Don’t be afraid to speak up and return a faulty rental car because once you drive off the lot it might be too late.
One tourist learned that lesson the hard way in Washington, D.C. after failing to inform Alamo Rent a Car of a crooked steering wheel and later being slapped with a $1,400 repair bill from Alamo’s parent company Enterprise.
According to News.com.au, Scott Sewell noticed the issue when he first picked up the car but said: “It wasn’t a concern since the vehicle seemed to track consistently.”
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Despite pleading his case to Enterprise’s damage recovery unit after returning the car six weeks later, Sewell was deemed responsible.
“Our cars are thoroughly inspected upon return every time,” the company told him in an email. “If damage was missed and pointed out immediately we would look into it. Our dispute team looked into this, and there was no damage prior to your rental.”
The company threatened to report him to a credit agency and add him to its “Do Not Rent” list if he didn’t cover the cost of replacing the car’s rack and pinion system.
“If you catch even a whiff of a problem with your rental car, return it immediately. That can range from ‘it drives funny’ to ‘this light keeps flicking on.’ A crooked steering wheel is definitely a cause for concern,” said Christopher Elliott of Elliott Advocacy, who Sewell contacted to help him fight the charge after agreeing to pay a lesser cost of $693.
With Elliott’s help, Enterprise eventually agreed to drop its claim, refund the $693 and not report Sewell to a credit agency.
In addition to returning a damaged vehicle upon initial inspection, travelers are encouraged to take before and after photos when plausible so they can prove they aren’t responsible for a preexisting issue.
Sewell’s story had a happy ending but the next person might not be so lucky.
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