Car rental - Damage to vehicle

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Based on resolver’s experience to date, the key to this issue is to thoroughly check over the car before you take it away on collection. Do this with a member of staff and make sure they note any current scratches or dents and sign it. Take a copy with you and even take photos for extra assurance. On returning the car, get a member of staff to check the vehicle again and make sure that you both agree that there no damage has been done during your hire period. Have them sign this and again, take a copy with you. If you have damaged the car during your hire period, the usual course of action is for the company to charge a repair fee to your credit or debit card at a later date (and without informing you!). If you are not happy with the charge, you should immediately contact the company and produce any evidence you have gathered to support your objection.

It is worth noting that when you hire a car, the price usually includes insurance to cover major damage or write-offs, but you will be expected to pay an excess of around £500 to £1000. This is incredibly annoying if you have only had a minor scrape totalling £500 worth of repairs as you would end up paying the full amount. Rental companies may offer you an added excess insurance to cover this, but they charge a ridiculous amount for it. Instead, try an independent company. The included insurance rarely covers damage to wheels, tyres or the undercarriage so, again, it’s well worth considering an independent policy to cover you. Note also that your travel insurance may well include third party liability claims, so don’t end up paying twice!

If you need assistance with this, resolver recommends that you contact the rental company, for an explanation and, if appropriate, a refund. If you are unhappy with the company’s response, resolver recommends that you contact one of the bodies that deal with car rental disputes. If you booked your car direct with a hire company, the European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS) provides a free service to deal with Europe-wide disputes. There is also the European Consumer Centres Network which will investigate any breaches of European contract law free of charge. For UK rentals, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) provides free assistance with complaints about companies which adhere to its own code of conduct. resolver recommends that you submit your concern in writing to any of these organisations (see their websites for contact details) and resolver can assist you in submitting, recording and reminding you when and who to escalate to.

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You should know

Car rental companies have to give clear terms and conditions, transparent pricing info, and a full explanation of their liability and waiver cover. In fact, all charges should be made clear to you upfront.

You should always take a full inventory and get the car hire company to sign off on everything – even if the company tells you it isn’t necessary.

If you decide to take out extra cover, it’s best to make sure that the cover is in the same name as the lead driver. This could avoid a number of potential pitfalls in the future.

Car hire companies should invoice you for any charges incurred. In some cases, they may debit money directly from your account – they should make efforts to notify you beforehand.

If you do have to dispute a charge, you should always try to do it within 14 days.

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