Chevrolet Lanos LS rental car in Egypt Avis
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Stupid Tip of the Day: Have Vehicle Damage Officially Recorded Before Leaving the Rental Car Facility

“It really only takes under 1 minute to video around the car and zoom in on anything that you may be charged for after the fact when a rental company says ‘you’ did this to the car. The only mistake I made was not panning the camera up to show I was still at the airport and the slot the car was in (will make sure I do that next time).”

Stupid Tip of the Day: Have Vehicle Damage Officially Recorded Before Leaving the Rental Car Facility

You can indeed potentially save yourself time and trouble with this advice which was imparted by René deLambert of René’s Points earlier today; but that in and of itself is not enough: spend a few extra minutes with the agent at the rental car facility to actually officially record any anomalies by writing and initialing them into your contract, as doing so may potentially become costly issues — in terms of both time and money — upon returning the vehicle.

Also, gently rub your finger or use a cloth against a small anomaly, as sometimes a simple spot of dirt or dried mud can emulate a chip in the paint. Officially reporting something which is not a problem after all makes no sense.


This quick word of advice is merely a reminder of one of 13 tips on what you can do to prevent yourself from being scammed by a rental car company, with which you can find additional information on saving yourself from potentially significant hassles with renting a vehicle.

Keep in mind that some car rental companies are more stringent than others. I find renting from Hertz, Avis or National Car Rental — although you can certainly have problems with them as well — to be a significantly more pleasant experience than Thrifty Car Rental, Alamo Rent a Car or Dollar Rent A Car, which I attempt to avoid…

…as well as more pleasant than my experience with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, with which I learned not to return a vehicle after hours — especially during a weekend.

Your car rental experience will be uneventful most of the time; and if you are asked to pay more than you should, it will most likely be due to an honest mistake on the part of the employee of the rental car company. However, all it takes is one time to be scammed — and if that happens to you, the cost in terms of time, effort and money can potentially be enormous. Do yourself a favor and be fully prepared before your rent your next vehicle, as with renting from any rental car company, caveat emptor.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.


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  1. It may also be worthwhile to note that renting outside of the USA may come with more stringent rules and risks. I recently rented from Hertz in Scotland and was charged over $300 in damages for a scratch that I have previously been told in the USA is just normal “wear and tear”. If I had been given a form that use for a car inspection I would have ignored this scratch. I always use Amex to rent cars because they give the consumer the benefit of the doubt at the outset, and I also use the Hertz Gold connection with the Amex Biz Platinum so I expect that they may consider that while investigating the charge that I have since disputed. I took pictures after the fact, but I will definitely video the car prior to leaving the lot in the future.

    1. Thank you for imparting your experience, Mark McClenney.

      My experience also indicates that rules and risks are generally stricter outside of the United States; but that could also vary by rental car company or facility as well.

  2. Most of what Rene says is a decent idea, but at the end of the day amounts to nothing but a forum to push his own agenda, credit cards.

  3. Any great ideas for rentals in MIA or FLL where you are essentially indoors and the light is not sufficient?

    1. The first thing which came to my mind, Charles, is that many cameras and smartphones are equipped with some sort of flash or flashlight capability built into them.

      The official documentation of the issue recorded in the contract by an agent of the rental car facility is the most important assurance that problems will be averted later — or, at least, minimized. Recording the visual aspects of potential problems with photographs or video helps to bolster your case in the event of a dispute.

  4. Actually, just mark ANYTHING that looks amiss on the rental. You don’t have time or the expertise to determine what is simple wear and tear. They won’t penalize you for marking something that is just dirt but they can charge you for something you don’t mark. I take the time to do this every time and have not had problems, even at facilities where commenters say they are scammers.

    1. That would especially be true on cars which are dirty, Donald Osborne — but on the car I recently rented in Calgary, for example, there were a few questionable spots which took seconds of my time to determine whether or not the suspected anomalies were actual damage to the vehicle.

      Besides, I have found that whenever I walk around the car with an agent to inspect it prior to renting it, he or she performs the same action anyway — so doing it myself can actually save me some time…

  5. All good tips. I prefer to just take photos of all sides with license plate in photo. Photos can be zoomed in on and additional closeup photos. They are generally time stamped.

    If you rent a car from a person that doesn’t speak your language just walk around the car and point out all the defects and they will understand.

    If in Ireland use Dooley as they are super fair on these issues but don’t forget to take photos of the mirrors. Sometimes they are broken and not noticeable at first glance.

    Picking up a car in the dark, rain, ice, snow, etc. is also a problem as well.

    In addition if your rental car gets damaged at a valet they can be limited on how much they are responsible to pay in some jurisdictions. Make sure to provide them with a copy or your rental contract if they damage your car so they can fight about this between themselves. Organized valets like at resorts, big hotels, etc. have systems that video all sides of the car as you drive into the driveway so they can document pre-existing damage as well.

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