Hertz Returns

In a previous blog post, we mentioned instances where our team members had to respond to damage claims on rental cars. Most rental car companies noting damage will file some form of "Vehicle Incident" or "Condition Change" Report at the time of return, then the renter has to wait until the rental car company decides the cost of repair. The rental car gets taken out of service to create these estimates, so there's a fee to repair the damage, plus administrative fees and even possible loss-of-use fees (for the time the vehicle couldn't be rented). Even small damage claims can become far more expensive when the rental car company gets involved in determining precisely how much it will cost to repair a vehicle.

Then there are also insurance considerations like the ones we mention in our Quick Primer on Rental Car Insurance. Every renter should know the provisions of their coverage, whether through personal automobile policies, a credit card issuer, the rental car company, or even a company dedicated to providing travel insurance. Why? The two most common options a renter relies upon in a damage claim are coverages issued by a credit card and personal automobile policies. Yet the vast majority of credit card companies provide secondary coverage. That means the credit card issuer will pay up to the renter's personal insurance deductible but a claim may have to be filed against the personal policy. Enough damage to a rental car that's "covered by credit card insurance" and the renter might still see an increase in their personal insurance premium.   

When there's minimal damage to a rental vehicle at Hertz, there's frequently an option for the renter to quickly resolve the claim at the time of return. One of the AutoSlash team recently ran over a piece of metal debris on a highway and resolved the issue of a damaged tire with a negligible payment of approximately $40 -- try purchasing and installing a 16 to 18" inch tire for the same amount at a local tire shop! 

Hertz's Low-Cost Payments for Damage Claims 

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 New York) and only includes small bits of damage that are easily fixed on-site.

  • Tires have fees starting as low as $34.32 if damaged. Run over debris with a car sporting 17" tires and $38 settles the debt (prices slightly higher in Hawai'i).
  • Windshield chips are $15 while replacing a broken windshield is $153.
  • Door glass replacements are $186 (for those renting in San Francisco).
  • Wheel covers are $21 and wheel reconditioning is $55 for those who hit the curb hard or dig through ditches (à la Beck).
  • Bumper cover damage is $75, small dents without paint damage are $30, and scratches are $75 (as long as there's no dent).
  • Smoking is forbidden by all the major U.S. rental car companies and results in a $300 cleaning fee.

The price list to resolve some damage claims at minimal costs.

Most of these potential fees assessed by Hertz are cheaper (by far) than any alternative a renter could find because these are all items that the rental car companies have contracts to deal with on a routine basis. If I get a windshield chip from a rock while on the highway and get the choice of paying $15 to make the problem go away OR having Hertz file a Vehicle Incident Report, take the car out of service, then send an inflated cost plus fees back to me and/or my insurers, my personal choice is already made.

The Exclusions

  • New York State rentals are out of luck, whether the rental starts or ends in New York.
  • Put a Dream Car into a curb? The renter will be paying full price for the replacement tires.
  • Have a really bad day and accrue multiple small items that price out over $500? A Vehicle Incident Report will be filed and no part of the claim can be settled at the counter. 

Our Take

Eligible to resolve an issue with a damaged rental car at low cost? We're not able to provide guidance on whether the renter should make a comparatively cheap payment out-of-pocket or rely on an insurance provider to pay a more expensive claim at a later date. However, the offer provided by Hertz on some rentals in the U.S. might just be the peace of mind a renter needs:

  • The damage claim is resolved instantly,
  • There's no risk of a protracted battle with a claims department with high costs and surprise fees, and
  • The personal insurance company never has to know

If we encounter the option of paying a small amount of cash to avoid weeks (or months) of dealing with documentation and insurance companies, we will happily get out of pain fast!

One note: paying the damage fee at return can leave you without some of the documentation your credit card or insurance company may want in order to process the claim, such as repair estimates and incident reports. 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 that you want to be sure you get reimbursed for, you may want to stick with the traditional claims process (just remember that you may then be responsible for fees that may not be covered by your insurance provider).


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