Be Careful About Returning Rental Cars After Hours…
I rented a car on a Saturday for 24 hours from a local office of Enterprise Rent-A-Car not far from where I am based for me to take a day trip where the destination is four hours away — meaning I was to spend approximately eight hours driving in a car.
Be Careful About Returning Rental Cars After Hours…
When I went to return the vehicle at the office on Sunday, it was closed; so I figured I would drop the keys off in the drop box located on the left side of the entrance to the office…
…until I read the words at the bottom:
“Vehicles returned after hours are the responsibility of the renter until inspected on the next business day.” I felt uneasy after reading that statement.
I never was completely comfortable with the rare occurrence of returning a vehicle after hours at a rental car facility at an airport — most of the time, I rent cars from airport locations which are open 24 hours per day, seven days per week — but at least airport locations are usually secure. I thought that there might have been a secure location — perhaps in the back of the building — where I could return the car; but alas, none existed.
People rent and return vehicles during off hours, I thought to myself. This probably happens every day without incident. There is nothing to worry about, as nothing will probably happen…
…but what if another car damages this car after I leave but before the office opens, I wondered. After all, the only place where I could leave the car I rented was in an open parking lot. I would then be responsible for paying for the damage — although the credit card I used would have most likely covered the damage.
Even worse: what if the car was stolen? That scenario concerned me more than just mere damage to the vehicle — and that is apparently what happened to a woman from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia back in October of 2013.
At the conclusion of the rental of a Ford Mustang, Kristen Cockerill dropped the car off at an Enterprise rental facility on a Sunday and deposited the keys in a secure drop box.
The keys were safe and secure in the drop box, all right; but apparently the car was not safe, as the vehicle was determined stolen — between the time Cockerill dropped it off at the office before it opened for business the next day — as the result of an investigation by police.
Cockerill eventually received a bill from Enterprise for $47,000.00, which purportedly was the replacement value of the Ford Mustang. She wound up not having to pay that bill after all — but not without enduring extreme stress.
What if that happened to me?
My thought process was that because the office was closed, the car probably could not be rented — and that thought process of course could have been erroneous, as I do not know what employees of Enterprise Rent-A-Car do on a Sunday while the office is closed: do they move cars around between different locations? Regardless, I decided to keep the car an extra day for peace of mind where I know it will have a greater chance of being safe, knowing I would have to pay for an extra day.
When I returned the car to the office just before it opened the next day, I tried to explain my concern and reasoning to the staff there both in person and the office manager via telephone later that day. I politely attempted to negotiate with them — but they remained steadfast about not removing the charge for the extra day.
I can understand their point of view: what is to stop someone from purposely renting a car on a Saturday and getting two days out of a rental and paying for only one day?
Regardless, that experience did sour me on renting from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. There is an office for Avis literally several hundred yards south of the office of Enterprise — and here is what is printed on the door:
“No After Hours Returns” — and it is open for a few hours every Sunday. Clear. Straight. To the point…
…and the next time I needed a rental car locally, I patronized the Avis office. The staff were friendlier; the vehicle was better; and the rental rate was less expensive. How can you beat that combination?
Well, I never returned to that office of Enterprise Rent A Car; nor have I rented a car from the company since then — not out of anger or frustration; but rather because the competition offered a better experience for me. I do admit that I should have assessed the entire rental situation from the beginning and the potential problems which could occur, as I typically do; but if the staff of that local office of Enterprise Rent A Car could have worked with me even just a little bit, I would have gladly given priority to rent from that location again in the future without the need to seek out their competition. It was not the first time I rented a vehicle from that Enterprise office.
They certainly were not obligated to work with me, of course — they did not owe me anything or do anything wrong — but it would have been a nice gesture for them to do something to keep my business. That is what I would have done if I were the manager, anyway. Perhaps that location is busy enough that they do not need my business; and that is fine…
…but I am relating my experience to you in case you already did not know: try not to rent a vehicle where you must return it to an unsecured area at a time when the office is closed, as you just might be taking an unnecessary risk. If that does happen and you are uncomfortable, then consider adding a day to the duration of time you plan on renting the car — or consider renting the car at a different time, if possible.
At the very least, ensure that you rent any vehicle with a credit card which covers your rental in case of damage. Be aware that the rental car coverage offered by many credit cards is considered secondary — meaning that your primary automobile insurance would pay for damage first.
I have probably overthought this whole experience, so I will ask you: have you ever had problems returning a vehicle to a rental car facility during off hours when its office was closed? What has been your experience?
All photographs ©2013 by Brian Cohen.