I can’t remember ever sitting in a rental car and thinking, “You know, I’d really like to own this car. I enjoy it so much.”
Rentals are typically the lowest of the low, a step below the base model, built and sold specifically for the rental fleet market. I rented a Pontiac G6 once in North Carolina and could not believe the amount of plastic and lack of anything particularly useful in the cabin. Of course, that’s also the car that sounded like a broken weed-wacker under acceleration and the car that left me stranded on a remote on-ramp somewhere in the middle of NASCAR country, so perhaps my memory is a little jaded.
Even being a relatively new car, that G6 felt a decade old. It rattled, it was uncomfortable, and it had an assortment of dings and scratches. My point here is that rental cars get abused, and a lot of normal wear and tear gets piled on with each new renter. Most of that normal stuff gets ignored when it’s time to return the car.
But not always.
A rock chip or a small door ding won’t typically be billed to you. Sideswipe a guard rail or rear-end a school bus, and I hope you bought the insurance, but typically rentals get turned in without a detailed damage check.
Rent a car in Vancouver, B.C., though, and be prepared to be nickel-and-dimed for every little thing. Or more appropriately, hundred-dollar-billed for every little thing. An Autoblog story, by way of CBC News, says this about the Vancouver airport’s Budget Rent-A-Car office:
The Better Business Bureau has logged at least 70 complaints about British Columbia Budget locations, including claims that customers were forced to pay as much as $966 for total windshield replacements after tiny chips were found, and $446 for repair of a “dimple” in a car’s roof. Most customers were informed of the damage well after leaving the rental office, and sometimes after the damage had already been repaired. The business gets an “F” from the BBB.
Even more suspicious, it seems the same guy who owns the rental location owns the company that is contracted to do the repair work.
The lesson here is simple: Before driving off in a rental car, it’s a good idea to protect yourself by doing a thorough examination for damage, or even taking video/pictures of the car to prove your case, should you need to.
Have you ever been held liable for damage to a rental car?