Fighting bogus rental car charges

Posted at 9:36 AM, May 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-03 22:47:30-04

A Wisconsin couple was told to pay up for damage to their rental car -  damage they didn't cause. There's one thing this family didn't do when renting the car, and it could help you avoid the same bogus bill. 

A Waukesha County family dropped off their rental car and got the all-clear. Three weeks later, there was a bill for damages. Stuck with the charges, they turned to Scripps Investigators for help. 

It was a quick trip to California for the Dettman family. They rented a car from Thrifty for the weekend. The drop off was at the airport in San Francisco. David told us, "the attendant comes over, takes the keys, and does the walk around. Checks the gas, checks the odometer and said 'good to go.'" 

A few weeks later they got a bill for almost $400 in damages; way more than what they paid to rent the car. 

"We had no way of proving that the car was in good shape like we left it," Dave said. 

The third party handling the claim for Thirfty also sent pictures of the damage. Alyson asked for more, "we asked them for additional information, for pictures with a time, date. For the renters that took this vehicle after us. They said they couldn't provide any of that information." 

The Dettman's made calls and sent emails disputing the charges, and then they reached out to Scripps Investigators. A volunteer helped them resolve the issue with Thrifty. "The very next day I got a call from Thrifty, and they said it was all a big mistake," Alyson commented. 

Bogus damage repair claims are concerning according to Ran Hoth, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin. It's not a major source of the car rental complaints coming into the BBB, but damage disputes can be a large dollar amount. Protecting yourself is up to the renter. 

Hoth pointed out "there's not always an inspector there to make sure any damage that may have been done, was done by you." 

Things you should do when renting a car: Take pictures when you pick up the car and drop it off. Don't forget the roof, hood and trunk; and make sure all photos have a timestamp. 

That's something the Dettman's will be diligent about doing, starting with their next trip. 

Wisconsin has received 14 complaints against rental companies in the last two years dealing specifially with charges for damaged vehicles. Only one of those was against Thrifty.

For more information on how to file a complaint or get help if you've been billed for rental car damage you didn't cause: