By Steve Sherlock
We’ve all had friends return home from vacation only to learn about a horror story involving their flights, accommodations or car rental. Unfortunately, more often than not, the car rental horror stories are 100% avoidable, but many travellers simply aren’t equipped with the knowledge or tools to avoid most major problems.
For something that should seemingly be quite simple, the car rental process is rife with potential land mines including hidden insurance costs, extra fees and confusing fuel policies written in fine print, among others. To help level the playing field we’ve put together eight common complaints of renters and, at the end, provide a potential solution to many of these complaints.
1. Strong Armed
Many customers report being strong-armed at the desk by agents who would not let them rent the car unless they purchased the extra insurance! Car rental insurance is always 100% optional, so you should never feel pressured to purchase a policy. In fact, it’s not technically insurance, it’s a waiver i.e. Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), which cannot be made mandatory by the rental companies.
2. Additional Fees Not Posted Online
A number of travellers have been shocked to discover many of the major car rental brands charge additional fees upon arrival! Even if the fees aren’t posted online it’s not uncommon to find yourself responsible for paying airport taxes and road surcharges! In our view, this is an unethical practice which can quickly increase the car rental cost and is sure to frustrate travellers even before their trip begins.
3. Photographic Evidence Required
Car rental companies are getting much pickier about nicks and scratches to the point where some have asked renters to produce photo or video evidence of previous damage to prove it was there before the trip! For this reason, we recommend doing a walk around your rental and taking photos (date and time stamped) of any external or internal damage before the trip.
4. Sky High Repair Costs
Most mechanics would only charge you $500 to fix a broken bumper, so why is the car rental company charging you $1,000? The answer is always in the fine print of the car rental agreement and is tied to exorbitant fees and charges for even the smallest amount of damage. Rental firms may also charge you for lost revenue resulting from the amount of time the rental is in the repair shop.
5. Fuel Rip-offs
There are typically three options for paying for fuel at the rental counter, you can either fill up the car with gas before returning it, prepay for the car to be filled with gas when you return or return it and have the car rental company fill it with gas for you. Although the third option certainly sounds the most convenient, more often than not, you’ll be charged twice the cost for each gallon of gas in addition to a convenience fee! The cheapest option will almost always be to fill the car with gas before returning it. If the rental car is given to you with a half tank, for example, (which can happen at suburban depots that don’t have a gas pump), you will need to Google how much fuel that model of car takes, and fill up accordingly i.e. if capacity is 30 gallons then fill up with 15 gallons.
6. Lost Items
In a rush to catch a flight, it’s not uncommon for travellers to leave something behind in their rental car. If you think that you’re going to get your belongings back it’s probably not going to happen! Even experienced renters have fallen victim to this theft, including our own CEO who made sure we included this nightmare on our list. He left prescription glasses in the car, and by time he realized, the rental was already on its way from San Francisco to Mexico and he never saw those specs again!
7. Insurance Costs More than the Car Rental
It’s also not entirely uncommon for the car rental companies to request you purchase insurance that will add up to more than the cost of the rental in the first place! Who budgets for that in their vacation budget?
8. Preparing Ahead of Time in the Key
With all of the challenges covered above, it’s not surprising to find so many people who have sworn to never buy car rental insurance at the rental counter. Instead, increasingly vacationers are purchasing insurance from 3rd party insurers that offer a car rental deductible reimbursement insurance at a fraction of the cost of traditional collision damage waiver. Reimbursement policies cover all damage and is purchased before the trip in a no pressure environment online. These policies typically cover up to $35,000 for everything from tires and windshields to the undercarriage, accidents and theft. This will save you a tonne of money and speed up your pickup process, as you can simply tell the rental counter staff: “Thanks, but I already have insurance”
Next time you’re traveling and plan to rent a car, consider purchasing car rental deductible reimbursement insurance from Bonzah.com and avoid dealing with car rental companies altogether!