The Best Way to Negotiate for Rental Car Damage

Don't pay an unfair rental car claim.
Don't pay an unfair rental car claim. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

If you’re heading out of town for a vacation or need a rental car while your vehicle is being repaired, it’s important to understand what options are available if the car is damaged while in your charge. Rental car companies have policies regarding how damage is reported and claimed for reimbursement from you. However, in most cases, rental car companies are willing to reach a resolution, especially if you act fast.

Be mindful of any damage, including superficial scratches, during the walk-around inspections at the start and end of the rental process. According to a Washington Post article headlined “Ding or Damage? Car Rental Dispute Is a Cautionary Tale,” it’s important to point out scratches when you rent a car and when you return it. A document of damage prevents incorrect claims against you later.

Contact the rental car company immediately. A delay in reporting the damage could result in an immediate claim and/or a refusal by the rental car company to negotiate the cost of the damage.

Argue that pre-existing damage led to the repair. For example, explain that a chip in the windshield expanded into a crack. Show proof of damage or provide a written account of when you first noticed the chip. Explain that you cannot afford to pay the claim, and request a waiver for all charges.

Report any superficial damage to the vehicle as everyday wear and tear. Depending on the company, the check-in employee may not issue a claim for small scratches and insignificant scuffs on bumpers.

Request a copy of the check-in report. If the company clears the vehicle of any damage but later files a claim saying the vehicle is damaged, you can reasonably argue that the damage was not identified during the final inspection and cannot be linked to you. In other words, argue that the company cannot charge you for any subsequent damage because it cannot prove you are responsible.

Tips & Warnings

  • When negotiating, play up the number of years you've been a loyal customer. Explain that you want a fair resolution so the damage does not jeopardize your relationship with the company.

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