Blogger Says National Car Rental Tried To Pull Deal Switcheroo

Christian personal finance blogger Peter chose not to turn the other cheek when he says National Car Rental tried to take away an unlimited mileage deal he and his wife signed up for when they went on vacation.

After taking a road trip in Maine, Peter and his wife were charged more than $1,000 for an 8-day rental — more than twice the rate they agreed to — having been dinged for 40 cents a mile. Peter said patience and persistence helped him to get National to honor the unlimited mileage deal he signed up for.

On his blog Bible Money Matters he writes:

After going back and forth for what seemed like an eternity (10 minutes?), the desk agent’s supervisor came out. We explained our situation again, and how it would make no sense for us to rent a car for a long trip without having unlimited free mileage (like we signed up for). It must have been an issue with the rental agency’s computer system not noting our complete deal?

After talking with the supervisor for another 10 minutes, showing her the paperwork that we still had, and explaining what contract code we were using, she was able to confirm that the deal we had signed up for was legit. To her credit, and to National Car Rental’s credit, she apologized for the problem, and found a way to write up the transaction that allowed us to pay what we had signed up for from the start.

It’s wise to read car rental contracts closely before you hit the road, then examine charges on your bill when you return the car. Peter seems to have made the right play by neither flipping out and causing a scene nor paying the ridiculous bill and hoping to get his money back afterward.

Does anyone have any comparable rental car horror stories or near misses?

When Getting Great Deals On The Things You Buy, Make Sure You’re Actually Getting The Deal [Bible Money Matters]


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  1. zigziggityzoo says:

    I’ve never had problems with National Car Rental, Their rates are usually the best, and their “Emerald Club” is great.

    Sucks that it happened, glad that it only took 20 minutes to fix. Most problems with Dell, Comcast, and the like take longer than that.

    • nbs2 says:

      @zigziggityzoo: Agreed. I am a National Executive Club member. My first rental as an Executive, I got there and not only was my reserved vehicle not there, but the Emerald and Executive Lanes were empty save one minivan. On top of that, my rate was messed up and I was being charged more than I should have. I ended up taking a Camry with 30+k miles.

      One phone call to the manager later and I ended up paying less than my rate required. He took it upon himself to inform me Executive members are guaranteed not to have a car with exessive miles, etc. It was an absolute pleasure doing business with him and made up for the imcompetents staffing the desk at 11pm.

    • qwerty001984 says:

      Imagine if they no longer had the paperwork or the deal was made verbally over the phone.

    • pharmacyfires says:

      @zigziggityzoo: I only had to call Comcast twice after they called to verify that they had my address wrong!

  2. bkdlays says:

    I am an Alamo customer, which is the same company as National. Unfortunately Enterprise just bought them both which is ironic because I left Enterprise for good to alamo.

    Anyways I use all online booking and then checkin without a person at the renal location. It clearly spells out the numbers on the receipt, and that is your final price.

    I have never had the price deviate from the price printed on my reservation and when I pick it up.

    This was definitely a cased of not reading the terms before signing. I have NEVER rented a car without unlimited miles either. I suspect this is the sneaky Enterprise tactics making their way over to National.

  3. moneymatters says:

    I’m the one who wrote the post, and I have to tell you having the bill jump from $480 to well over a thousand because of “mileage charges” that shouldn’t have been there – was extremely surprising – and aggravating.

    To National’s credit they fixed the problem, and usually I have been extremely satisfied with them – their emerald club, and the cars we’ve rented. Since they fixed the problem and made things right I think I’d probably use them again. But be careful and verify the deal you’re getting!

  4. nnj says:

    I always use National and have never had a problem. Their Emerald Aisle is nice. At least they fixed the problem, so that’s good.

    Once I rented from Avis at LAX. Upon return, there was a billing dispute for fuel. The people behind the counter were really demeaning and rude. I had paperwork to help in my defense. I was not able to settle the dispute at the counter so I had to deal with the problem when I got home from that trip. I was able to have the billing dispute corrected by their customer service but only after a good deal of effort and time.

    Needless to say I haven’t been to an Avis counter since then. I won’t even consider them for my rental needs anymore. National is far better IMO.

  5. gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

    wait, do Christians somehow handle their finances differently than the rest of us?

  6. soldstatic says:

    I’ve got a similar horror story.

    Last year, the week of christmas, my fiance and I decided to travel to Austria to meet with her mom and step dad who at the time lived in Brussels. I’m lowly folk, only having been over seas a couple times, and each time due to the gratuity of an internship or my fiance’s super nice folks. This time, however, since there were so many people going on this ski trip, things were a little more difficult to plan.

    We decided to meet them in Austria, but flew into Munich. It was in the evening when we arrived, lets say about 7, and it was of course already dark and beginning to snow a tad. We went up to the Hertz rental place, where we had reserved a car, showed them all of the paperwork (which I had dilligently printed out) and everything went smooth for the first 10 or 15 minutes. Then she asked for my US drivers license to make a copy. She noted “Oh you are only 22…” Turns out in Europe, most rental agencies will only rent to 23 and over (even though my birthday was Jan 3, in less than 3 days!). The fact is though, that if you begin your rental process in Europe, you can easily obtain a car between the ages of 19 and 23 if you pay a small fee. Small fee, no big deal, I’ll pay anything to get on my way cause we have to drive another 4 hours or so to get into the Alps. Nope. Wouldn’t let me pay the small fee, and wouldn’t give me a car. Stranded in Munich after about an hour of trying to convince the cute girl behind the counter to give me and my fiance a car.

    The worst part was that it was near christmas and most every agencies cars were totally rented out! So here I am with pre-paid reservation of around $400 bucks, no car to speak of. Luckily, EuroCar (the parent / starting company of National mentioned in the post here) had a car and was super easy to deal with, and had a similar rate.

    Long story short, we got the car, but then had to drive 4 hours through small windy roads in the Alps through a freakin blizzard. It was terrible, and my short comment here can barely cover the stress of the entire evening, but after getting back I spent a few days trying to get Hertz to make good on a refund and to pick up the difference of the other slightly more expensive car rental. They gave me a refund, but no matter what I tried and even an email here to consumerist, never got any help on the other price, and got a coldly worded apology.

    In conclusion, I loathe Hertz and will never rent from them again, and I love EuroCar / National and will always choose them in the future. I mean why would you let someone pre-pay for a reservation via a computer system / internet, if they aren’t eligible to get the vehicle???? It wasn’t me missing the fine print, I figured I’d have to pay an upcharge / fee, but it was either incompetent sales rep in munich, crappy internet reservation system, or a combination of both. F you Hertz and the stress you gave me including having an extra $500 bucks on my credit card which kept me from purchasing all the souvenirs I wanted.

  7. sicknick says:

    A friend recently rented a car for Burning Man out of Reno. He took it to a detailing place and got it fully cleaned, top to bottom, before returning it, including sitting in the parking lot of the detailing place with a bottle of cleaner and going over it a second time. He called after returning it and checked to see if he got it in free and clear. He was told yes, and then two weeks later an additional 250 dollar ‘cleaning fee’ showed up.

    Rental Car companies are shitty. Get it all in writing and be prepared to fight them for what you wre promised.

  8. thewildboo says:

    I rented from Hertz once (I know they’re overpriced but I got a good deal this one time). When I checked my credit card account online after my trip I saw they had over-charged me by about 50%. I called to get my money back and they had absolutely no explanation for the random amount they had chosen to charge me, but they did immediately refund me the difference. Still, it was pretty scary to see what they try to get away with if you’re not paying attention. I haven’t gone back to Hertz since.

  9. rpm773 says:

    Car rental companies are always trying to pull this sort of thing with getting you to sign for upcharges when you don’t need them.

    Just last week, I told the Hertz guy at MSP that I didn’t need/want the insurance, and he still presented to me a contract with the $28/day charge for it. Luckily, I’ve learned to look closely for such nonsense, as I’ve been burned before by that move.

    I’m glad it worked out for the OP, and it’s good to hear that the “Why would I pay for this, it doesn’t make any sense” argument worked.

    Final word: Anything you’re charged for by the car rental company will be taxed by the municipality. For certain cities, that’s a pretty high rate due to all the special taxes and surcharges they hit travelers with. That $28/day insurance charge may bump up to $34/day pretty quickly. That $50 for a full tank of gas may jump up to $60.

  10. VidaBlueBalls says:

    I rent nearly exclusively from Enterprise and here are my experiences/tips:

    –Book online and fill out everything online, this saves you the hassle at the counter; agents like this.
    –I have full every-day car insurance but I almost always sign up for the LDW. It used to be stupid to do so, but these days with high deductibles and rental companies trying to charge for any little dings, it’s usually worth it and adds peace of mind.
    –When I get to the counter, I tell the person right in the beginning that I want to add the LDW but no other insurance. Agents get commission for this sort of thing AND they almost always upgrade my car after I tell them. A told the agent at the counter in Portland, ME and she upgraded my car from a cobalt to a Chrysler 300.
    –In the US, when they do the walk-around they note that any scratches of dings more then 2″ will result in charges. For whatever reason, in Puerto Rico it’s 5″. I jokingly asked the guy what would happen if someone swung a pick-axe at the roof and he just said, “keep the hole smaller than 5 inches.”
    –If you rent from a place semi-regularly and your return a car and return it early and clean (inside), they usually knock a day off the rate.

  11. dienstbier says:

    Enterprise is shady. I reserved a one-way rental for $99 via the phone. When I got there, they told me they didn’t have the “compact”, so there would be a “slightly higher” price. The price was $149. After a brief “discussion”, they agreed to “give me a discount”.

    Then they tried repeatedly to sell me the insurance (“you only have the car for a few hours, so the $18 is really a bargain”. Until you factor in the odds of having an issue in just a few hours.) When I declined, he insisted on calling my insurance agent to “confirm” that my policy would cover it. Mysteriously, no one at my agent’s office answered his call (I’ve never had a problem getting hold of them.) “Sheesh, since we can’t confirm, I really think you’re better safe than sorry.”

    When I finally INSISTED that I didn’t want the coverage, he then proceeded to have me sign the forms, but mysteriously DIDN’T point out the places I needed to initial to decline the coverage. I had to just do it on my own.

    Might be my last time with them.

  12. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    I’ve only had one bad experience with a Ryder rental and that was when I moved to Tulsa, OK and arrived in the middle of an ice storm. When I arrived at my destination, I planned to unload the truck (was only a small one) and then drive and drop it off at the nearest office. In the 2 hours it took to unload the truck, the wheels were frozen to the pavement with ice. It was physically impossible to move the truck. I immediately called Ryder to explain the issue and I even offered to email them pictures of the tires to prove I wasn’t pulling their leg. I was told not to worry, that they were aware of the storm, and that we wouldn’t be dinged for not returning it. I wasn’t able to move the truck for 3 days, and when I did return it, of course they tried to tack on 3 days of late charges. I eventually did get the late fees removed but it wasn’t easy.

  13. Geekmom says:

    Enterprise quoted my mother in law a sum and told her she would get a GPS in her car. She is from the Bahamas and had never been to our state before. After working out the total costs and signing paper work she gets in the car and starts driving and notices there is no GPS. We get to my home and call them and they state they don’t have GPS in any of their cars at that location so my mother in law takes it back. Less then an hour from when she took the car they charged her twice almost three times as much as was agreed upon claiming it was for insurance she didn’t agree to. Because of their treatment of her I will never use their company or suggest it EVER.

  14. wcnghj says:

    Rentals in Maine are very expensive, I live here and have rented from this very National.

    Paid $165 for a 4 day rental with unlimited miles, would have been $400 without a coupon code.

    No troubles with them and they didn’t push the CDW.

  15. andrewe says:

    I arranged to pick up a car from Avis in London, Ontario a few years back. Not trusting the website I called the kiosk directly. At the end of the call I asked if there were any extra fees I should be aware of. I was told the price quoted was what I would pay. I also started the same reservation online so I could check the price and watch for extra fees.

    I arrive on time and am filling out the paperwork when the clerk asks if I will need insurance. “Of course” I say. Well, the insurance cost was about $600 on a $350 rental. No extra fees my butt. I went ten rounds with Avis and ended up with crappy insurance for about $200. Still way too much. Had I been warned on my initial call I could have purchased much, much better insurance at home for about $30.

    The car I received was dirty (bonus huge mystery stain spread across the rear seat), had bad brakes, and wouldn’t track straight.

    I don’t like being lied to, ripped off, and given a rental that was not safe to drive on the highway.

    Avis. I will not rent another vehicle from you.

  16. lacubsfan says:

    NO MEANS NO for the F*******g extra insurance A-Holes! I know the risks, I don’t need to be delayed for 10 minutes while you explain it all. NO EXTRA COVERAGE.

    Thank you.

  17. roscoe says:

    I hate National with a passion! First rental they tried to scare me into buying insurance by saying if the car was out of commission for any reason due to my rental I was responsible for the loss of revenue. After talking to my insurance agent I found this is a common tactic to boost profits as it was covered in my personal car policy. Check your policy before you fall for this sleezeball game. Shame on National for trying to sucker customers. Second When I tried to redeem my American Express points toward a National rental they doubled the price of the rental between the time I reserved the car and entering the coupon code! I went to Budget and got the car for even less than the first price National gave and will spend my points somewhere else. Shame on National! What a scumbag company. What a crappy way to treat customers. I will tell anyone I can to never ever rent from National.