The Transformer Scratch
July 26, 2010 9:17 PM   Subscribe

On vacation. Got a rental car. Car was struck by someone or something while it was parked. Didn't get any accidental damage insurance. What now?

Relevant info

- There is a scratch (and maybe a slight dent on the back right panel on the passenger side, just behind the wheel

- This did not happen while it was being driven

- This is in Hawaii

- We will have the car until Saturday evening.


- Should we call the rental company and let them know?

- If we don't call them to let them know, should we say anything when we return the car, or should we just return it and wait for the bill?

- I fully expect to just have to pay for the damage, but is there anything that I haven't thought of that we can do?
posted by orville sash to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am not a lawyer, a car rental expert, or a auto body repair person..

My approach would be to:

1. spend a bit of time rubbing out the scratch with a bit of polishing compound
2. see if the "dent" can be bumped out with a small hammer
3. return the car and see if they notice...if they do, say..."gosh, must have happened in a parking lot, I didn't notice." If they don't ....
4. If, eventually they charge you, man up and take care of it...
posted by HuronBob at 9:20 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Did you pay with a credit card? Does your credit card carry rental card insurance? Does your regular car insurance cover rental cars? Both of these are real possibilities. Check.
posted by brainmouse at 9:22 PM on July 26, 2010 [9 favorites]

er, that "rental card" should of course be "rental car"
posted by brainmouse at 9:23 PM on July 26, 2010

Be aware that you'll probably also be on the hook for lost rental revenue while it's being repaired. I wonder if you're allowed to take it into a body shop and have them repair it on the spot, before you return it? Probably not... but I bet that would be a lot cheaper for you.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:25 PM on July 26, 2010

Best answer: Check the credit card you paid with, and your own auto insurance policy (if you own a car and it is insured). You may be covered by one or other or both of these.
posted by cushie at 9:34 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

My experience with rental cars is that there are various degrees of what each company considers "damage". Enterprise for example, (based on my recent rental two weeks ago) considers a scratch less than 4 inches and a dent smaller than a ping pong ball to be "wear and tear". I've rented from Hertz and Budget where I brought the car back with small scratch(es) and dent(s) without incurring a damage charge.

Depending on the extent of damage, and it seems that what you're describing is superficial, you probably have nothing to worry about. In any case, turn the car in and let them decide if the damage is of note. Not to suggest you get shady here, but I think if upon surrendering the vehicle they don't assess any damages, you're pretty much in the clear. If they wanted to charge you at a later point it'd be a situation in which either party could claim the damage was done while in the other's possession .

It seems standard these days that auto insurance covers car rentals. Credit cards also offer rental car damage protection, though I think you have to enroll in that particular program.
posted by loquat at 10:04 PM on July 26, 2010

Compound on the scratch; dry ice on the dent. And your credit card of personal car insurance will also likely cover some of this.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:30 PM on July 26, 2010

Credit cards also offer rental car damage protection, though I think you have to enroll in that particular program.

No you don't but your bank had to. Not all Visa or Mastercard account have this protection. But if your bank does, you're covered if you used the card for the rental. You'll have to file a claim with them but note a few things:
a) there's a deductable. go online and find out the details from your card company. or call, I found the people that answer the phone for Visa's program really nice and helpful. However, I ended up not filing a claim with them due to my auto policy paying it.
b) they are the secondary coverage if you have a personal auto policy (my comprehensive policy paid for mine)
c) they will pay for the loss of revenue while the car is in the shop. If your auto insurance policy would apply, it might not cover loss of revenue. But you can put in claims with both your auto insurance and the credit card. However, deductibles apply and it may not be worth it.

Here's what will happen when you bring the car back:
a) the guy checking in the car will notice the damage and give you a form to sign saying the car was damaged and there's a space for you to described what happened.
b) you'll get a copy of the invoice for fixing the car from the car rental company's home office after they fix it. In my accident, the invoice was from a local body shop and the amounts were quite reasonable. At that time you can either send them a check or put in a claim with the credit card and/or your insurance company. I called my insurance company and they took care of everything that day.

The other alternative is the guy doesn't notice the damage when you bring the car back and you live happily ever after.
posted by birdherder at 10:31 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice so far.

Just to give you a little more info:

-There is paint chipped off where the scratch is, so this isn't something that will buff out.

-I am not a car owner in my normal life, so I don't have car insurance that would cover this.
posted by orville sash at 11:03 PM on July 26, 2010

In the late 90's I rented a car without insurance and put a dent in it. I had to fill out paperwork explaining what happened and had to pay for repairs.
posted by brujita at 11:38 PM on July 26, 2010

Best answer: Even if you don't normally carry car insurance, some credit cards have perks that include damage coverage on rental cars. Call the number on the card you used to rent that car and ask them if there is anything like that on the card.
posted by Addlepated at 11:39 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Read this Ask Me I don't remember why, but I just saw it a coupe days ago.
posted by lee at 11:52 PM on July 26, 2010

Definitely check your credit card to see if they cover it. The same thing happened to us in Europe and our AmEx card covered it, no questions asked.
posted by wwartorff at 12:46 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Check your policy for what covers fair wear and tear. Scratches need to be a certain length and depth; paint chips and dents need to be a certain size. Also, check the damage diagram on your rental form - chances are the broad area of the car is already circled, or there's a generic 'minor wear and tear' description. If there is, you should be in the clear. If they point it out, just point to the diagram and say 'it was already like that.'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:06 AM on July 27, 2010

Sorry - by 'policy' I meant 'rental agreement'.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:07 AM on July 27, 2010

Definitely check your credit card.... I always use my amex for this exact reason, I never signed up for it, but once I discovered it had car rental insurance included (you have to sign up for "premium coverage" for convertibles, luxury cars, etc.), I haven't used another card to rent a car since. Saved my ass on a rental in Northern Ireland a couple years ago! (Thankfully, I wasn't in Ireland, cause that country isn't covered on my credit card!)
posted by Grither at 3:50 AM on July 27, 2010

My car insurance extends some coverage to me when I rent a car, see if your auto policy does the same, assuming you have one.
posted by Brian Puccio at 4:35 AM on July 27, 2010

I slid in a rental once in slippery conditions on a curve, and banged the wheel well against the curb. There was noticeable damage, but it was plenty drivable, and Enterprise had the same reaction with me as others reported here--the agent shrugged his shoulders and I never heard from them about it.

I wouldn't try to hide it, but I wouldn't sweat it. Check your credit card if it comes up, and definitely demand any and all repair documentation on the off chance they do come at you.
posted by stevis23 at 5:36 AM on July 27, 2010

Anecdotal evidence ahoy! We were in Hawaii (Big Island) last November, and our rental car got doored pretty badly. Smallish dent, paint loss, the works. We decided to "play ignorant", not say a word, and see what happened - and accept the rental car company's judgment.

Returned the car, and...nothing. They didn't care, the guy that checked the car in didn't look twice at the obvious dent, and we all went on our merry ways. I checked my CC statement for a couple months after, just in case, and it never was an issue. YMMV, of course, but don't let worrying about this ruin your vacation.
posted by pdb at 6:57 AM on July 27, 2010

Are you sure they will even notice? Often when I return rental cars they barely even look at them. I don't think I've ever seen them even walk around the car (which I always do when I pick it up.) I did return a car once with a spare tire on it, which the return guy noticed.
posted by massysett at 7:11 AM on July 27, 2010

"I am not a car owner in my normal life, so I don't have car insurance that would cover this."

If you have homeowners or rental (apartment) insurance, check that as well. Some policies include coverage for rental cars. That coverage might be limited to liability for any injuries you cause to other people and their cars -- as opposed to damage to your rental car itself -- but I'm not sure. Worth a look.
posted by anonymice at 8:01 AM on July 27, 2010

exact same thing happened to me. (hit-and-run while parked)

Didn't say anything when i turned it in, hoping they would ignore it, but no such luck.

YES they noticed and YES i had to pay for it. You can turn it in and not say anything, but i'm sorry to be a "debbie downer" telling you that you might, maybe, have to pay repairs.
posted by ChefJoAnna at 11:54 AM on July 27, 2010

Response by poster: I'd like to thank everyone who answered this question. I contacted my credit card, and they do, in fact, cover these kinds of issues. When I returned the car, they did notice the dent and told me it would take a while to process this kind of thing, but that they would be in touch. Once they make contact, I will file a claim with the insurance company and keep my fingers crossed. And don't worry, it certainly didn't ruin my vacation!
posted by orville sash at 8:59 AM on August 4, 2010

Just reading this because it just happened to me. Got doored in a parking lot while renting from Hertz. It was a small downtown Hertz location in a small city. There was a ding and a light but pretty long scratch.

The guy started to get a form out and then said that there was an option to pay $75 up front to clear it, which I did (on the back of the form there were the various options, and this was listed). This actually turned out to be cheaper than if I had gotten full coverage for damage, which I usually do but did not in this case.

Again, YMMV. I was up front about it, expecting the guy to not write it up, but he did.
posted by Danf at 7:57 AM on January 5, 2011

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