Alamo car rental billing me for damage I didn't do to their car.
June 22, 2016 11:11 AM   Subscribe

I returned an Alamo rental car to an airport early enough in the morning that the agency wasn't open yet. I put the keys in the night-drop box and went off to catch my flight. A few weeks later, the company contacted me claiming that I returned a badly scratched car, and wanted ~$500 for the repair.

The scratch wasn't present when I rented or returned the car. Alamo has e-mailed photos of a scratched car to me, but there is no 'identifying information' in the photos (such as a license plate or VIN) that corroborate that this was the same car that I returned. The car could have been scratched after I returned it but before the agency staff showed up.

I found this previous question helpful. In addition to that advice, I have the following questions: (1) Does it makes a difference that there wasn't agency staff on hand to verify that I returned an undamaged car? (2) Are their pictures meaningful, since they don't show any identifying information for the car? (3) The car insurance I had at the time may cover this bill. I've since switched insurance carriers (the incident in question occurred in 2014). Should I contact my prior insurance agency?
posted by Doc_Sock to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Let's be clear here - did your Alamo rental car get damaged in 2014? If so, you are likely asking this question because you are being pursued by debt collectors, in which case this question is really about debt collection legality and debt collection techniques and our answers will vary quite a bit.

(3) The car insurance I had at the time may cover this bill. I've since switched insurance carriers (the incident in question occurred in 2014). Should I contact my prior insurance agency?

Yes. However, you have a duty to report that damage promptly to your prior insurance agency and they may reserve the right to deny coverage because of the lack of prompt report. That said, they are liable for all damage that occurred when you paid them for coverage, even if the actual claim happens after you left them.

You should also contact the credit card company that you used to book the rental. Most credit card companies include rental car insurance. However, again, the duty to report to your credit card company is also present here.
posted by saeculorum at 11:34 AM on June 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Wait - you are getting notified now about an alleged scratch in 2014? This sounds like a simple bureaucratic screw up on their end, or maybe some kind of scam.

You should call Alamo. I'd be surprised if they even still have the exact vehicle that you rented in 2014, they turn cars over very quickly.
posted by COD at 11:35 AM on June 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Missed the "few weeks" later part. I agree with saeculorum - this is probably a debt collector not Alamo. Alamo wrote that off ages ago, and as I mentioned above, is unlikely to have the car at this point. You should check with a lawyer about your obligations here - statue of limitations issues , etc. The debt collection industry is shady as all hell.
posted by COD at 11:43 AM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

This isn't good advice now for this instance, but we were in a similar situation (which in the end we had to pay) back in 2012. As a result, once I get back to the rental return place, I now record a walk-around video before I return a rental car. I note this on any return paperwork available (including when an agency rep is there to receive the car; they note on their electronic form, the thing they fill out from the little mobile device they carry around).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:47 AM on June 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

Assuming you used and paid off that one off special "always has a zero balance because I only use it if the deal is maybe shady" very rarely credit card for the rental; I'd tell them to provide more proof and/or get lost. And of course prep a letter to the three credit agencies; just in case. Two years might be outside of a statute for a previously unfiled debt claim. Special usage credit card isn't going to accept a billing from two years ago; they're already pretty sure they'd never recover the "debt" either, but from you this time.

I too; take pics and vids before accepting a rental, no matter the company, most of the lots just reek of $ shams waiting to happen.
posted by buzzman at 2:18 PM on June 22, 2016

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