Should we lie to Enterprise about where we're going?
July 31, 2010 7:04 PM   Subscribe

We're renting a car from Enterprise that has unlimited mileage if you stay in a certain geographic area. We plan to leave this geographic area. I want to be up front and pay the extra fees, but my traveling companion wants to lie and save money. Convince me I'm wrong, or help me convince him he's wrong.

For the sake of this question you can assume that we are going to go ahead with this rental -- it is the cheapest option for what we need at the time we need it, even if we pay the extra fees. The mileage charges would be about $200 on top of a $475 rental.

My friend is of the "don't worry, it will be fine" school of thought, and the stuff I'm finding on the web is all over the map and not enough to convince him. He'll be the primary driver because he has a credit card w/ rental car insurance, and I don't. I could put up a fuss and refuse to sign on as an additional driver, but I'd rather not turn this into a fight if I can simply persuade him.

The doom and gloom scenarios that come with lying:

- Enterprise finds out somehow (GPS in the car; you get a ticket or into an accident outside the geographic zone; etc) and charges you insane fees.

- They make you state on the contract if you're going outside the geographic area or not. Leaving the area voids your contract. This also voids your insurance, whether it's through Enterprise or through your credit card.

From what I've found on the web it's unlikely that Enterprise is going to track us with GPS, and if we get into trouble, we can just deal with it on our own, since our insurance is not through Enterprise. Does anyone know if this is true?

The second part worries me more. Has anyone recently signed a contract with Enterprise? Do they actually make you specify if you're going outside of the geographic area, and if you do so without claiming to, does that void your contract? And does that void your insurance, even if it's through your own credit card?

I'm afraid that I'll need more than a "yes, it does" to convince him, so please if you have any evidence you can point to it would be most helpful.

Alternatively, if you can convince me that I'm worrying too much and this won't be a problem, that would be nice.

Finally, what are the risks to me if we go ahead with the lying, given that it's his name on the rental contract, his credit card, his insurance? Suppose in the worst case we get into an accident while we're outside the zone and I'm driving... what happens to me? (If all the liability falls on him, I guess I can let him choose to take the risk.)
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
When I rented from Enterprise, I told then I was going to be going, briefly, one state over from the approved geographic area. They said "eh, that's fine" but I made them write it on the contract just to be on the safe side. They seemed very laid back about it and at my office anyhow they laughed when I asked if they tracked it with GPS.
posted by jessamyn at 7:08 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

From early 2004:
Mr. Son received a shock when he returned the car. The $259.51 bill he expected had ballooned to $3,405.05 — most of it a result of a $1-a-mile fee for each of the 2,874 miles driven. It turned out that by crossing the state line, he had violated his contract with Payless. ...

The rental company presented him with a map showing his exact route outside California as relayed by a tracking device in his car. ... Car rental companies have come to rely on an emerging technology called telematics — which combines satellite-based Global Positioning System tracking, wireless communications and vehicle monitoring systems — to keep tabs on their vehicles. About a quarter of the rental cars in the United States are equipped with tracking technology, analysts estimate.
It's possible this practice has diminished in the six years since this article was written, but somehow I doubt it.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:23 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Be careful and read the fine print to the contract. Unlimited may not actually mean that. I rented a car with unlimited miles (I forget which company) and I went over the miles they thought I should be driving in the time I had it. I suspect they estimate how far you could possibly go in one day and that's how they define "unlimited." I had to pay a few extra bucks for the extra miles.

Moral: read the fine print before you make a decision. Plus it never hurts to be honest.
I'm not sure I'm making a strong argument but I hope this helps.
Good luck.
Kudos for you on trying to be honest.
posted by hot_monster at 7:47 PM on July 31, 2010

He'll be the primary driver because he has a credit card w/ rental car insurance

Well, then he will be the one liable for the extra charges if there are any, right?
posted by soelo at 8:20 PM on July 31, 2010

Rental car mistakes can haunt you for a very long time. They can fuck up your credit, they can penalize you financially, and they're so not worth it for what you think you are 'saving' that I can't believe people would take chances. They're big companies with lots of lawyers, and this could end up being a very expensive mistake.

There are two issues here: violating the terms of the contract and what happens if something happens to the car. You don't own the car, so even if your insurance is covering an accident, Enterprise owns it and you damaged their asset. You're just going to turn up with the damaged car later and say "oops, sorry, my insurance is on it"? It doesn't work that way. They will ding your credit card first, ask questions later.

If you don't have separate car insurance, and are relying on your credit card, I would not take any chances. Because everyone thinks "oh i have insurance!" when really you're still potentially out thousands of dollars depending on the level of damage. Your insurance via your credit card does not automatically absolve you of any financial responsibility (unless you have retained specific insurance that does this, like American Express).
posted by micawber at 8:53 PM on July 31, 2010

I rented from Enterprise last week - here in Ontario you do sign on the contract that you are not leaving the designated geographic area, and I imagine if you did, they would consider the contract void. I'm sure that they don't have GPS, but there are many other ways that you could get caught. Don't forget that not all tickets are given in person - in many places toll roads and traffic cameras will send tickets or bills directly to the registered owner - in this case Enterprise.

I would be clear with your friend that this is their risk to take, but should something go wrong, you are not willing to split the resulting fines or extra charges (this is the main area in which I see it getting really ugly for you).

I would imagine it also means that should the car break down while you are out of the geographical area you will be on the hook for the repairs, and stuck until they are done. Within province, Enterprise are pretty good about helping you out if the problems are a result of natural wear and tear on the car and not something you did to it.
posted by scrute at 9:05 PM on July 31, 2010

I was in line behind someone who had deviated outside of the permitted zone for a rental car due to an interstate detour at the Ohio/Kentucky border. I know that area and can see how easy it would be to mistakenly end up on the other side of the river and regardless of the fact that the detour was easily verifiable the rental car company was pursuing an additional $2000 in charges.

I would strongly suggest you confirm the actual charge to just change the contract to show the additional states necessary for travel. Car rental companies have a magical way of compounding charges and adding surprise charges.

Better safe than sorry!
posted by prettymightyflighty at 9:08 PM on July 31, 2010

It may help to think about (or just ask) why they don't want you driving out of state. It could be that they need to do something with the insurance coverage on the car if it's going to be driven in a state other than the one it normally is.

Can you ask them what they can do for you, since you're a special snowflake and probably won't, but might have to leave the state "on business?" Ask them real nice what the penalty is if you "unexpectedly" have to leave the state. I've had good experiences with people hooking me up with good deals when I act like their standard practices aren't really a good fit for my needs. With a non-hostile, non-entitled attitude, of course.
posted by ctmf at 10:03 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

ctmf: "I've had good experiences with people hooking me up with good deals when I act like their standard practices aren't really a good fit for my needs. With a non-hostile, non-entitled attitude, of course."

At the risk of sounding like some lame-o self-help book, people really do want to help you, especially if you're kind to them, even if a bit persistent. I read a statistic in Blink (Malcom Gladwell) that the best way to find out if a physician is going to get sued for malpractice is by seeing if he's rude to his patients, that people don't (mostly) sue because of a sponge left in their chest cavity (or whatever) but because they don't like the doc.

You wouldn't believe the things people have done for me because I treat them kindly and ask politely.

So ctmf is onto something that'll help any situation no matter if you get charged the contracted rate or not, plus you'll feel better about it anyways. IMO, it's a fools game to play with car rental companies, at all, a fools game to take those kinds of risks, to go outside your contract -- seems to me they just live for this sort of thing. Some person behind a counter or on a rental-car telephone line might have had a terrible day, and might know of a way to help you get what you want at a really good price, and want to help anyone who's giving them a decent time. But you can't know if they'll help you until you ask.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:58 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know if its the specific car rental company that you are talking about. Just a month ago, my colleagues rented a car from Boston airport to travel to their conference venue in Vermont. The expected bill was about USD 450 and they ended up paying more than 1000. They didn't get a chance on argue but mostly it was for same reason, leaving geographic area and then the charge skyrockets.
posted by zaxour at 4:54 AM on August 1, 2010

A side issue: does your friend have car liability insurance?

If he reads the "rental car insurance" that comes with his credit card, he will almost certainly find that it is not insurance. It is damage coverage. It will not protect him if he is liable in a wreck. For example, your friend is driving and hits a tree. The credit card will cover damage to the vehicle. Another example: your friend is driving and hits someone else's car, and is found to be liable for the damage to the other car. The credit card will not cover the damage to the other person's car.

Your friend might have car insurance that protects him if he is liable for damage or injury to someone else; also, the rental company might be required to have liability coverage (or it might not be) but be careful because that credit card probably does not protect you as much as you might think it does.
posted by massysett at 7:36 AM on August 1, 2010

Honestly? I'd not go with Enterprise unless there is another very good reason to do so, like substantial discounts or your company requires you use Enterprise or something. I live in Toronto and a couple of friends and I recently took a roadtrip to San Francisco, and so had to worry about the real definition of "unlimited." There are several rental companies that allow you to cross provincial lines and even enter the States without incurring per-mile charges, assuming the vehicle you're renting is normally an unlimited-mileage car (i.e. no Ford Mustangs). We used Hertz, but we also checked with National and they said they were cool with U.S. travel too.

If you're in the States, I have no direct experience, but I'd be surprised if the same didn't apply down south to trips across state lines or up to Canada. The only thing that we couldn't do in Canada was cross the States and enter Mexico, but that might only be an issue because they don't want you entering TWO foreign countries or something.

Assuming you won't or can't switch from Enterprise (your post is a bit vague on this), then I think getting away with it would depend on how far out of state/province you intend to go. Enterprise doesn't need a GPS to question you if you live in Rhode Island and have somehow racked up 3000 miles of travel in the space of a week. And yes, echoing what others have said, it never hurts to ask the person on the phone/at the counter if they have any options for you.
posted by chrominance at 8:35 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Um, how about the obvious answer, because it's unethical? And you're conspiring with him in advance to commit fraud.

Life's too short to play stupid games like this. If you want to rent a car to drive somewhere then abide by the contract. Or find a better rate/contract from another company. Just don't kid yourself that it's OK to try to get away with it.
posted by wkearney99 at 11:03 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

When researching rental car prices for a road trip, I found that Enterprise doesn't have uniform rental policies. One office would charge an under 25 driver fee, while an office 2 miles away didn't.

Given that Enterprise has a fairly large number of locations, it might be worth checking to see if the next closest office offers unlimited mileage within the US. I doubt that Enterprise uses GPS to track its vehicles, but there's always a chance you might get into an accident in an excluded state and be on the hook for a lot of money.
posted by madforplaid at 12:16 PM on August 1, 2010

1) What most others said - dont fuck around car rental agencies.
- They may potentially be tracking where you are going (really, this shd be in the contract that you sign. But I for one am never sure what am I signing away in the fine prints with car rentals)
- There is always the probability of an event/accident that leaves an audit trail that the car rental company could use.

2) I find it hard to believe that Enterprise is the cheapest option that you are getting. They are good with corporate accounts - which is their bread and butter - but I have not had great experience with them (strictly a personal opinion) on leisure travel. You may be able to find better price elsewhere. (however, geographic boundaries for car rentals appear to be fairly standard across rental agencies for a particular location. So you may be out of luck there ..)
posted by justlooking at 2:24 PM on August 1, 2010

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