One of the most overlooked areas when renting a vehicle is the existing damage report, commonly referred to as a “walk around” form. This is arguably one of the most important documents when renting a vehicle aside from the rental agreement. The walk around form details all existing damage on the outside, the condition of the interior, mileage, fuel level, and check out time/date. It is the ONLY document that you will get to prove that there was existing damage on the vehicle when it was picked up.

Spending more time than necessary when picking up a vehicle is typically not something that anyone that I’ve met wants to do! Whether on vacation, renting for business, or simply renting a vehicle because a need arises for something outside of an vehicle’s capabilities, renters want to get the transaction done and on the road as quickly as possible. This hurry could end up costing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Again, the only document that proves that damage was not done to the vehicle while in the possession of the renter is the walk around form. So, what should be noted?

Each auto rental company has its own standards for existing damage. It should be in writing and descriptive as to the processes and procedures that take place when the company discovers new damage. To stay safe, I recommend doing the following:

  1. Take pictures and/or video with your smart phone and ensure that it is time-stamped and location stamped if possible. Offer to email the video and pics to the company’s manager for records.
  2. Note any and all existing damage on the walk around form. If you feel that the form is not sufficient for your needs, ask the representative from the company for a more detailed form.
  3. Note the fuel level (even if it is fuel) and mileage. Take pictures.
  4. Take pictures and/or note any damages or missing items from the interior of the vehicle
  5. Check the roof – especially if it is not visible from standing alongside the vehicle.

These steps will help to ensure that the return process is smooth and stress-free. Also recall that ANY damage on the vehicle that was not previously noted on the walk around is the responsibility of the renter, regardless of fault. Inspect the vehicle during the rental period, also and alert the company that you are renting the vehicle from if you discover any new damage. If there is new damage and you, the renter, did not cause it, it still would remain your responsibility to make the auto rental company whole. The way to think about renting a vehicle is to assume that you have borrowed the vehicle from a friend. You will want to return that vehicle to your friend the same was as you received it. Granted, you are paying for the vehicle, but the responsibility to return it in the same condition remains unchanged.

Lastly, NEVER try to hide damage from an auto rental company. Not only is this fraud, but every rental company that I am aware of has a clause in their agreement that allows for discovery of new damage even after the vehicle is returned – typically until the vehicle is cleaned as dirt and grime can mask damaged areas. Do yourself a favor and disclose any new damages you’ve noticed at the time of return to the company’s representative. After all, that’s why you have insurance. Trying to “put on over” on the company will most definitely cause them to want to turn over the claim to subrogation instead of handling the claim in-house. In-house claims don’t usually involve additional admin fees, etc, that are added on by subrogation companies in order to make their profits. As always, feel free to email me with any questions or concerns..