Budget Demands $2,080.93 To Repair Preexisting Damage

Kevin noted on his Budget rental forms that his truck was covered with graffiti and other nicks and scratches before driving off the lot. As soon as he returned the truck, the lot agent pointed out a slew of damage and invited him inside. He said that Kevin had two options: pay $670 in cash immediately, or pay several thousand dollars to corporate later. Kevin paid the extortion fee, but now Budget’s corporate office wants $2,080 to repair, among other things, graffiti damage.

On Sept 30, 2007, I rented a 24ft Budget Truck for the purpose of moving myself and my roommates from one apartment to another. Upon rental, I opted for the optional damage waver/insurance and was informed that that waver specifically did not cover overhead damage. I proceeded with the normal inspection, noting minor wear and tear that I could see as well as graffiti damage to the truck.

While driving, I was extremely careful to observe all overhead clearances, and did not drive the truck under any bridge where it could be “clipped”. Upon return of the truck, the rental agent immediately asks me what I hit, because he notices damage to the top of the truck. Incredulous, I answer that the only thing I could have hit were low-slung city trees. What looked like a minor scrape from ground level was pointed out to me, and I doubted that a tree could make that kind of damage, but there it was.

Upon returning to the inside of the office, I am informed by the Budget Agent, Dennis Neuhauser, that I had 2 options: 1) That I could pay $670 for the damage immediately up front and resolve the claim or 2) I could go through Budget Corporate, which could potentially cost me “thousands of dollars”. Although I was wary of the origins/cause of the damage, I was put under extreme duress by the draconian options presented to me by the rental agent. Fearing the prospect of having to pay “thousands of dollars”, I opted to pay the $670 and wash my hands of the damages. My roommate was there to witness the offer and the terms that were presented to me, and it was made clear that, by choosing to pay immediately, I could resolve myself of this issue (that was the only reason why I chose to).

November 28, 2007, I receive a Vehicle Damage Claim from Budget Corporate seeking an additional $1,910.93 for damages to the truck, for a total of $2,080.93 once the $670 I already paid was factored in. I am also sent the estimate/invoice for the repair of the truck, as well as low-res black and white images of the damage areas. This invoice has 20 line items, 12 which are marked as “judgment items”. Even things that I had marked on the original inspection form as pre-existing, such as the graffiti, were included on the claim I am on the hook for. The estimate itself is dated more than 2 weeks after I returned the truck, 10/17/2007, meaning I have no way of knowing if any of that additional damage was incurred by other drivers and/or was pre-existing, since I was never given any opportunity to inspect the roof, which is where all the damage was.

I think it is pretty clear from the confluence of these circumstances that Budget is trying to frame me for charges that could have no way been incurred while I was driving the truck for a few hours. I did not hit any structures, and the damages are shown at multiple, un-related points. They clearly just wanted to fix the entire truck and pin it on my rental. This is already in addition to the fraudulent verbal contract I was offered by the agent and the coercing of an immediate payment which was obviously made no difference in the handling of the claim.

In response to the claim letter I had been sent, I wrote a letter in response outlining my objections and demanding a refund of the $670 to pursue my legal options. I have been sent 3 more letters demanding that I respond to the claim, and I have sent 3 letters in response, all of which are documented as confirmed delivered. Given my experiences with Budget thus far, I wanted all communications about this claim to be delivered in a form that could be documented, such as postal mail. All letters have been ignored, and I have just received a final notice claiming that I have made no attempt to contact the company in regard to this claim, which I obviously have. They are threatening to report the charges to a collection agency and destroy my credit. I have even emailed the truck claims examiner, Janice Messinger, directly at her janice.messinger@avisbudget.com email address, and that too has gone unanswered. All I’m faced with is a destroyed credit report if I do not pay by February 25, 2008 at 5:00pm. I am writing this because I feel it is necessary for this story to be publicized to let other know how Budget treats its customers. I don’t know how else I can go about resolving this problem. I have been clear in all letters and emails that I am not running away from the claim, but I am challanging it. That said my responses are being stonewalled at every turn. Thanks in advance for any attention you might be able to give my story.

Budget did send Kevin several blurry black and white photos of the damage. He adds:

These pictures show damage to multiple points on the roof, and the damages look like they were incurred by multiple collisions, since hitting or scraping one structure, like a bridge, for example (which I didn’t even do), wouldn’t result in points of impact this varied. In addition, the cracking peeling of the top paneling appears as just wear and tear, and the graffiti is something I noted on the inspection form. They are charging me for ALL of it.

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4Bottom.jpegKevin’s story is a sad reminder to take a mess of pictures of any rental before driving away to establish a baseline to dispute any fraudulent claims. From the look of it, Budget is trying to bully Kevin into underwriting a batch of unrelated and overdue repairs. Sending disputes via certified mail is the right move, as is keeping a meticulous record of any documents. If they push the matter further, it may be necessary to consult a lawyer.