Charged for scratch on rental car

This item appears on page 29 of the April 2010 issue.
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My husband, Randall, and I enjoyed a two-week visit to Iceland in late June ’09. The first eight days we traveled around the country with a birding tour company, then we picked up a rental car from Hertz Iceland at Keflavik Airport for six days of touring on our own.

We had reserved a compact car at a cost of ISK19,782 (about $160) per day, before taxes, etc. At the Hertz counter, we were asked if we wanted collision damage waiver protection. There were two levels of CDW coverage: basic CDW, with a sizable deductible, and super CDW, which reduced but did not eliminate the deductible. We chose the basic CDW at a cost of ISK1,542 ($13) per day.

The woman at the counter encouraged us to inspect the car in the Hertz lot before driving off. It was raining when we looked over the car (a far-from-new, gray Toyota Corolla) for preexisting scratches. A number of dings had been marked with transparent tape on the car, but we found a considerable number of other spots and scratches that had not been marked. We had one of the office staff come out and mark the spots with temporary tape.

When we returned the car to Keflavik on July 11, the Hertz check-in staff spent a lot of time going over the car inch by inch. After the lengthy inspection, the Hertz staffers said we had put a small scratch on the front bumper.

With taxes, Hertz charged us ISK56,715, or a whopping $462, for that scratch, which even they admitted was neither large nor deep. The Hertz office staff refused to consider reducing the charge and suggested that we send an e-mail to Hertz Iceland’s customer-service office appealing the charge.

My husband sent an e-mail on Aug. 9 and a follow-up e-mail on Aug. 14 because we had received no acknowledgement of the first e-mail. Hertz Iceland replied on Sept. 7, denying our appeal.

To my mind, it is very possible that my husband and I missed the scratch when we did the initial inspection of the car. It is also possible that the scratch occurred during our rental period, although I did all the driving and drove at or below the speed limit because we wanted to enjoy the beautiful scenery. In any case, the charge of $462 for a small and shallow scratch is outrageous.

Given the number of dings and scratches on the car, at $462 a pop Hertz Iceland has likely made very nice progress toward recouping the cost of the car. They should be ashamed of themselves.

CAROLYN McFARLANE
Falls Church, VA

ITN e-mailed a copy of the previous letter to a representative of The Hertz Corporation (225 Brae Blvd., Park Ridge, NJ 07656) and received the following reply.

We have researched Mr. and Mrs. McFarlane’s rental with Hertz’s Icelandic franchisee. Please allow us to explain.

When Mr. McFarlane returned the rental car, the inspection staff found unmarked damage on the car. The Hertz agent cross-referenced the rental checkout form that was signed by Mr. McFarlane and, while there were few scratches on the car when rented, there were no prior indications for the specific area of the car where damage was discovered.

Mr. McFarlane indicated that the damage could have happened while the car was in his possession, and he paid for the damage, signing all documents.

When Mr. McFarlane first contacted Hertz’s customer service, Hertz Iceland cross-referenced the checkout and check-in forms from the previous three rentals and the damage was not marked on any of those forms, indicating that the damage was new.

According to the terms and conditions of Hertz Iceland’s rental agreement, the renter is responsible for the car while it’s in his/her possession. Hertz Iceland had an independent garage evaluate the damage and, according to their inspection, the cost of repairs was ISK68,117, which was ISK11,402 more than was charged for the damage. As the amount charged to Mr. McFarlane was less than what Hertz Iceland incurred, we believe no adjustment is warranted at this time.

PAULA R. RIVERA, Manager, Public Affairs, The Hertz Corporation

Readers, ITN has printed letters similar to this in the past. Those of you who drive overseas, please share with us all of the steps you take before driving your rental car off the lot. What clauses do you look for in the rental contract? What questions do you ask? What do you require from the rental company and its representative? How do you go about inspecting the car before taking possession of it? What steps do you take upon returning the car? What lessons have you learned?

Write to Auto Rental Tips, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com (include the address at which you receive ITN). Responses will be printed in an upcoming issue.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

My husband, Randall, and I enjoyed a two-week visit to Iceland in late June ’09. The first eight days we traveled around the country with a birding tour company, then we picked up a rental car from Hertz Iceland at Keflavik Airport for six days of touring on our own.

We had reserved a compact car at a cost of ISK19,782 (about $160) per day, before taxes, etc. At the Hertz counter, we were asked if we wanted collision damage waiver protection. There were two levels of CDW coverage: basic CDW, with a sizable deductible, and super CDW, which reduced but did not eliminate the deductible. We chose the basic CDW at a cost of ISK1,542 ($13) per day.

The woman at the counter encouraged us to inspect the car in the Hertz lot before driving off. It was raining when we looked over the car (a far-from-new, gray Toyota Corolla) for preexisting scratches. A number of dings had been marked with transparent tape on the car, but we found a considerable number of other spots and scratches that had not been marked. We had one of the office staff come out and mark the spots with temporary tape.

When we returned the car to Keflavik on July 11, the Hertz check-in staff spent a lot of time going over the car inch by inch. After the lengthy inspection, the Hertz staffers said we had put a small scratch on the front bumper.

With taxes, Hertz charged us ISK56,715, or a whopping $462, for that scratch, which even they admitted was neither large nor deep. The Hertz office staff refused to consider reducing the charge and suggested that we send an e-mail to Hertz Iceland’s customer-service office appealing the charge.

My husband sent an e-mail on Aug. 9 and a follow-up e-mail on Aug. 14 because we had received no acknowledgement of the first e-mail. Hertz Iceland replied on Sept. 7, denying our appeal.

To my mind, it is very possible that my husband and I missed the scratch when we did the initial inspection of the car. It is also possible that the scratch occurred during our rental period, although I did all the driving and drove at or below the speed limit because we wanted to enjoy the beautiful scenery. In any case, the charge of $462 for a small and shallow scratch is outrageous.

Given the number of dings and scratches on the car, at $462 a pop Hertz Iceland has likely made very nice progress toward recouping the cost of the car. They should be ashamed of themselves.

CAROLYN McFARLANE
Falls Church, VA

ITN e-mailed a copy of the previous letter to a representative of The Hertz Corporation (225 Brae Blvd., Park Ridge, NJ 07656) and received the following reply.

We have researched Mr. and Mrs. McFarlane’s rental with Hertz’s Icelandic franchisee. Please allow us to explain.

When Mr. McFarlane returned the rental car, the inspection staff found unmarked damage on the car. The Hertz agent cross-referenced the rental checkout form that was signed by Mr. McFarlane and, while there were few scratches on the car when rented, there were no prior indications for the specific area of the car where damage was discovered.

Mr. McFarlane indicated that the damage could have happened while the car was in his possession, and he paid for the damage, signing all documents.

When Mr. McFarlane first contacted Hertz’s customer service, Hertz Iceland cross-referenced the checkout and check-in forms from the previous three rentals and the damage was not marked on any of those forms, indicating that the damage was new.

According to the terms and conditions of Hertz Iceland’s rental agreement, the renter is responsible for the car while it’s in his/her possession. Hertz Iceland had an independent garage evaluate the damage and, according to their inspection, the cost of repairs was ISK68,117, which was ISK11,402 more than was charged for the damage. As the amount charged to Mr. McFarlane was less than what Hertz Iceland incurred, we believe no adjustment is warranted at this time.

PAULA R. RIVERA, Manager, Public Affairs, The Hertz Corporation

Readers, ITN has printed letters similar to this in the past. Those of you who drive overseas, please share with us all of the steps you take before driving your rental car off the lot. What clauses do you look for in the rental contract? What questions do you ask? What do you require from the rental company and its representative? How do you go about inspecting the car before taking possession of it? What steps do you take upon returning the car? What lessons have you learned?

Write to Auto Rental Tips, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com (include the address at which you receive ITN). Responses will be printed in an upcoming issue.