Don't be duped by rental-car damage claims

Avoid charges for dings and dents you didn't do

Consumer Reports Money Adviser: June 2013

You return a rental car, then get a bill for damage you’re sure occurred either before or after you drove it. That’s exactly what some people said happened to them in complaints posted on online forums and filed with state attorneys general.

What to do

Before accepting a rental vehicle, carefully inspect it with an agent and be sure that any damage is noted on your agreement. Do the same when you’re dropping it off. Also take photos of the car before and after renting, including shots from different angles and of the bumper. And get a shot of the vehicle identification number (through the windshield) in case you’re billed for damage to the wrong car.

Of course, you likely won’t have to worry about legitimate rental-car damage if you purchase the rental company’s collision/damage waiver. But if you have collision and/or comprehensive coverage on your own car, a rental is probably covered, too, though there might be a deductible. Check the terms of the credit card you plan to use; it might provide rental-car insurance automatically, which will cover an entire loss amount or, if you have collision coverage, the deductible. But there are restrictions. For example, vehicles rented for more than 15 consecutive days might not be covered.

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