Rental car agency trying to make me pay for unrelated damage?
May 17, 2007 7:03 AM   Subscribe

A rental car I had rented was scratched and dented. There was damage in the same area prior to my renting the car, which was noted on my rental agreement. I am very suspicious of the way the rental company has handled this since, and I believe they are charging me for more than they should. I have no problem paying for the damage, but the situation makes me feel very uncomfortable.

I was first told that the damage had been fixed and that I would have to pay $650. I asked for the documentation of the damage, as that figure seemed high and I wanted to ensure I wasn't paying to have the preexisting damage fixed as well. The loss control manager promised to call me back the next day with more information.

After not hearing back from the loss control manager for a week, I went in to the local rental office and was told that the damage was actually $500.

I asked for documentation, and I was sent the invoice from the body shop and B&W photocopied photos of the car. The photocopies were so bad I couldn't even tell which ones were before the work and which were after. I asked for the actual photos, and the loss control manager told me she'd send them, but I just received an envelope without photos but with another copy of the body shop invoice.

The body shop invoice includes: "Refinish for Front Bumper Cover(1)," "Repair for Front Bumper Cover(1)," "Repair for Right Fender Panel (2)," "Refinish for Right Fender Outside (2)," and "Clear Coat (2)," and then $110 for paint. The numbers in parentheses are labor units at $40/hr. Since the damage the car sustained when I had it was limited to a single panel (the area above the right wheel), the front bumper panel stuff seems unrelated, and yet they are charging me for it.

Am I reading the body shop invoice correctly? What can I do to ensure I am not being charged for preexisting damage?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total)
To be honest, I don't think there's much you can do but keep fighting it until they come clean. And don't pay them until they come clean. If you have the itemised invoice, highlight the damage repairs that you owe and write them a letter suggesting your repair fee be adjusted as necessary.

It's not the body shop's fault - it would be pretty strange for them to be presented a car and be told to only repair half the damage. Presumably the rental company should have a record of who caused the first lot of damage, and if they don't that's their problem.

I can't see how, legally, they can hold you responsible for the first lot of damage, when both they and you have it all on record. They should be aware of this. And if you stand your ground, you should come out the winner.
posted by Jimbob at 9:18 AM on May 17, 2007

don't pay them, force their hand. at the very least, if they rented a car to you with pre-existing damage, chances are you can make a case for them not fixing the car with whatever they're trying to charge you anyway. plus the fact that they won't supply proof in a usable form means that they might have some trouble getting this to stand up in court.
posted by rhizome at 12:09 PM on May 17, 2007

Also, call around to body shops and get estimates for doing the same labor that you would have expected to pay for. You may also want to get your insurance company involved. Even if they're not paying the claim, you may have access to their adjusters. USAA, when the rental car I was driving was damaged while parked outside my hotel, handled all of the negotiations for me, and my total outlay for damages was less than my deductible would have been.
posted by dejah420 at 12:38 PM on May 17, 2007

Make sure the credit card you used to rent the car doesn't cover damage to the rental vehicle. If it does, make it their problem.
posted by wierdo at 4:55 PM on May 17, 2007

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