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Rental car alert: Customers billed for damage they didn’t cause

Car rental sign
Shutterstock via WCPO

Are you planning to rent a car during your spring or summer travel this year?

More and more customers are being billed for damage they didn’t cause, or extra cleaning fees that they did not anticipate.

Butch Hatcher is a clean car fanatic who loves shining his personal BMW.

So imagine his surprise when a rental car company charged him hundreds in cleaning fees.

“They charged me $300 for a clean-up,” Hatcher said.

But the cleaning fee was only one surprise: Hatcher’s receipt showed a late fee of $140 a day for a week even though he insists he had returned the car.

“They said I didn’t turn it in,” Hatcher said. “They said their records show the car wasn’t turned until a week later … I called customer service and told them I dropped it out front and put the key under the passenger side seat.”

But apparently no one saw it out in the lot for several days.

Complaints Continue to Come in

A national consumer advocacy group, the Elliott Report, says it’s getting complaints from all over the country from renters who say they turned in a rental car in pristine condition, but a few days later they got a bill for cleaning or damage.

“Car rental companies do like to broadside customers with bills like this,” founder Chris Elliott said. “There’s no one there, you just drop the key off. Guess what? That’s still your responsibility.”

If someone sideswipes the car before employees arrive in the morning, you could be billed $2,000 or more for damage.

The Elliott report says to protect yourself, take cell phone photos of the rental car so they can’t claim you damaged it.

“Take pictures that show the rental car before, and take pictures afterward as well,” Elliott said.

He says make sure the rental agent takes note of any damage at the time you rent the car, even small bumper scrapes.

Elliott says you can never take too many pictures of a rental car. He said to then save them for up to six months, just in case.

Hatcher says he will never drop off a rental again if there is no one there to check it out personally.

So try to avoid overnight drop-off and take and save pictures of the car, so you don’t waste your money.

By John Matarese, WCPO

About the Author

John Matarese

John's goal is to help as many TV viewers as possible save money, avoid bad deals, know a rip-off when one comes their way, and be educated consumers. His informative weekly consumer segment "Don't Waste Your Money" now airs on 45 TV stations from San Diego to Tampa to Houston and Cincinnati. More.

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