Unfortunately, there are always going to be companies whom are looking to squeeze every dollar possible out of each renter they have. Much like used car salespersons, smaller rental car companies are known for their questionable business practices and “shady” operations. There are a number of methods that they employ in order to get the (in their opinion) ignorant consumer to pay more.
The first is the “accident” claim. Here’s the scenario: You’ve booked a vehicle through XYZ rental cars. You have a confirmation number as well as your printout of that confirmation with you when you pick up the vehicle. Upon your meeting with the rental agent, you are informed that the vehicle was just involved in an accident and that it is no longer available for your rental. A reputable company will provide you a vehicle (typically with a free upgrade if a vehicle is available) or they will offer to find you another vehicle, hopefully at the same price. Unfortunately, with the industry as a whole and margins as tight as they’ve become, rental car companies are no longer paying for the differences in costs. Understand also that a reservation is NOT a guarantee unless the respective company either has taken full payment for the rental or a deposit in order to guarantee the reservation. So how do you combat this? The best thing to do if you are unsure of the company you are working with is to call them before you book and ask what they would do if your vehicle is involved in an accident. If they scramble, sound uneasy, or don’t have an answer, consider renting from somewhere that will guarantee your vehicle – in writing!
The second “scam” is called “bait-and-switch”. This is where the potential renter books a vehicle at one price, shows up to pick up a vehicle and the price is suddenly higher than what was originally quoted. Unfortunately, this happens all too much in this industry. The best way to guard this from happening is by booking online through the companies’ website – if possible. If the company does not accept online reservations and you must book over the phone, make sure that you get a copy of the reservation detailing all charges and totals. Any fees that you are not familiar with or don’t look correct, call and ask. If they are legitimate fees, the company should have a reasonable explanation. Also, make sure you know their cancellation policies before you give any of your credit card information. A little-known fact is that once you provide your credit card for a deposit for a rental or for just securing the rental that you are actually agreeing to all terms and conditions of the company’s policies. If you aren’t aware or you haven’t read them, make sure you do!
The last area where auto rental companies tend to try to “pull one over” is on fuel charges. A majority of the nationwide carriers provide full tanks (which you pay for one way or the other) of fuel when you pick up. Other companies will require the vehicle to be returned with the same amount of fuel as when the vehicle was checked out. Some companies, regardless of the level of fuel when you return will require you to have a fuel receipt proving that you actually fueled the vehicle. The video here details this practice by a major auto rental company. The best way to protect yourself is to save all receipts from fuel as well as taking a picture with your camera or phone of the fuel level when you pick up AND the current mileage of when you pick up the vehicle. This way, by having both pieces of information, you can be assured that you will not be overcharged for fuel.