Always, I repeat always, take pictures of your rental car before driving it off and giving it back.
I was in Holland earlier this week and so happy that I took my own advice, something I have made a habit of doing after a bad experience many years ago. For this trip, I rented a car from National at Amsterdam’s central railway station and was asked to look it over and point out damage before departing.
My battered Suzuki was covered in damage. The agent accompanied me in my inspection, using an app to record every knick, dent, and scatch. There was damage on the front bumper, damage on the rear bumper, damage on the hood, the sides, and the roof.
As I pointed out the damage, the agent made notes on his phone and took pictures. But I took pictures too.
Yesterday, when I returned the car to Schipol Airport, the airport agent very carefully scrutinized the car. While examining the rear wheel on the passenger side, she noted it was all scuffed up. Consulting her records, she indicated that this was not previously recorded and accused me of creating the damage.
She quickly called a colleague over who confirmed the damage was not in the system.
“Sir, we are going to have to charge you for this,” she said.
Whipping out my phone, I said, “No, no. I took pictures too and that damage was there.”
Thankfully, I had taken a clear picture of the wheel and the damage was clearly there when I took procession of the car. The agent apologized, blaming the staff at the railway station.
Just think what would have happened if I had not taken those pictures. I generally waive liability (since my credit card offers extended protection) and would have found a hefty charge on my credit card for damage that I was not responsible for…
As I left, I took a fresh round of pictures of the car and the full gas tank before leaving. I would not put it past any rental car company to falsify data and still try to charge me for something I did not do or use. That’s what Sixt did in Frankfurt a few years back, charging me 99EUR for a full tank of gas when I brought it back full.
The lesson is simple: rental car companies cannot be trusted. Ignore my advice at your own peril. Make it a habit to always take pictures of your rental car when you pick it up and when you return it.