Budget Rent A Car Still Accused of Scamming Customers
Despite being sold coverage by a franchise group in British Columbia in the event their rental vehicles are involved in an accident, customers of Budget Rent a Car are left feeling deceived and misled after being billed for the full cost for damage to their rental vehicles — totaling in some cases thousands of dollars.
This is not the first time in which franchises of Budget Rent a Car based in British Columbia have been involved in questionable practices pertaining to vehicle damage. In November of 2012, The Gate reported on customers of Budget Rent A Car who accused the company of overcharging them for minor damage to vehicles in British Columbia — and included were at least a couple of accounts by FlyerTalk members who experienced the alleged deceptions personally.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were reportedly investigating the allegations, as the alleged infractions had reportedly occurred in multiple locations.
Apparently at least one franchise in British Columbia is still doing its own repairs on rental vehicles — despite promises to end this practice, according to an investigative article authored by Kathy Tomlinson of CBC News who reported on the plight of Soohyun Shim, a Korean student who rented a vehicle from Budget Rent a Car in November of 2013. His rental vehicle was broadsided by another car in Alberta during inclement weather. Shim was then cited for the infraction of driving too fast toward an intersection.
A representative of Budget Rent a Car allegedly told Shim that he would be required to pay $3,000.00 for damage repairs, because “Budget’s terms and conditions said if the customer violates a law, the waiver he bought is void” — which differs from collision coverage typically offered from providers of insurance. However — since Tomlinson posted that article — Shim will only be required to pay the $300.00 deductible.
The article also documents complaints from the experiences of other customers; as well as questions whether or not Budget Rent a Car reverted to its old allegedly deceptive practices.
Shim apparently did not adhere to one specific piece of advice I listed here on how to protect yourself whenever you rent a vehicle: “While the vehicle is your responsibility, take care to obey all traffic laws.” For your convenience, here is the advice I offered once again:
First, check with your credit card company to ensure that they include rental car insurance as part of your contracted benefits. If for some reason a rental car company claims that you are responsible for damage to the car, it is better to have them challenge the credit card company than your insurance company, which could possibly raise your vehicle insurance premiums as a result — even if the damage was not your fault.
Walk around the car and inspect both the interior and exterior thoroughly. This includes bumpers, grilles, tires, seats, floor mats, the carpeting under the floor mats, the glove compartment, lenses for the lights, trunk — everywhere on and in the vehicle.
If you see a minor scrape, rub it with your finger or cloth to ensure it is dirt and not a scratch. If the scrape is indeed a scratch, record it either by writing down the location of the scrape on the vehicle, or take a photograph of it — or, preferably, do both.
If the car is deemed a no-smoking vehicle, ensure that there is no tobacco odor or ashes in the ash tray — you could be charged with a cleaning fee. Look for stains or other potential damage.
Before pulling out of the parking space, test the equipment. Ensure that the lights, turn signals, radio, windshield wipers and fluid, and other electronics operate properly. This is for your safety as well as your protection from being a victim of fraud.
Report any anomalies you find to the rental car attendant before you leave the facility, and ensure that the attendant records it in your contract, as well as initials the findings.
If the attendant refuses for any reason to officially record and acknowledge the damage — which has never happened to me — either report it to the supervisor of the attendant or patronize another rental car company. Regardless — whatever you do — do not leave the facility with the car, because once you do, you are now responsible for the “repairs.” It will be your word against the word of the representatives of the rental car company when the time for confrontation comes.
While the vehicle is your responsibility, take care to obey all traffic laws. Try to park in places where the possibility of the car getting “dinged” by a careless fellow driver can be mitigated or eliminated. If you find damage caused by someone else and you are certain as to who is the perpetrator, record the license plate of the vehicle in question and call the police to file an accident report. Take insurance information from the suspect, if possible.
Lastly, do not allow yourself to be coerced into being a victim. If you believe you are being scammed by the rental car company, record every detail you can regarding your experience to either contact the corporate office of the rental car company, the police, a consumer advocate organization — or even the media, if necessary. You can also dispute the charges with your credit card company.
During my research for this article, I have found that FlyerTalk members have posted their negative experiences alleging questionable policies and deceptive policies implemented by employees of Budget Rent a Car after I posted the article here at The Gate in November of 2012:
Perhaps it might be best to follow the advice to “please warn your social and professional networks about this company’s practices” of FlyerTalk member JMED33, who was “not trying to be negative, but really… DONT rent from BUDGET!”
To be fair, FlyerTalk members have also had positive experiences from Budget Rent a Car — FlyerTalk member boberonicus had “An excellent experience at Madison”, Wisconsin, for example — and fellow FlyerTalk members have posted negative experiences pertaining to other rental car companies as well. We also do need to keep in mind that people are typically more likely to complain about a negative experience than express a positive experience; but the practices allegedly implemented by employees of Budget Rent a Car seem to be more egregious.
I am not going to advise that you avoid renting from Budget Rent a Car in the future; but as with renting from any rental car company, caveat emptor. Follow the advice listed above and your rental car experience should be fine — and if you have any additional advice, please post it in the Comments section below.