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Tackling unfair car rental damage charges

22 JULY 2019

The vast majority of us opt to hire a car when on holiday, but what happens if the rental company tries to charge for damage you’re convinced you didn’t do?

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to hear of customers being charged hundreds, or even thousands of pounds, for damage to their vehicles and challenging the charges can be tough.

However, if you protect yourself by taking lots of photographs and by ensuring all the paperwork is correct, you should be able to prove you were unfairly charged.

What you need to know

Most rental firms will take the charges from the credit card used to cover the deposit for the car rental, so you should regularly check your statements.

When you hire a car, there is plenty of paperwork to fill out, and some of it covers the responsibilities of the driver while the vehicle is in their possession.

In order to show damage, a car hire frim relies on two key documents – a check-out form that is completed when the car is hired, and a check-out form that is done when the vehicle is returned.

Any damage is marked on these forms and if new damage is listed on the check-in form that was not listed on the check-out form, you can expect to be charged for it.

Disputing charges

1. In order to challenge any reports of damage, you should keep all of the paperwork and should document the state of the vehicle when you pick it up by taking plenty of photographs.

Do this one your smartphone if you have one, as it will automatically tag the photo to a specific time, date, as well as the location if you have that setting enabled.

2. If you see any damage that is not noted down, tell the staff at the rental desk and ensure it is included in the paperwork too – don’t sign off any of the paperwork until you are completely satisfied with the state of the vehicle and the checks you have done.

3. You should repeat the photograph stage when you return the vehicle and should request a copy of the check-in form if you can

4. The first steps to contesting damages can be done via the rental company. If this does not get the desired outcome, you should contact your credit card company to examine the case on your behalf.

5. If that doesn’t bring results either, you should contact a consumer rights organisation such as the BVRLA Conciliation Service if you rented in the UK, or the European Car Rental Conciliation Service if you rented in Europe.

6. Taking the case to court may be the final step, although is often a very costly process.

Protect yourself

You can also protect yourself against damage costs by taking out a car hire excess insurance policy – this covers the amount you would need to pay should your hire car be damaged or stolen.

Although you do need to pay the excess in the event of a claim, you can then claim that money back via the policy.

This provides peace of mind for the duration of your trip and when purchased online via a third party, can cost less than you may think.

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