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23 Jul 2014

How to Protect Yourself When Renting a Car

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By Lance Runion, Custom Auto Body, Inc.

I recently chatted with a friend of mine who works for an insurance company and we started talking about insurance claims. He said that there has been a big increase in claims that car rental companies are making against their renter’s insurance companies.

I asked “What kind of claims?”

He said “Damaged wheels.”

He explained that rental companies used to rent cars that were base models, however, they have discovered that resale is better on a higher line model car over a base model. The upgrade in cars means changing wheel covers to aluminum wheels; the cost difference being approximately $600 higher than a base model vehicle.

Since the cost difference is significant, the rental companies are now paying closer attention to returned vehicles, looking for any damage that may have been done to the car; specifically to the edges of the wheels.

Should they find damage, they bill your insurance company for the damage.

How do they know who to bill?

When you signed up to rent the car, one of the pieces of information you are required to provide is your insurance policy number.

Your agent calls to tell you about a wheel damage claim against your policy for $600 and you are shocked! “I didn’t damage the car,” you say.

However, unless you have proof – you will be charged for an expensive wheel replacement that you most-likely never damaged.

What to do to protect yourself the next time you rent a car:

  • Do a complete walk around the vehicle looking for door dings, dents and scratches. Take a picture of any damage with your cell phone or camera and bring the damage to the attention of the rental agent.
  • Check the interior of the vehicle for stains, tears, burns or other damage. Note if there are floor mats, how many and their condition. Bring any discrepancies to the attention of the rental agent.
  • If the vehicle is a van, make note and take a picture of all removable seats.
  • Check the trunk to make sure there is a spare tire and jack and that the trunk mat is present.
  • Check the wheels for scratches or dents and take pictures of each tire before and after your rental experience as proof that you have not caused any damage.

These steps may seem excessive however in the end will be the only proof that you have returned the vehicle in the same condition that you rented it. This is your proof should the rental company attempt to file an insurance claim for any damage.

In the long run, it is a good use of your time and energy and will also lessen the likelihood that the rental company will file an insurance claim.