Poll: Do you inspect your rental car?

When you’ve traveled for work for many years like I have you tend to take certain things for granted. For example, Iscratch repair assume I’ll have WiFi at my hotel, that my carry-on will fit in the overhead bin, and that my iPhone or car GPS will get me to my destination accurately. And for the longest time I took for granted my rental car wouldn’t have major damage when I turned it in. Of course, this wasn’t always the case. When I first started traveling I would carefully search my rental car from bumper to bumper to ensure I wouldn’t be held responsible for someone else’s damage. However, after renting cars for almost a decade without an incident I started to see it as an unnecessary process. That is, until my trip last week.

I landed in New York after (yet another) delay, hungry and tired. The rental car shuttle took about twenty minutes to pick us up (not great but definitely better than the 45 minutes it took last time). By the time I got to my rental car I was exhausted, but had a 35-minute drive to my final destination. It’s my habit to take a quick glance at my car to make sure there are no obvious defects, but this time it just didn’t happen.

After three days of driving all over White Plains NY and the surrounding areas I made my way to JFK to drop off the car. Typically this process takes about two minutes—the Hertz person asks me how my rental was, if I refueled, and if I want to leave the charges on my credit card, and that’s about it. This time, however, things were a little different. I had my bags out of the car and ready to go when the Hertz employee said, “When did this damage happen?” Whaaaaa??? Surely the lady must be wrong. But nope, sure enough there were scratches on the passenger side all the way from front to back. I know I didn’t make those marks, but I have no clue when they were made. I barely remember looking at the passenger side at all during the three days I had the car, much less carefully inspecting it for damage.

Ugh. So instead of the quick two minute return I was expecting I had to spend twenty minutes filling out some forms. Not a ton of time in the grand scheme of things, and I had built in a time cushion since I’m very slow right now, but it was time I was not expecting to spend. When I got home and was recounting the story to my cousin he said, “Oh wow, I always look at my rental car before I get into it, every time.” Well yeah, of course he does, because he works for an insurance company and handles a lot of auto claims. But it made me wonder—do other people carefully check out their rental cars, or are people more like me?

Do you inspect your rental car before you get in?

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Comments

  1. I’ve gotten in the habit of walking around the car, running video on my cell phone, looking for obvious issues, but assuming the video will show any damage after the fact if need be. I also catch the mileage on the odometer on the same video to prove when it was taken.

  2. I am so anal about this that I make an employee sign my ding sheet. Be sure to check the fuel level and for current registration before leaving. Check the front valance very carefully as many people run into curbs and parking stops with those low hanging fruits called valances.

  3. Because of an incident that happened when I returned my car to the Atlanta airport, I take photos of the entire car before leaving the airport. A few years ago when I had returned the car to ATL, as I was getting my luggage out of the trunk, the rental clerk yelled and asked me “what happened to the front of the car”? I told him “nothing happened to the front of the car when I was in the car” and went and looked at the front. I went and looked at the front of the car and there was no “visible” damage. I told him, “there’s no front end damage”, and he said “look UNDERNEATH”!!! Who looks “underneath” their rental car when they’re checking it?!?! NOW I DO. That bottom part that’s set back from the front that you have to practically stand on your head to see underneath had a small V-shaped impression in it. I denied that it happened when I had the car or I would have known it. The clerk continued to write up the damage form. The next week, I received a claim from the Rental Car Company. I appealed and WON! But I’m very careful about checking for any damage now including small chips in the windows.

  4. I answered “Other” in your poll. I inspect it every time and I usually take photos with my phone. The worse the car is or the more third world the location the more photos I take. The photos are time stamped in my phone just in case. I also sometimes take a phone photo of the miles and fuel level.

  5. If you don’t inspect the care before you leave the rental car lot they will probably “know” you are the one to be blamed for the previous dents, dings and scratches on the car. I am not saying they will have an “X” on your profile saying you did not inspect the car but you will be an easy target. Two things that happened to me that were kind of extreme:
    1) Rented a car from Alamo in Hawaii. It was 10:30PM, very dark parking lot, two grumpy kids after 13 hours flight including connections. I loaded the bags on the car and was ready to leave when the attendant came and said: Make sure you check the car for every scratch, dent, ding, etc… now. If it is not noted in your rental sheet now you will be charged for all damages that are not listed when you return the car. WTH!!!! How am I supposed to see all damages on a dark car in a very dark parking lot? I did my best and when I returned the car nobody bothered checking it;
    2) Rented a car from Hertz in Raleigh last week. The car had almost 60k miles and dents, dings and scratches all over it. The entire roof of the car had scratches. I told the attendant and he responded: Oh, don’t worry. We don;t charge for scratches. What??? I made him note that the entire car had scratches before I left the lot.

    Be very careful otherwise it will cost you.

  6. I take video or photographs inside and out with my iPhone both when I pick the car up and when dropping it off.

  7. Wow. I have never ever looked at a rental car before driving off. I have never had an issue either. But I think that I will begin taking a quick video of the exterior and dashboard. I am stunned.

  8. I always take a video on my cell phone and include the roof and undercarriage. I carry a small flashlight to help highlight areas. I take one video when I pick the care up and one when I drop the car off (to show I’m leaving it in the condition I found it).
    It’s like using a seat belt. You normally don’t need it, but when you do need it you’re glad it’s there.

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