Planning on renting a car in Ireland? Be careful. Multiple recent news stories indicate that the island synonymous with hospitality has also developed a nasty reputation for ripping off rental car customers. Here's how to avoid getting stung.
Car Rental Rip-Offs at Irish Airports
A December 2018 article in The Irish Independent newspaper reports that some rental car companies at Irish airports have been running a scam in which they charge customers for damage to a rental vehicle where in fact there is no damage. Customers have come forward to report how they were charged for damage they claim they did not cause and have complained how they were left with no option but to pay as they had a flight to catch within hours.
Other customers took out full coverage insurance only to learn that it doesn't include damage to wheel rims. At Avis at Dublin Airport, one traveler was told he was being charged €130 ($149) for a scuff mark on the sidewall of the left front tire. Another renter was charged €969 ($1,112) by Hertz at Dublin Airport for scuff marks on tires of the Audi he rented. He had also taken out "super cover" insurance with Hertz but was later informed that this insurance damage to the rims of the wheels.
An October 2018 article in the same newspaper reports multiple claims by renters of being charged with 'mystery damage' they did not cause.
How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off for Rental Car Damage in Ireland
A big lesson from these cautionary tales is that the renters who were able to successfully appeal damage claims had photographic proof that the damage did not in fact exist. If you're accused of damaging a rental car, it's not good enough to claim you didn't do it. You will need visual proof.
The best way to avoid being scammed by a fraudulent damage claim is to follow these steps:
- When you rent a car overseas, always pay with the credit card that offers the most comprehensive rental car insurance benefits. If necessary, pay down the balance on this card before your trip so that you can use it for the rental car. In the event of a claim, you will want robust coverage.
- When you pick up your car, take a few minutes to look over the car before driving away. Get out your smartphone camera. Take pictures of every dent, ding, and scratch on the vehicle's exterior and interior. Take photos of the wheels and the windshield. No pucker, crack or scratch is too small to document. You could be held accountable for those dents later on. Unless the car is brand new, there will likely be some damage you'll want to capture. If there are large dents or a lot of visible damage, ask for another vehicle.
- Before you drive away, document all scratches and dents in writing. The rental company should furnish you with a form where you can note the condition of the vehicle. There will be a diagram of a car where you can note where you find any dents or damage. Do not drive away before getting an employee to sign it and be sure to take a copy for yourself. (Take a photo of the form before relinquishing it, just to be safe.)
- When you return the car, take another round of photos of the car's exterior and interior. Cover the same ground as you did when you picked up the car and pay attention to the windshield and tires. Ideally, the before and after photos will be identical.
- Return your car with time to spare before your flight leaves. Ask the car rental agent to walk around the car with you. Use the inspection form you filled out when you picked up the car and ask the employee to sign off, confirming that the car was returned in the same shape as when you picked it up.
- When you get the chance, download your photos to your computer or upload them to the cloud for safekeeping. You might receive a bill months after you've returned home, so don't discard these photos until six months have passed since your trip. Car rental companies rarely if ever file a claim after six months.