Joel Drucker rented a Mazda 2 from Dollar Rent A Car during his recent stay in Los Angeles. The rental was completely uneventful and he returned the car without a scratch, he says.
So why is Dollar insisting he complete a vehicle incident report?
Drucker rented the car for 10 days, and didn’t notice anything wrong with it. In the predawn hours of December 13, he returned the car and flew home. More than three days later, a representative from the Dollar location at LAX emailed him, politely suggesting that he damaged the vehicle.
The agent wrote, “I am sure that in an effort to continue on with your journey, you may not have even noticed it. However, any incidentals must be reported and repaired.”
The agent failed to detail the type of damage, except to say that it was on the front left bumper.
Wanting to cooperate, but confused about the supposed damage, Drucker responded to the Dollar agent by email and asked for additional information, including the nature of the damage and a photograph.
The Dollar agent responded with a screen shot containing a photo of a red bumper with what appears to be a small, black patch near the bottom about the size and shape of a Swedish Fish candy. There didn’t appear to be any change in the contour of the bumper, nor did the paint appear to be scratched.
The agent provided no additional information about the damage — how it was caused, what needed to be done, and notably, how much it would cost.
She kindly reminded Drucker that he should complete the vehicle incident report at his convenience.
Even if Drucker thought filling out the form was a good idea, what information could he include, when there was no incident to speak of?
Shouldn’t Dollar have to provide a detailed report on the so-called damage, including the estimated cost for repair? Shouldn’t Dollar provide evidence it has reviewed the car’s history, to determine definitively that the damage occurred on Drucker’s watch?
And what about this damage? Shouldn’t they try a little solvent and elbow grease on what appears to be dirt, before calling in the damage recovery unit?
Like many renters, Drucker declined the additional insurance products sold by Dollar, because his primary auto insurance coverage extends to rental cars.
Dollar’s website reminds renters, however, that damage to a rental vehicle is expensive. In addition to the actual repair, the renter is responsible for a litany of fees, including “towing and storage charges, loss of use, diminution in value, etc.”
Yes, Dollar actually ends its list of fees with “etc.”
Perhaps because Dollar’s list of fees is so long, it simply didn’t want to bore you with it.
On its site, Dollar also shares the following words of wisdom: “So, before you refuse the rental agency’s insurance and sign on the dotted line, find out what you may be responsible for should an accident or damage to the vehicle occur.”
While that advice is undoubtedly self-serving, there may be some wisdom in it.
Know what coverage your primary insurance or credit card actually provides.
Double check your rental agreement before you leave the rental counter, and make sure the optional products added to your contract are both needed and wanted.
Visually inspect the vehicle at the time of rental, and document any damage, no matter how insignificant. If an agent tells you that damage is “minor” or “too small to count,” insist they document it anyway. That agent may not be the same person checking the vehicle in, and judging damage can be subjective. If you are dissatisfied with the car’s condition, ask for a different car.
Take photos or video of the car with your cell phone camera at both check-out and check-in. These photos provide time-stamped evidence of the car’s condition, so the rental company can’t claim damage days or even weeks later that didn’t exist when you had the car.
Drucker didn’t take photos of his rental car, so the only photo is the one provided by Dollar.
Should Drucker accept responsibility for the small, dirty patch on the bumper, without knowing the nature, history or cost of the so-called damage?
Dollar is asking him to complete an incident report, but why should he? Knowing that there will be repairs, plus storage fees, plus loss of use fees, plus possible diminution in value, plus et cetera, should he give in and pay up?