I rented a vehicle over the holidays to get home from the airport as I have done frequently in the past.
I live on the opposite end of town from the airport; a cab ride (door to door) from the airport to my home is approximately $90, while I can get a 24-hour car rental for about $50. I love saving money and find cabs to be very expensive so this was an easy decision for me.
Car rental insurance can be lucrative for rental companies and can easily double the cost of renting a vehicle.
Related: Why I Always Buy Travel Insurance
When I rent a vehicle I always save the expensive coverage offered by the rental company by using my Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite card which includes rental car insurance coverage, and this rental was no different.
Rental Car Pickup
When I picked up the vehicle at the airport the paperwork was all fairly standard – no smoking in the vehicle, damages are subject to charges and all the other fine print I don’t normally read. I was told a pre-inspection had been completed on the vehicle. Normally when I rent a vehicle I visually inspect it with the service rep for any dents, dings or scratches.
This time, I was told it wouldn’t be necessary because of the pre-inspection. Apparently the vehicle had been inspected prior to me arriving and had no significant damages.
I signed the pre-insection paper and took their word on the condition of the vehicle. I’ve rented vehicles for years and have never had an issue. Later I would find out this was a huge mistake.
When I got to the vehicle I didn’t really look at it too closely. It was a 2014 model with low mileage that had already been inspected so I figured it would be fine. It was cold and the parked was dark, which didn’t make me want to do a full inspection. What I did see of the vehicle looked great.
I drove home (about 30 minutes away) and left the vehicle in my garage for the night.
Rental Car Drop-Off
The next morning I returned the vehicle at a location less than 5 minutes from home. I was told the vehicle would need a full visual inspection. No problem, I thought, since it was fine the night before…..or so I thought.
The service rep returned to tell me there was significant damage to the front bumper. I was shocked. I went out to look at the vehicle myself and she was right – a huge crack in the front bumper, which I obviously missed the night before when I didn’t bother to inspect the vehicle myself.
I explained that I was told the vehicle had been pre-inspected and was in great shape. She said I was responsible for inspecting it myself and notifying them immediately of any damage before leaving.
When she gave a rough estimate of the damages, my jaw dropped – nearly $2,100 for the repairs!
Customer Service Fiasco
After hearing the estimate, I immediately called the airport location to determine why they gave me a vehicle with significant bumper damage that was ‘pre-inspected’ as being in great shape.
I was told (again) that it was my responsibility to inspect the vehicle before driving off and that I would be responsible for any damages I caused. They also asked me to fill out an ‘incident report’ with a description of how the damage occurred. Since I didn’t do any of the damage I refused to sign the form.
The next few days were spent calling head office since the airport location to resolve the issue. When rental vehicles are damaged the process is usually straight forward, but in this case it’s not so clear since I didn’t cause the damage.
Since I refused to pay for damages I didn’t cause, I pushed the issue and demanded to know why I wasn’t given a proper inspection prior to renting the vehicle.
After a few days of battling with customer service the rental company agreed to waive the charges for the damages (that I didn’t cause). They were supposed to come out and inspect the vehicle with me so we both knew the condition of the vehicle before I drove off, which they clearly didn’t do.
The rental situation taught me a few lessons when renting cars:
- always physically inspect the vehicle – all of it – before agreeing to rent it
- don’t take their word for it when they say the car is in perfect condition or has been ‘pre-inspected’
- read the fine print so that you know you’ll be covered in case the worst happens
Conclusion: I doubt I will ever rent a vehicle from Avis again based on my experience, but I’m still relieved it worked out in my favour. I’ve learnt my lesson and will always do a thorough inspection of a rental vehicle prior to signing, even if it means taking pictures of the car before I drive off.
Have you ever had a bad rental vehicle experience?