I rent cars an awful lot as part of my day job. Sometimes vehicles are damaged during a rental, sometimes before you even get in. Here’s what happened when I was accused of damaging my rental car.
I arrived at a particularly busy airport location for National car rental and accepted whatever I could get for an eight-day rental. I brought it back the next day because it was not going to work for my needs and they were likely to have more cars available when I came back.
I pointed out a couple of vehicles I saw parked in the lot and was told that those weren’t available but the manager was bringing around a GMC Acadia for me. It was an acceptable replacement for my needs and I waited for him to bring it around.
He mentioned that there was damage on the windshield when he brought the keys to the counter where I was waiting and asked that the rep notated my rental. She clacked the keyboard and I went to the car.
I took two photos when I got inside just in case.
Then I Got A Letter in The Mail
Despite the clacking of the keyboard, the account was either not noted or the notes were ignored. I received a letter in the mail a couple of weeks following the rental that said I had caused damage to a rental and the date. I looked it up and waited.
I finally received a full response where the damage was detailed and it was alleged that I had damaged the windshield. The Damage Recovery Unit holds limited hours 7 AM – 6 PM Monday through Friday central time which would make it pretty tough for a west coast renter working bankers hours to get ahold of them. They also leave an email DRU1@ehi.com.
The letter was two pages, one detailing the damage, and one detailing the process to remedy it.
Filing a Response
I used the email address listed to file a response. I have included it here:
The following is with respect to:
Claim number: [redacted]
Date of Loss: [redacted]
Claim amount: $249.00
Renter name: [redacted]
I received this claim for damage of a vehicle I drove on [redacted], the document is dated one week prior.
Attached to this email you will find an image taken of the damage that with time and date evidence to show that this was damaged prior to my acceptance of the vehicle. I had brought a vehicle in and needed to swap, the manager brought this GMC Acadia for me and made note of the damage. He also asked the desk agent to make a note of it in Odyssey and while I couldn’t see her screen, she did seem to notate the account prior to my departure.
For my own protection (as I would always do when I find damage on a vehicle before I leave) I took a photo to document it. I would normally return inside and switch but as the manager had mentioned the damage, the agent noted it prior to me leaving, and the shortage of vehicles in [redacted], there was no need to swap it out. You’ll notice the date and time at the front end of the rental and that the car is still parked in the National parking lot at [redacted].
I’m happy to discuss the matter further if necessary but as you will note with the photographic evidence and the notation on the account, this damage was not caused by me.
Please advise once you’ve had a chance to review the notations and my documentation of the pre-existing damage.
Following It Up
I received no electronic response to my email. I also didn’t receive anything in the post in the first week but that’s asking quite a lot so I have no issues with that. My frustration comes with the radio silence I received on my email. I finally had an opportunity to call and went through the process.
When I called in it took about five minutes to get to who I needed to talk to between initial screening and hold times. The person that answered the phone discussed the damage and asked if I wanted to file an insurance claim or pay cash. I asked him to look at the correspondence I had sent in and he put me on hold while he investigated the notes.
It seems that looking at the notes on the account is a problem within National because once he did he also acknowledged that the claim had been closed as resolved. I never intended to just pay the phone agent when he first asked me to on the call, but wonder if others may feel like they had to when in fact the agent hadn’t even looked at the file.
I don’t think National Car Rental did anything nefarious in their handling of the damage to the vehicle. However, I am a little concerned with both the initial commitment to getting the account notated and the followup time on my response. That being said, the week I sent my response I was in one of their cars the very next day, another two within ten days – which demonstrates my trust of the brand to do the right thing is unwavering, yet I was still a little nervous about driving one of their cars with an open claim.
What do you think? Have you been falsely accused of damaging a vehicle? Was there a better way for either party to go about it? What should I have done differently?