How to Screw Up a Car Rental

Lessons Learned:

  • Credit Card Rental Insurance is not as clear cut as all these travel blogs make it look.
  • Responsibility to pay for damage is yours – regardless of fault – if you rent a vehicle.
  • Rental Agreement must have same name as name of purchaser, especially if paying with points.
  • Avoid Oahu, Hawaii Towing Lot Mafia
  • Avoid Hertz
  • Know Uninsured provision of personal rental insurance.

Story:

I landed in Oahu with the intention of exploring the city for three days on foot/public transport, and then renting a car for couple days to explore the rest of the island.  The plane was booked to leave in two days, so I thought it would be easy just to drop off the car on the way out of town.  So the story begins.

Day 1:

My dad, having the same Chase Sapphire Rewards Card as myself, had Chase Reward Points he had available for the rental.  So, the reservation at Hertz was made with his points.  Showing up at the rental location, it dawned on me that I was going to drive the rental.  Insurance requires the rental agreement to have the names of the driver.

Can you change the name on the rental agreement to me?, I asked.

Sure, came the reply.

Good to go, I drove back to the hotel, only to find the parking garage full.  So, I decided to explore the area to see if I could find another spot.   Soon, I spotted a street with a number of vehicles parked on it.  Then, a spot under a street light came into view.  Perfect I thought, under a light to discourage theft, and not paying for parking is a plus too.  I parked.

Day 2:

Walking over the spot I parked at the next morning, no car!  I did a double take and immediately called the police.  The answer was that there had been an accident during the night and that the car was in a junkyard/salvage lot where damaged cars were usually towed.  I then proceeded to call Hertz.  There response was that of confusion as apparently I was the first to tell them the news.  Odd.

After a long hold and phone tag, they told me where the vehicle was located at and that I could go to pick it up.  So, I called an uber and $30 and 30 minutes later I ended up at the junkyard/salvage lot.  I walked up to the counter to discover an individual who could barely speak english requesting $220 to get the car off the lot.

Confused, I called back Hertz.  Now they tell me that this charge is standard charge and has to be paid.

Me:  Can you pay the charge?

Hertz:  Yes, but we have to tow it to our location.

Me:  Why didn’t you tell me this before I took the uber over here to pick the car up?

Hertz:  You can either pay and bring the car over to us, or let me try to call a tow company to come pick it up.

Me:  Ok, how long is that going to take?

Hertz:  One second.

(five minute hold)

Hertz:  about 4 hours.

Me:  What?  It’s already 90 degrees.  So I either Uber back to hotel and over to the airport to get a rental in 4 hours or wait?

Hertz:  Yes.

Me:  (thinking in my head)….I have the car from now (about 9AM) to 6 PM tomorrow and this is it for Oahu.  Sounds like I don’t have a choice if I want the rental.

Me:  Ok – I don’t have much time, I’ll pay and try to bring the car to you.

Walking up to the counter, I then discovered that cash was the only way to get this vehicle.  After all, why would the junkyard company want to pay taxes!  Disgusted, both at the policy, and the foreign speaking banter behind my back on the other side of the gated window, I tried the ATM.  Bad news, the ATM was conveniently out of cash!

I laid down the bench and tried to imagine a worse start to the day.  This is paradise!

Then, the phone rang.  It was Dad in panic mode, “I left my wallet in the car!”

After waiting for about 20 minutes, I rode the forklift over with Gomer Pile from Mayberry to unbury my car, which was of course 2 cars deep in their lot.

Found the wallet, and cash inside.  Ironically, this may enough to get me to $220.

Wrong.

Total was $215.

Of course, the towing manager would not strike a deal.  After calling Hertz and doing an angry back and forth, Gomer Pile came to my rescue and gave me $5 worth of quarters to help me out.

I drove back the car to Hertz.

Day 180

No joke.  I filed a claim with my Chase Sapphire Visa Card and after about a dozen emails, literally a dozen emails if not more over the course of 6 months!, the tell me the following:

“Since there was no charge on your rental and the rental agreement showed $0 charged, coverage defaults back to the individual who booked the rental, which was your dad.  Since your dad’s name was not on the rental agreement (switched remember because I thought that was the right thing to do), your claim is denied”

Yes – 2 individuals that have the same credit card – but, because I switched the rental agreement to my name, no dice.

I am told this is one of the most frequent reasons for coverage denial.

Day 190

Now received a collections noticed for $12000 from Hertz.  Yes, they were going to go after me.  They said I was responsible for damage.

What?  A drunk runs into my car while I’m sleeping and gets multiple citations and I’m at fault.

Their response:  The rental agreement requires the renter to pay for any damage, regardless of fault.

Day 195

Now filing through personal insurance, which was Farmers.

Day 200

Response from Farmers is that I owe $1000 deductible.  Come to find out, that deductible still applies even if I’m not at fault.  However, the police report showed the drunk to be uninsured.  Thus, after bringing up this point with Farmers, they changed my claim to that of the Uninsured portion of my policy.  Result:  $0 deductible.

Hundreds of mental headaches and countless wasted hours.  So, be careful when renting that rental car!  Make sure to know the policy of whatever insurance contract you are using.  Choose your rental company carefully.

Topping on the cake:  Never reimbursed for out of pocket $220 towing charge.

Any questions?