Return your rental car with a chipped windshield, fender ding or paint scratch? Here's what's to expect: The rental company will file some form of "Vehicle Incident" or "Condition Change" report when you return the car. Then you leave the rental car location and wait while the rental company assesses how much to charge you—and it will always be much more than just the cost of repair.
But Hertz offers a kinder, gentler solution. When there's minimal damage to a rental vehicle at Hertz, there's frequently an option to quickly resolve the claim at the time of return. A member of the AutoSlash team recently ran over a piece of metal debris on a highway and was able to resolve the issue of a damaged tire for just $40. Try purchasing a tire and having it installed at a local tire shop for 40 bucks.
Why You Pay Big for Small Damages on a Rental Car
Damage a rental car and you're basically flapping in the wind while the rental company decides the cost of repair. First, there's the fee to repair the damage. And, since the rental car gets taken out of service while the damage is assessed, there are administrative fees and possible loss-of-use fees for the time the vehicle is out of circulation. This is how small damage claims can quickly become far more expensive when the rental car company decides precisely how much to charge you. (The AutoSlash team has plenty of these stories.)
In most cases, you're relying on your car rental insurance for coverage. It's important to know the provisions of your coverage, regardless of whether you coverage comes from your personal car insurance, a credit card issuer, the rental car company, or a third-party insurer.
In most damage claim cases, a renter relies upon coverage by a credit card or personal automobile insurance policy. Yet the vast majority of credit card companies provide only secondary coverage. That means the credit card issuer will pay up to the renter's personal insurance deductible but only after a claim is filed against the personal car insurance policy. If the damage claim on a rental car is high—even when 's "covered by credit card insurance"—the renter might still get hit with an increase in his or her personal insurance premium.
Hertz's Low-Cost Damage Claim Policy
Rent from Hertz and you might be able to resolve a damage claim on the spot. The program is available on U.S. rentals (except in New York) and only includes small damages that are easily fixed on-site.
Fees for damaged tires start under $40. Windshield chips can set you back $15, while replacing a broken windshield be in the ballpark of $150-$200. Hubcap replacement can cost around $20. Small dents in the bumper without paint damage cost about $30, while repairing scratches can be more in the $75 neighborhood. Smoking is forbidden by all the major U.S. rental car companies and results in a $300 cleaning fee.
Most of the damage fees assessed by Hertz are far cheaper than any alternative you could find elsewhere, because these are all items that the rental car companies deal with on a routine basis. If you get a windshield chip and have the option to pay $15 to make the problem go away or have Hertz file a Vehicle Incident Report, take the car out of service, then send you a bill weeks later, trust us and pay the $15.
- New York State renters are out of luck, regardless of whether the rental starts or ends in New York.
- Put a Dream Car into a curb? The renter will pay full price for damages.
- Accrue multiple small damages that total over $500? A Vehicle Incident Report will be filed and no part of the claim can be settled at the counter.
Eligible to resolve an issue with a damaged rental car at low cost? The quick-and-easy solution provided by Hertz on some rentals in the U.S. might just be the peace of mind you need.
- The damage claim is resolved instantly.
- There's no risk of a protracted battle with a claims department with high costs and surprise fees
- Your personal car insurance company never has to know.
One note: Generally, the on-the-spot repair charges are low enough that it probably isn't worth hassling with filing a claim, but for larger damages for which you want reimbursement, you may want to stick with the traditional claims process that provides a paper trail and documentation. Just remember that you may then be responsible for fees that may not be covered by your insurance provider.
[Image via Shutterstock]