renting a car

The ugliness of car hire and how to avoid it

The worst thing about working for a car rental company has to be telling a customer that you are going to have to charge them for damage to their rental car. The look on their faces and the reactions we get can vary from angry and defensive to apologetic and embarrassed.

We sometimes hear for time to time, ‘but I didn’t cause that damage’ or ‘that damage was there when I picked up the car’. Sometimes it’s a customers attempt to get out of damage that they actually did cause, or they are actually telling the truth, but we just have no way to prove that. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do to help them at this point as we rely on the paperwork that was mutually agreed to at the beginning of the rental, of what vehicle damage was existing (if any), and what the elected damage liability amount was.

Seriously though, there are a couple of very simple steps a customer should take that would have saved all the hassle described above. It’s something all of us in the car rental industry constantly preach to all our customers who walk out the door before collecting their rental car, not just for our sake, but for the customers too. So take note to the following points, and you’ll be sure to have a hassle free rental experience.

The Paperwork

Forget the fancy sunroof and Bluetooth connectivity, the rental paperwork is most important bit of information you will get with your rental car. It’s the rental paperwork that you should pay the most attention to as it contains a record of every bump, dent, scratch and chip that currently exists on the rental car. Look at this carefully, and compare it with your vehicle before you drive off. If you notice anything different, your first point of call before driving off is to get a rental staff member to update your contract with new existing damage. If you don’t do this, there’s a high chance the repair for this new damage will be coming out of your pocket.

Damage liability

Car hire liability, or technically called your collision damage waiver (CDW) is the maximum value you have elected to pay for any damage to the rental vehicle during your hire. For instance, if you elect to have a $3,300 CDW and you have a major car accident; $3,300 is what you’ll pay and nothing more. But if you get a punctured tyre, then it likely won’t cost more than $100. You also have the option to reduce your CDW to $0 by paying a small daily fee from the car rental company and therefore not having to worry about forking out a high liability in the worst scenario. Travel or credit card insurance is ok too, however be warned you will be charged the full CDW amount from the car rental company that you will need to claim back from your personal insurance provider, of which have been known to have some pretty interesting ways of getting out of a claim refund. So make sure you read their fine print before renting your car.

Return Inspection

When returning your rental car, make sure you’ve given yourself enough time to have a staff member inspect your rental vehicle with you for any new damage. If you happen to run late and don’t have time to do this, there’s always a very small possibility another customer will accidentally bang their door into yours before being properly checked in, therefore the damage will be assumed to have been caused by you and therefore charged to you (its unlikely but has happened). So don’t leave until you have written documentation of a closed rental, with both a record of the vehicle damage from the time of pickup and drop off.

Smartphone App

Another great idea some of our savvy customers are doing is taking digital photos of every single angle of their hire car at time of pickup, ensuring the image is date stamped. Some clever tech company has even developed an app that does this for you and can be downloaded and installed for little more than $2.00. It will allow you to record as many photos of the car as you want, date stamp it, and even record the type of damage that is included in the photo you’ve just taken. These photos may help settle any unlikely disputes regarding who is responsible for damage to your rental vehicle.

RentalPics App can be downloaded from Google Play or the Apple iTunes Store.

Need a rental car?

If you are after a great deal on a rental car for your next holiday or business trip, then we can help you. We have a new model fleet of vehicles to choose from, as well as being located inside most Australian airport terminals.

Book today and save.

published October 2, 2013

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