I once made a promise to never write an article when I am angry or when I feel misunderstood and I always stick to it.  So, this article is a personal tip and also a little warning for those of you who regularly rent a car – especially when going on vacation.

My parents have a vacation home in Port Adriano, Mallorca (Spain) and every year they rent a car for at least 5-6 weeks to explore the secret spots of the island. They have been residents on the island for more than 16 years now and are one of the most careful, kindest, honest and diligent people I know. They always park their rental car in their underground garage and handle EVERYTHING with great care.

This year, for the first time in 16 years, my dad became a scam victim. When he was looking for a great deal on different car rental sites, he found the best deal at record rent a car. So he booked it quite some time in advance. Time has past and just a few days before leaving for Mallorca, he checked their website again and saw that they offered a special summer promotion that was much cheaper than the deal he booked – roughly 600 EUR. Thus, he kindly asked, if they could offer him the same deal, especially since he will be renting the car for six weeks. The rental company was very customer-friendly (as it turned it later, not really) and offered him the same summer promotion so that my dad saved a lot of money. Well, at least we thought so.

We have read on the internet that there are so many car rental scams out there, but we never thought, that we might become one of those victims. Car rental companies entice customers with advertised rates as low as a few bucks per day. But when you return the car, your contract winds up totaling hundreds of Euros.

Car rental scam with record rent a car

Here is what happened to my dad. When he wanted to pick up the car, he also received a little note with previous damages. He carefully walked around the car and noticed two more damages that weren’t marked on the sheet of paper. But he insisted that they would add these two as well. Just a little side note: in Spain they drive recklessly and the staff at the airport counter so does not care. Don’t expect them to handle things with great care as you are used to in the US, UK or Germany.

The car was fine – not in the best shape, but it did its job. I can tell you, since I visited my parents and went on several rides with my dad. And just a little note: my dad is a very careful driver, ESPECIALLY in Spain, the car was parked in our underground parking garage and my dad did NOT have any accidents and did NOT cause any additional damages. When my parents returned the car on the date of departure, the nightmare began. Together with my brother, they went to the counter and kindly asked the staff to check the car and confirm that everything is fine. What happened, was extremely rude! The staff REFUSED to check the car and confirm that everything is alright. My dad and my brother were speechless and asked again that they needed confirmation, that everything was fine. The only answer they got was that they should leave the key and that should do it. If they weren’t happy with it, they should write an official complaint. My dad already smelled a rat, but he tried to stay positive and forgot about the incident.

Weeks later he received his credit card notice, which said that the same rental company (record rent a car) charged him with almost 600 EUR for supposedly additional damages. But my dad did not receive any notice from the car company – nothing! They just charged the credit card. I immediately knew there was something cooking. I found it VERY strange that they charged my dad with the same amount of 600 EUR, which they offered him as a dicsount beforehand – which means, my dad saved nothing at all. In fact, it would have been cheaper, if he had booked at a different rental company. And the fact that they REFUSED to check the the car together with my dad and brother at the airport adds to that.

When my dad tried to contact the company, they did not answer at all. We only got a reply when I mentioned them on my social channels. But then it was already too late. We had our lawyer take a look at it and I did some research on the internet to see if there were similar cases. And unfortunately, there are PLENTY cases like ours.

record rent a car sent me some pictures via Twitter (very professional, by the way -> irony!) and claimed that my dad caused additional damages to the car and he did not let the staff know about it. Well, guess, what? We did NOT cause any additional damages. And their staff REFUSED to check our car and confirm that when returning it to the airport.

The pictures they sent me were in poor quality – it shows the plate in one picture and a close-up of the damages. In the first picture you can tell that it was made at the airport due to the reflections.

Besides the fact that we cannot be sure, the pictures of the damages are from our rented car, I can assure you that we did NOT cause them. I can only imagine three things:

a) the damage is in the front, but below the bumper so that you probably would have needed to kneel on the floor to see it when checking for damages beforehand – maybe they tried to cover up an old damage?

b) the staff member who took my dad’s car did not see that it was parked in 1st gear so that the car jumped…

c) it’s a huge scam and they just wanted to get back the 600 EUR, which they initially offered him as a discount.

I actually don’t care, whether it’s a, b or c – the way they handled things is more than poor. Since I know my dad wasn’t the first victim, I wanted to share this story with you and warn you to be extra careful when choosing your rental company!

Here are some additional tips

1. Don’t Buy the Gas

This is probably the best known way car rental companies boost their profits. There are several variations of this tactic, but a common one is that the rental agent offers you the option of buying a full tank of gas at a “reduced” price. Or you can fill up the tank before you bring the rental car back.

Usually, the so-called reduced price falls within pennies of the gas you can buy at a nearby station. And what happens to any unused gas you leave in the car? You guessed it — the company gets to re-sell it at a “reduced” price to the next customer.

Unless you are habitually tardy at airports and risk missing your flight, opt to buy the gas yourself before you return the vehicle.

And be sure you understand what a “full” tank of gas means — or you could be charged a $10 (or more) surcharge!

2. When Upgrades Cost — Just Say No

When car rental companies run out of the class of vehicle you have reserved — as often happens with economy vehicles — they usually offer to upgrade you to a more expensive class for free.

But before they do, they may try to talk you into the upgrade — and charge you for it.

This is a scam. Just say no and get the vehicle you came for. Or, if they don’t have the vehicle you reserved, let them offer you the upgrade for free. After all, it’s rare the car you rented “isn’t powerful enough.” ?

3. Don’t Double Your Insurance

You’re at the sales counter and they ask you: Do you want the insurance coverage? Sounds like something you might need, right?

Not always.

Many times the insurance offered by agents duplicates insurance you already have. And at $30 per day, insurance is one of the biggest fees car rental agencies use to boost your bill.

There are at least four kinds of insurance a car rental company may try to sell you:

  • Collision Damage Waiver
  • Supplemental Liability Protection
  • Personal Accident Insurance
  • Personal Effects Coverage

These coverages are all optional, and in most locations, the company cannot refuse to rent a car to you if you decline them.

If you have comprehensive and collision on your own car, it likely will extend that coverage to a rental vehicle, eliminating the need for a Collision Damage Waiver.

Supplemental Liability Protection is also likely unnecessary. The car rental company already, by law, must carry the minimum liability insurance required and your own policy may provide more coverage. You may wish to get this insurance if you do not own a car.

Personal Accident Insurance and Personal Effects Coverage are usually duplicated in your home, life and health insurance policies.

Important Action: Call your own insurance companies BEFORE you rent a car to find out ahead of time if there is any reason to buy additional coverage. Also call your credit card company. Many credit cards automatically provide car rental insurance as a benefit of using their credit card to pay for the rental — you just need to find out beforehand.

Finally, be sure that any dents or other problems are clearly marked on your contract before you drive away. You don’t want to be charged for someone else’s damages!

4. Taxes, Fees and Other Things Your Rental Company May Not Be Telling You

The base fee on your rental may sound great, but to get the REAL price of that rental, you need to know the state sales taxes, local taxes, airport surcharges and licensing fees. Be sure and ask for these before you make your reservation — or you could be VERY unpleasantly surprised!

A 2005 Travelocity study found that major American airports tacked on an average of 25.8 percent to your total bill in local and state taxes. The worst offender, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, charged a price 66.1 percent higher than their car rental base price.

Likewise, the airport may charge additional fees — such as concession recovery fees and customer facility charges — that can ratchet up the price as much as 10 percent.

Unfortunately, these taxes and fees are hard to avoid — but you should at least know about them in advance. You might avoid these last fees by renting your car from an off-airport location, but make sure it’s worth the inconvenience and any extra transportation expense first.

5. The Fine Print

Some car rental companies charge different rates based on the length of your rental, when you arrive, etc. If your flight is delayed, this can mean your plans — and your rates — change.

Car rental companies used to just look the other way — but now they are more likely to enforce these rules. And these rules are usually buried in the fine print.

So ask them about any charges if your flight is delayed or if there are any other penalty charges — before you rent. Will there be any drop-off fees if you have to change the airport to which you return your car? What about if you need to cancel your reservation? It’s important to understand the costs beforehand so you can make an informed decision.

In summary, car rental base rates sometimes are intentionally low-balled to lure customers to the counter. Don’t be fooled. Get the REAL car rental price before booking a reservation, find out your insurance needs ahead of time, and don’t pay extra dollars for gas or unnecessary car rental upgrades.” (source: scambusters.org)

Well, I hope this helps you for your next holiday trip and again, be extra careful IF you decide to book any promotion at record rent a car!


photo credentials: V’s World