One listener was charged £330 for damage done to his hire car
Whenever you hire a car anywhere in the world, you are normally asked to give your credit or debit card details as security.
If the car suffers damage which is not covered by insurance, the hire company can then recover the cost of repairs from the card.
But what are your rights if the car hire firm debits your account afterward for damage that was not apparent when you returned the vehicle?
Have you ever had a dispute about damage done to a hire car?
Do you think the insurance cover offered on hire cars is sufficiently clear?
Or do you think drivers have a responsibility to get their car checked when they return it?
We asked for your comments, a selection of which are below. The debate is now closed.
MOST RECENT COMMENTS:
We hired a people carrier from Goldcar autos in Spain. When we got in the car on the second day of our holiday the oil level warning light came on. I checked the dipstick and found that the sump was nearly empty. We also discovered that the sliding door was coming off its runners so we were very concerned. I reported the problems to the car hire company who eventually decided to pick up the car and replace it with another vehicle exactly the same. When we arrived home there was a letter from the hire car company informing us that we have been charged 166 euros for a change of car and that the mechanics had found nothing wrong with the vehicle. I am outraged and am fighting the company at the moment.
Nigel Graven, Altrincham
The last time I was wrongly charged for damage was when the company (Eurocar Belfast airport) declined to inspect the car and said "Just leave it". The best thing to do is dispute the whole credit charge via the bank; they don't like it but you can insist and they must act. When I have done this the hire company has never managed to produce the required documentation in the required time so the bank has reversed the whole transaction - including the hire legitimate hire charges.
There are rogue companies in all trades, but vehicle hirers do have a genuine problem when damage occurs after out of hours returns. Also, a proportion of customers will be dishonest and claim falsely that the vehicle was undamaged when it was returned. Looking for a constructive solution, how about recording the vehicle's return on CCTV and registering the time when the keys are posted?
Chris Grey, Guildford
I hired a diesel car at Milan from Europcar. Just before returning it I inadvertently filled it with petrol but did not run the engine. Europcar charged 525 euros to collect the car, drain it and refill - a problem which should have cost no more than 300 euros.
On returning a car to Thrifty car rental in Sydney it was checked over by a typically genial Aussie and I regarded the matter closed. I subsequently found that my credit card would not authorise further transactions. When back in the UK, my statement showed this to be due to Thrifty taking AUS$4300 from the account. After fruitless faxes to Sydney, a series of long, expensive midnight phone calls clarified that they had found a scratch on the vehicle in addition to the very many agreed at the start of the rental. When this occurred it was their policy to deduct the WHOLE of the liability stated in the rental agreement and to refund any residue after getting an estimate for the repair. I protested that there had been so many scratches that a discrepancy in the documentation was inevitable and they agreed to look into it. After several more weeks I again phoned and was told that the AUS$4300 was being refunded to my account. I at no time received any written notification from Thrifty relating to any stages of this process. Whilst this is a relatively happy ending, the differences between currency rates for the taking and refunding of the money cost me a further £70.
Chris Booth, London
Use a separate credit card (with a different company) for only your holiday purchases. Then any disputes are restricted to this card, so you can refuse to pay the credit card company. They can then freeze the card but it doesn't affect your other card. Plus they then have to deal with the hire car company to get their money.
The hire companies are never up front about their insurance excesses which for some are akin to having no insurance for the vehicle at all.
I have a separate policy to counter the excessive charges for such insurance which can more than double the cost otherwise. The policy also covers items such as undercarriage, windscreen, tyres and roof that are almost always, and unreasonably, excluded from even the rental companies "full" insurance.
Hire companies also claim loss of use for damaged vehicles which the renter is unable to verify. Yet I have been hired cars with significant damage and been told that there is no alternative available.
Ian Sweetland, Glasgow
I travel to Spain a lot and hire a vehicle each time on the web (Eurocars). They do not tell you how much fuel will be in the car. Some give you a quarter of a tank and others a full tank and charge you for it. Then they tell you to bring it back empty. The last time I hired a 9 seater for 3 days and returned it with 3/4 tank, its like giving them 40-50 pounds back. They are making money out of the remaining fuel as they sell it on again. Surely it would be fairer if they gave a full tank and you returned it with full tank. Then you only pay for what you use.
I had £1,100 deducted from my visa debit account without my knowledge less than 2 hours after returning a hire car in perfect condition. It was Europe Car in Australia. It left me overdrawn for the rest of my holiday. The Visa department at Nationwide managed to get the money back because my husband signed the agreement and they took the money from my account.
Mrs H A Stirling, Wedmore
We rented a car in Miami from Enterprise for only one day. A couple of months after returning home we had a letter from an American debt collection agency for unpaid fees. Enterprise had accused us of not returning the car, but leaving it in a hotel car park with damage to the under-carriage. We managed to sort it with some legal assistance, but my advice is to always get a receipt upon return of the vehicle.
Neil Ayliffe, Bristol
For business I use a major French airport and hire cars every other week. For someone who is inexperienced in this field it can be a total nightmare. The rental companies don't check your vehicle and any unsuspecting customer will be billed for damage he/she is not responsible for. This damage is then not repaired and the cycle continues. Why are customers responsible for inspecting a vehicle they are hiring, surely it's the companies duty to inspect & provide a car in good condition? I hired a vehicle through Hertz and to meet my business deadlines had to move. No one interested in providing service and with minor damage to the plastic bumper trim I left. On my return I was informed I was responsible for the damage and would be invoiced. I disputed the claims and after several e mails some oik left the contact details of the European directors within a communication. I had a full refund within a few days. From experience I have had the same lousy service from Europcar, National, Budget, Avis etc etc. The only one to provide any sort of service is Sixt but for peace of mind you still have to re-check the vehicle.
I have used Auto Europe three times this year to hire cars in Italy. On each occasion the car hire company given the contract, Europcar, has deducted money from my credit card over and above the amount agreed. The first one was for topping up the petrol even though I returned it full. The second was for oil leaking out of the car. They alleged that I did the damage to the sump, even though I had driven 20 miles along a motorway and 2 miles on a minor road, with no bumps whatsoever. Europcar deducted over £300 to repair this. The third occasion was for an extra day's hire even though the car was returned within the allotted time and the keys put in the box. Plus they charged for extra insurance for that day (which was not on the original agreement). I have contested and continue to contest all these.
Europcar claims that the cars are inspected before being released to a new customer. This was totally untrue in my three cases as I had to return to the car hire office and point out chips and scrapes which had not been noted on each and every car hire. So even their forms aren't correct. If they have not checked bodywork, what chance is there of them getting under the car to check damage to a sump?
I reckon that car hire companies rely on customer inertia in not checking bank and credit card statements and then not contesting. We people writing in are probably a micro-minority. The scandal is so endemic, I believe that the government should be intervening on this.
Angie M, London
I travel to Spain several times a year and need a hire car to get to my apartment and to use for shopping and going to the beach etc. I use CarJet and the fuel policy used to differ between the partners; i.e. some wanted the car empty, some full. Since the increase in fuel globally, all the fuel policies have change to return empty which is scandalous. I sometimes only use a quarter tank during a week, but have recently been charged 97 Euro (about £80 at the time) with no refund on return. This is just a money making ploy and needs to stop. It's pure robbery, what can be done?
Nigel Simpson, Rotherham
My story is about an upgrade which was offered to us at Orlando Airport. We had a prepaid Platinum package through Virgin Holidays. The person on the desk said you have a seven seater booked would you like a brand new SUV as it's only done 11 miles and is available? We said yes thank you!. My father in law signed up and off we went. One month after the holiday the credit card bill arrived with a charge of $250 for a vehicle upgrade. We were definitely never ever told about the cost. OK we were naive first timers. The lesson learned is nothing is free, car hirers beware! We did dispute with Virgin and the car hire company but they offered nothing, saying since we had signed the form we were caught hook, line and sinker.
What can be done about the practice of hire companies insisting that the hirer take the car full and 'return it empty'. Should the hirer not use a full tank there is no refund whatsoever for the unused fuel.
With the high cost of fuel this must be a nice little earner for these companies. Is it lawful to deprive the hirer of the choice of how much fuel to use? Whatever happened to freedom of contract?
We hired a car from Hertz in Italy in December. We were involved in an accident that was totally the fault of the other driver. He admitted this and his insurance company wrote to Hertz to say he was at fault and they would be paying for the damage. Six months later we are still waiting for the refund of 900 euros. It is unreasonable for us to have to wait this long in my opinion. Now they have agreed to pay the refund but are being difficult as the credit card it was paid on is no longer valid.
Sally Eastwood, Market Drayton
I hired a car from a Mexican hire car company, arranged directly before my trip and paid by Liverpool Victoria Visa. When I returned the car I insisted it was inspected by the company, and got a written statement to that effect. The contract for hire was in USD. The final invoice on the return of the car was in Peso, at a very favourable and realistic exchange rate to the company. I argued the point for about 2 hours, but had to leave to catch my plane. When I got back, Liverpool Victoria immediately refunded the price difference caused by the artificial exchange rate. The moral is to pay by credit card and make them aware that you know their responsibility. I always take detailed pictures of the car at both the beginning and end of any rental and make sure that the damage sheet accompanying the rental forms note every little bit of damage before I accept the car.
R Prescott, Lymm
We took back our hire car with a full tank of fuel (filled up less than a mile from the airport.) Our credit card was then used to pay an excess fuel charge. The hire company never refunded this money as it was impossible to prove that the tank was full once you have left the scene. This is pure theft in my mind. We now take a photo of the fuel gauge every time we hand back a hire car.
Last Tuesday I returned my hire car to Athens Airport. The company pointed out two small chips in the windscreen which I had not noticed in the 4 weeks I had been driving it. They were not easily visible, about a centimetre above the wipers. The terms and conditions which I printed out when I booked on the net did not state that windscreens were not covered. They have taken 508 euros from my account and given me an invoice for 476 euros, they could not tell me where the extra 30 euros go. The clerk at the desk then proceeded to tell me 'strictly off the record' that it had probably been done during the previous hire. What can I do to retrieve some of my money? Should I have bribed the man checking the car to turn a blind eye (which is probably what had been done previously)? This seems a lot anyway for a new windscreen on a Nissan Micra.
Penny Taylor, Hove
It's not only phantom damage for which there's a charge. Last year a friend and I hired a car from Thrifty in Canada. They charged us for a "missing" or "stolen" car manual. But there never was a car manual in the rear compartment where they suggested, as I put my camera in it for safe keeping. It's strange that on a previous year when I asked for a car manual I was told that they aren't supplied in order to prevent theft. After being stung with charges from Europcar in the 1990s, I now no longer return cars out of hours. I go over them with a fine tooth comb, pointing out every minor nick and scratch both inside and out BEFORE I take delivery. This had served me well until last year.
Neil Bowden, Wolverhampton
At the risk of promoting a particular organisation, I always use a website called Carhire3000. I think they must simply buy up spare capacity from the major car hire firms. The quoted cost includes all taxes, fees and full insurance including damage waiver, and it's still often cheaper than the 'before the extras' prices quoted directly by the car hire companies.
I damaged a tyre on an Avis hire car in Italy earlier this month. The cost of the damage was 178 euros but was mistakenly billed as 1780 euros. Fortunately I took out additional insurance in the UK. Avis have been very slow to respond, and as I only have 30 days to make a claim it looks like I won't be able to meet the insurance company's deadlines.
Derek Rowley, Tyne and Wear
We hired a car through Europcar whilst booking flights through Easyjet. At the airport, were given documentation for one vehicle clearly showing the registration number but as we went to collect the car the girl scribbled over the top of the documentation another registration. The car we got was very basic. The language barrier meant we couldn't argue much but we tried to say we had paid for something better and slightly bigger. Two days later someone stole our belongings from the car. There was no evidence of a break in, someone had unlocked the boot. The whole thing was reported to the Police, Easyjet and Europcar but no one was particularly interested and all just said put it through your holiday insurance. But our insurance company said we were not insured for theft from a car so we couldn't claim.
Ann Buckett, Crawley
Last year we hired a car at Milan. We returned it a 5am when it was dark so used the key drop box but took mobile phone photos of four sides plus mileage. Good job because they tried to charge for additional petrol (£20 approx) and I was able to produce the receipts showing I'd filled up the previous evening and the drop mileage so they refunded. I used to be a travel agent and know what can happen.
John Slatem, Ferndown
Another aspect of car hire to watch out for is alleged unpaid toll charges. We hired a car through Dial a Flight from Dollar in August 2006. We picked the car up at Los Angeles Airport on 4 August. On 7 August we headed for Las Vegas and paid a small toll fee en route. In late September 2006 I received a bill from the Toll Office, which was actually a list of fines totalling around $350. I was initially shocked, then studied it more closely and saw our "Toll Violation" was listed on just one line, against the registration plate of our hire car. Due to time lapse, we had already incurred a large penalty charge on top of the fine because we had not paid on time. I spent weeks exchanging letters with both Dollar and Dial a Flight, but in the end, getting nowhere, I decided to go directly to the person in charge of Dial A Flight, since they were in fact the organisation selling me the service. I am glad to say that all charges were then deleted, but I remain very nervous about hiring a car in the US again. My advice is to be very careful about keeping all toll receipts, do not leave the booth without one, but fight for justice if you are accused of failing to pay one as we were. The irony is the toll is about $1.70 so why on earth would anyone not pay it?
Jill Funnell, Camberley
I hired a car in Spain from a well-known company. We agreed the cost of hire for 3 days, and I paid by debit card. When I returned home a copy of the contract arrived and the amount I paid had been changed. It was very clear that the figures on the copy had been altered without my knowledge. Despite me contacting the local office in UK, and trying to sort it out with Trading Standards, I was told as I had signed the contract in Spain nothing could be done. This should be a warning to others to check their contracts for hiring cars, even the top companies can get away with some things.
Keith Bush, Great Yarmouth
I hired a car in Italy last week for £300 odd. When I went to pick the car up from the airport, I was told it had a 900 euros excess (on a damage claim) or 21 euros a day extra to cover me. I paid the 21 euros a day but it made the car hire extremely. The car was hired from Hertz whom I thought were at least reliable if nothing else. Silly me!
I visited Sardinia in October 2007, now 8 months later I have just received three fines for driving in a restricted zone in Alghero within a 22 minute window. Of course if you blindly follow a sat nav it is easy to miss road markings! However I was staying in the centre of Alghero and had emailed the B&B owner to check it was ok to take the car. My car hire company tells me this will cost me 50 euros + VAT + 20% handling fee for each offence. And of course as I signed the papers they can help themselves to my credit card. I can't speak Italian so I'm now stuck without being able to appeal.
Oliver Morris, Manchester
I hired a car for a month from Avis Narbonne in France in April. Friends warned me that the local hire companies had a terrible reputation for extra charges. When I returned the car the lady said that they were to busy to inspect and to leave it in their space across the road. On the advice of my friends I took 14 pictures of the car including 2 showing the full fuel tank and mileage. Four days after I got back I received a bill for £180 for damage to the rear of the car. I also was charged 2 euros for not filling the tank and I was recharged the reservation fee that was included in the original deal. When Avis London refused to help I told them I had pictures and said I would send them one by email. They then queried the charge with Avis Narbonne but said that Narbonne had 30 days to reply. After six further phone calls - and 42 days after I had complained - my money was refunded as the local office had not replied
Patrick J Phelan
I regularly travel to Austria and use Holiday Autos to hire a car from Salzburg Airport. Last year I was told the car was to be returned at the end of the trip to a petrol station over three quarters of a mile away! I complained but was told nothing could be done - I had to pay for a taxi or walk back to the airport! At the end of the holiday I returned the car to the petrol station, having dropped off my husband and our luggage at Departures. It was raining, there was no opportunity to get a taxi and no-one to check the condition of the car. I had to leave it on the forecourt, where it could easily be damaged. I decided to take photos of the car as evidence of there being no damage when I left it. I arrived at the airport absolutely soaked after a very long walk in the rain. When I received my credit card statement, I was horrified to see nearly £300 had been taken for damage to the car! I contacted Holiday Autos, who refunded the amount, but only because I had taken out the extra insurance they offer. There was no satisfactory explanation offered by them.
Rose Halsall, Lancashire
In December 2006 we hired a car in Forli airport, Italy through the broker rentalcargroup.com. We specified the dates and times for the hire, and they arranged the hire company and told us what the costs would be. When we returned the car the rental office was closed, but there was a slot for the keys which is normal for this small regional airport. However rentalcargroup.com subsequently charged us for rental until the office reopened, despite not mentioning this at time of booking. We fly to this airport regularly, using a mix of brokers and hire companies and although we usually have to deposit the keys at the end of the hire period we have only experienced this problem with the one broker.
Last November we hired two cars in Portugal from Algarve Autos. Both were damaged, some of which was not on the rental sheets. We rang the firm who said "Mark the rental documents ourselves" Luckily their representative walked through the car park and was duly notified. Still unhappy with the vehicles we took photographs of the ALL the damaged areas. We returned the vehicles with no further damage and the same representative accepted the keys after checking over the two cars. Later both couples had 1000 euros deducted from our respective credit cards, without our knowledge or consent, and with no documentation for the deduction. Both credit card companies were brilliant - we supplied the photos, and the original documents and our credit cards were reimbursed. But nothing makes up for the distress.
Barry Fawcett, Stockton on Tees
I hired a car from Hertz in Friedrcshafen in April. We drove two hours into Austria and stayed in Iscghl. Our car was in the hotel underground car park for 6 days, we did not us it again until the return journey back to the airport. One month after returning home my credit showed I had been charged 246 euros (£200) for car damage. I was baffled. Hertz UK contacted Hertz Germany who said that I had damaged the driver's side wing mirror, which was completely untrue. I have been emailing Hertz but they are silent.
Alan Clement, Wimbledon
We had loads of euros left at the end of our holiday so paid the car hire bill in cash. On returning home we were charged again on our credit card as they said we hadn't paid. It took ages to sort out with help from the credit card company who said they have loads of hassle with hire car companies.
Don't pay the insurance excess at the airport as this can double the hire cost of your car. I just got back from Ibiza where a Seat Leon was £107 for the week from Hertz and full insurance was an additional 15 euros per day. You can insure your excess for about £15 for a week's car hire in Europe. I use carhireexcess.com who are excellent but there are a number of other providers.
Steve Wrigglesworth, Chesterfield
When we hire a car, we take out special insurance cover for excess damage charges, which the car hire companies can inflate.
My son and daughter-in-law hired a car from Hertz at Leeds Airport, returning it to Heathrow 2 days later. It was raining when they checked the car at Leeds. At Heathrow they were charged £183 for a new windscreen because there was a small chip. They had taken out the basic insurance but not the super duper one. They paid this but I felt this was a very high charge for something they could not prove hadn't been there. Hertz gave the expected reply that this was policy. I said I was going to discuss it with 'Which?' and they said the complaint would be looked into. I was very surprised and pleased when my son told Hertz had emailed saying this charge was 'a mistake' and they would be reimbursed. .
Mary Morgan, Leeds
I had a similar experience with AutoEuropa in Italy. My Mastercard was debited with over £300, 4 months after the holiday had finished in August 2006. There was definitely no damage to the vehicle and I was livid. I tried every way I could to get the money back - I wrote to the company both in Italy and in the UK - I also pursued them through the credit card company but all attempts were absolutely useless. The next year I tried to avoid paying by credit card - but this was impossible. The woman dealing with my case at Mastercard told me she had hundreds of similar complaints littering her desk. I intend to reopen my claim with the UK European Consumer Centre as I am still very annoyed and there seems to be no way of stopping any future unauthorised removals. I always received notification after the extra money had been taken.
Bridget Carroll, Horncastle
We recently hired a car with Hertz. As BMI cancelled our flight but offered us a flight a day earlier, we had to ring Hertz to ask for a further day added to our booking. The receptionist said I will cancel that and reimburse your credit card. I said I don't want to cancel, merely add an extra day. She said we have to cancel and start a new booking. When our reimbursement arrived on the credit card Hertz had charged us a cancellation fee of £30. No mention was made of this fee at the time I rang. I have complained to Hertz and are awaiting their response.
Margaret Martin, Glossop
I travel regularly to Tenerife and use a firm called Autoreisen. The price they quote is inclusive (no unknown extras or premiums you have to pay when you collect car) and includes complete comprehensive insurance. There is no deposit required. Why can't all firms operate on these principles?
Last year we hired a car from Alamo from San Francisco to Seattle. We paid for a 'Full size' car, but when we picked it up it was what we would describe as a mid-size: we complained to the local representatives and Alamo UK, but they insisted that it what they called a full-size car - despite it being described in the motoring guides as mid-size. Since we were travelling one-way we were also charged a one-way fee, however, (again) we were told that we could only have a car that needed to be taken back to Washington - effectively returning a car for them (which probably explained why we ended up with a mid-size). We have had no luck complaining.
Chris Kidd, Droitwich
We hired a car from Rome airport with Europcar. We've used it before and never been charged for the additional driver, and even with other companies the fee for an additional driver has been about 25 euros. We were staggered to be informed in Rome that we would be billed for £136.29 in charges for the additional driver. It was too late at that point to look for another company - we won't be booking with any company in future that does not set out in advance what the fee will be for the extra driver!
I hired a car in May from Hertz at Shannon airport. I upgraded the car at the terminal, at a price which was 4 times the price of the car I hired on the web. The employee processed the upgrade before disclosing the price and would not then cancel the transaction. On the return of the car, I was then shocked to get a further bill for additional insurance of 200 euros. We were not told of this additional cost when the car was collected. Therefore, I am still current disputing this with Hertz. I do not think it is good practice they can hold you to ransom after the car is returned.
Andy Williams, Andover, Hampshire
Go to your friendly neighbourhood car hire and ask for a copy of the hire agreement. Take it home and (with strong glasses) read it - particularly the part about having to abandon the car on breakdown. You will never hire again.
I flew from Bournemouth to Girona earlier this year and hired a Hertz hire car via Ryanair. I signed for a full fuel tank to return the car full. There is a fuel station on the motorway slip road on the edge of the airport, just a couple of hundred yards from the Hertz compound on the airport. I filled the tank at the end of the hire before my flight and even ignored the notice by the filler cap not to "top-off the tank". I let the trigger stop automatically and continued to round up the payment. Driving to the compound I checked the fuel gauge and it showed full. 2 weeks later I received notification that Hertz had charged 45 euros to fill my tank! A week before my trip my brother, John, had taken exactly the same trip and used Hertz. He filled his car at the same place and he had the same experience and bill!
J Chandler, Dorset
We hired a car in Queensland, Australia for about 3 weeks. We brought the car back early, they checked it, gave us a small chit accepting the car and also credited our Visa card with the cost of 4 days' hire. This credit was further proof that the car was accepted. Two days later I went back because I thought something was left in the car - nothing was found and nothing was said to me. But when the credit card bills arrived it showed the credit for the returned card but the next month's bill showed a $400AUS debit for damage. I contacted Visa who froze it, but finally gave them the money saying that they were entitled to it even though I had a credit from them for returning the car.
Kelvin Cloutter, Bristol
This piece is very timely - we have just had a bill from Sixt for £300 on a hire car in Lisbon that was signed off ok. We are going to dispute it through our credit card provider. What is the point of sign-off and getting the receipt back if they can go and charge you after the fact?
Greig Holbrook, Brighton
I arranged car hire in Sardinia with Hertz, via a link on Ryanair website. The policy seemed like a good deal, but the excess was not specified. When we went to the Hertz counter at the airport to pick up the car we were told the excess was 1000 euros, and that it would be another 25 euros a day to insure against. This would have nearly doubled the cost of the insurance. We thought that a 1000 euro excess was utterly unreasonable and made the insurance policy we had bought pointless as almost anything other than a very serious accident would cost less than 1000 euros to fix. Always to check the excess.
Mandy Lee, Stafford
We paid a full waiver fee so that any accident we had would be covered, and so when the door of the hire car got damaged we did not worry. We also informed the company that it was damaged the same day and asked if we should report it to the police and were told no as no other driver was involved but we reported it anyway just to cover ourselves. The company did not turn up at the airport for handover as we had been told they would. When we then asked why we'd been charged for the damage, we were told it was because we had not reported it to the police!. We pointed out that even though they told us not to we had and we faxed the police report. Nothing happened so we contacted our credit card company and proved to them that we had tried to deal with it ourselves. Eventually they cancelled the amount from out card bill but now, a couple of months later, without any contact the credit card company has again put the money on our bill, so we will have to start all over again.
Mrs Marjorie Grove, Surrey
We have never had a problem with damage to the car, however, we have made 8 trips to Cape Town and on 4 occasions have used Hertz. Every time the price they quoted in the UK was never the price they charged when you got there. We have also had extra charges on our credit card for things that are not relevant.
I always use a broker called Carjet to hire cars in Spain. You get different companies every time but always deal through them. They are fully inclusive so cover everything with no extras. This was put to the test when my son hired a car, had a bump and was charged 40 euros excess by the hire company when he took it back to the airport. One call to Carjet and this was refunded to his bank account within 24 hours.
We hired a van in Kalamata through Economy Hire Rentals in 2006. We were shunted from the rear when stationary at red lights in Athens; called the Police; informed the Kalamata Office by phone; submitted the written Police report together with supporting photos. Visa charged additional 350 euros without any further notification or contact. My representations were totally ignored. The best advice is to stick with major companies and/or take out specific annual insurance (available) to cover yourself.
John Mackie, Stockton on Tees
We had a bad experience with a car hire company in Ibiza. Somebody reversed into our Ford Ka while it was parked in a car park and left no details. It was obvious we could not have caused a bump on the side like that, however as we could not prove anything, when we returned it the car-hire company would not even hear our arguments or inspect it. They just took the extra money directly from our Visa card. It turned out to be one of the most expensive holidays we had ever had!
Rebecca Buttle, Leeds
My wife and I flew to Toulouse Airport in March this year and picked our hire car up from National. It was 10pm, dark and the girl said if there is any damage report it in the morning. I drove to our airport hotel (some 2 minutes away) and parked. Next morning, I checked the car and found some scratches on the rear bumper. I called from my mobile phone and reported them. When I then sat in the car looking at the manuals and setting the seat and mirrors etc, I noticed there was a crack on the driver's side windscreen, in the shape of an L, probably 3-4" long each way and not easily noticeable from the outside. I phoned and reported this as well some 15 minutes later. We had a lovely holiday and when I returned the car a week later, the receptionist confirmed she had a record of the calls reporting the damage. Approximately a week later, I noticed that I had a debit of £342 on my credit card bill. I have since been having a "frank exchange of views" with the car hire company. Eventually, two days ago, I received an email advising that they would be processing my refund - though I have not yet been advised how much it will be! Luckily, I was able to send them my telephone bill showing the date and times of the calls. I felt outraged at what has happened as I felt I had done everything possible to protect myself. I will be very careful about hiring a car in future.
Mark McGeoch, Surrey
We hired a car in Perpignan in France a few years ago through Hertz. We returned the car undamaged to the airport car park, but because it was a Sunday, we had to put the keys in a box as there was no one on duty. We then had £500 taken from my credit card because Hertz claimed the front underside of the car was badly damaged. Despite writing and telephoning Hertz at their head office, they basically washed their hands of the affair, saying if we had an issue with the claim, we had to deal with the individual French franchise in Perpignan. In the end we gave up, but we have never used Hertz again!
We had a hire car after our car broke down in Devon. The car was inspected when it was dropped off but both myself and the person from the hire company missed a gash in the roof which had been previously "touched up". When the car was returned I received a phone call from the hire company saying they had found this "gash" and what was I going to do about it. After a lengthy "discussion" they said they would get back to me. An hour later they called to say a colleague at their office recalled that the damage being done by a previous customer. The details of any damages against a specific car are not held on file centrally so customers could in fact be being forced to pay for damage done by a previous customer and the company bills for the damage twice without repairing it.
I have used Europcar in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, they offer a fully comprehensive policy and in some cases with no excess. I have never had any problems with them. Always ask when picking up the car what's covered! Also ask about the extra cover available, e.g. in Majorca extra cover is required for damage to wheels!
I was charged extra, not for damage, but the car hire company (Dollar) said mistakenly that I had kept the car for an extra day. Thankfully since I had booked a fly drive (through Virgin) I could prove that since I had caught the flight I couldn't possibly have used the car an extra day. I only found out about the charge when a unaccounted sum appeared on my credit card statement some time later. I had to ask what this was for and it took several letters to Virgin to correct things. Even so, there was no apology from Dollar only a letter delivered via Virgin that in the circumstances they would withdraw the charge. No compensation for the time and worry and letters from either Virgin or Dollar. It seems to me that the practice of charging extra without notice or billing is dubious to say the least.
John Parson, Kingston
We frequently hire cars in Italy or Spain for short breaks, usually through Hertz via Ryanair. We find that nearly every time we now receive an additional bill after we get home, charging us for various local taxes. Avis at Bergamo airport demanded an extra charge but when queried, withdrew it as they could not state what it was for! We always feel frustration that the price paid up front is never the final price.
Keith and Carole Scott, Carlisle
I paid £149 for a hire car through Easycar online and took out the additional insurance waiver. When I arrived at Corfu airport, Hertz supplied the car and asked for my credit card to cover any damage that might be caused. I have now been charged 49 euros by Hertz for the insurance waiver which I have already paid for and 49 euros for fuel which I was told was already paid for.
Martin Uglow, Bridgwater
I picked up a car in Calgary, Canada in a dark poorly lit car park from Alamo. Took it back 2 weeks later in Vancouver and they tried to charge me for a chip in the windscreen on the passenger side. My advice to anyone is to never rush when picking up a car - and if the location is poorly lit, check as soon as possible.
Jonathan Rouse, Great Yarmouth
We visit South Africa once a year and hire a car. We do our booking via Airmiles and always get a great deal with all the extras included, fully comp insurance, waivers etc. Collect the car from the Avis depot at Johannesburg International Airport, and have thus far only experienced great service! Friendly, fast efficient service, nearly always getting free upgrades, and have never had any issues when returning the car. They operate a quick drop off, when you and a member of staff check the vehicle, and they have a hand held scanner/printer and issue you with an invoice on the spot. Fantastic. I'd remain a loyal customer for years to come.
Werner Nel, Sleaford
We didn't have a dispute over damage, but when we booked the car hire in the UK, we paid extra to cover us against paying any collision damage deposit. However when we picked up the car in Italy, the car hire company had transferred this hire to another well known company and they wouldn't honour this agreement. This forced me to pay for the collision damage waiver deposit of 400 euros up front and if we had any issues it would be up to us to make a claim against the company in the UK!
We hired a car from 'Budget' in Austria. We touched the kerb with the wheel, which resulted in a 3"scratch on the wheel hub, which we accepted. The company took about 270 euros from our account, apparently for a new wheel! This damage could have been rectified without replacement, and even with replacement we felt the cost excessive. We always take a photograph of the cars when we replace them, and sent this off to the English office. After a few weeks we received a copy of the garage bill, and the matter was said to be at an end. We really felt the garage need not to have replaced the wheel but had no recourse. We now take out the additional 'high cost' insurance every time!
I hired and paid for a car from Europcar via their website 5 weeks ahead of my recent 1 week holiday in Menorca. When I went to collect it at the airport I was asked if I wanted to take out the extra insurance (they call it Super LDW) to cover any excess due in the case of an accident. I said no, but the agent completing the contract put it on anyway. I have used them before and had no problems. The agent printed off the contract and asked me to sign in 3 places. Like a fool I did just that. He didn't go through the contract with me to explain the charges as he was, I believe, required by his procedures to do. I was suckered. When I returned the car in good condition with a full tank etc. they charged me an extra 111 euros for Super LDW taking the full cost for the small car (Merc A180) to over £237 for the week. This is more than double the typical charge for such a rental. I have complained to Europcar but they say I signed the contract so I have to pay. I'm currently disputing the charge with my Visa bank. In future I will always insist on every entry in the contract being explained before I sign but I'll never rent from these guys again.
Stuart Andrew, Oldham
When I hired a car with Avis in Tenerife this April, I damaged the tyre (ripped tyre wall on kerb, total replacement tyre needed, did damage at 2mph while parking, no other damage), returned the car, was issued with a replacement car and signed a damage report for tyre. When dropping the car off at the airport I was charged 306 euros for damage. When questioned about the high cost for a tyre, I was told the car wheel was replaced as well as tyre. When back home I contacted Avis UK, who at first seemed to think as I signed for the damaged tyre, I had to pay the bill, but they did agree to ask for damage report from Tenerife office. Six weeks later I received notification from Avis UK that the Tenerife office had not provided the damage report and I would get a full refund. This week I received the full credit on my credit card. At no time did I involve the credit card company in this dispute. I am not sure if I was just lucky.
Vernon Kukla, Bracknell
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