until an associate inspects the car and gives you something in writing saying that all is good. It’s not necessarily going to stop the rental company if they claim to discover something later, but it’s certainly going to bolster your defense.
3. Ask for documentation
If they come after you for damages, be sure to get more than just an itemized list. Ask for time-stamped photos showing that the damage on the car was found on the day you returned it. Also demand repair invoices that note the model, make and license plate. You should also ask for proof that the company got pre-repair damage estimates to make sure you’re not getting gouged.
4. Discard the “loss of use”
A lot of car rental companies will tack on a “loss of use” charge, claiming that you owe them for the fact that the car couldn’t be rented while it was being repaired. “In order for such a claim to be on the up-and-up, a car rental company would have to prove the vehicle would have been rented while it was being repaired,” writes Elliott, “which can be exceedingly difficult.”
5. Get the authorities involved
When you send that polite-but-firm response — complete with supporting evidence in your defense — to the rental company, be sure to copy the insurance commissioner for the state in which the car was rented, and make it clear that if the claim is not dropped, you’ll appeal to the authorities. This may be enough for the rental company to drop a blatantly frivolous claim.
Elliott does have this word of warning for anyone who would use his advice for getting out of legitimate insurance claim: “If you abuse these tips, you’re no better than the car rental companies who are trying to make money from normal wear and tear.”
How to win the the car rental claim game [Elliott.org]