New happy turn resolves hire car dispute – The Crusader

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He didn’t do that before he now realises and it led to him being caught out over damage to a tyre – something he is adamant he didn’t do but faced paying for.

++ If you’ve been affected by this issue or feel you’ve been a victim of injustice, please contact consumer champion Maisha Frost on maisha.frost@express.co.uk ++

He got in touch with Crusader after his scrap with Enterprise Rent-A-Car UK landed him with a £105 bill, split between the cost of a new tyre and an “administration” fee.

The damage charge was for a 1cm gouge beneath a flap of rubber on the tyre wall that he describes as “not easy to spot at all, only if you bent down and pulled up the flap. It could have been there for some time, the wheel shows no other sign of damage”.

The financial services professional had rented a Vauxhall Corsa for a fortnight in late December through his insurer when his own vehicle was being repaired. 

While he checked the car when picking it up and before returning, he didn’t “scrutinise the tyres”, he admits, adding: “They had also told me about the tyres and beware of curbs and how any damage would be chargeable. I was very conscious of that too. I have a three-year-old son and am a very careful driver.”

After being warned the maximum charge would be his £250 insurance excess, he was told he would “only” be billed for the tyre and was still waiting to hear how much that would be when he first spoke to Crusader.

We took up the matter with Enterprise and it then came back with the £105 charge saying: “Tyres are carefully checked a number of times before a vehicle is rented to a customer as part of our rigorous 25-point vehicle preparation audit. Any damage is immediately recorded. In this case, the damage was significant and required a complete tyre change. There was a slight delay in the process as winter is a particularly busy time of year for repairs.”  

But Matthew’s journey then had a better ending after all because, in a surprise change of heart, Enterprise has since dropped the charge completely. [Matthew’s name has been changed)

Tyres can be a black hole for renters warns Ernesto Suarez, chief of iCarhireinsurance.com, the leading supplier of vehicle hire excess cover which includes the key vulnerable areas such as windscreens, tyres, theft and other damage from £3.49 a day and £27.96 a week.

Now is the moment to wise up, he says. “Foreign travel is returning and the demand for hire cars is going to be high this summer. 

“However, one of the knock-on effects of the pandemic is a shortfall of hire cars which means it’s more important than ever to shop around, book early and save money on the any extras where you can.

“It’s really important when you get your hire car to check it over for damage, and don’t neglect / forget to record the state of the tyres too. Ideally take photos, as having photographic evidence at collection and return can save a lot of hassle in the event of a dispute.

“If you’re concerned about the tyres, one thing you can check is the tread wear indicator. This is a bar between the tread which you can see when the tread starts to wear down. 

“When the bar is the same height as the tread it shows that the tyre needs replacing. If you can see the bar is nearly at the same height it’s worth taking photos of this before you drive away to prove that the tyre was already very worn, but this still might not be enough to stop you being charged. 

 “Unfortunately, tyres are expensive to replace, so it’s worth considering getting car hire excess insurance from a standalone provider, like iCarhireinsurance.com, which already includes damage to vulnerable areas like tyres and windscreens in its cover.”

Avoid the pitfalls with this key checklist from iCarhireinsurance.com

1.   Shop around and consider booking early – There is a global hire car shortage this year, and increased demand as people return to travel, so it is wise to shop around, and book early.  Use a price comparison service or car hire broker to check prices. 

2.   Check location – When booking make sure you aren’t booking from a company at the airport, or near a railway station if you can help it, as these are often more expensive. 

3.   Don’t waste money on unnecessary extras – Make sure you take your sat nav and child car seats with you, and don’t have an extra driver on the policy unless you really need to. These extras, if bought from the rental desk, can add hundreds to the overall cost. 

4.   Excess Insurance – Drivers are liable for the excess amount if a hire car is damaged or stolen, which can be up to £2,000. Excess insurance is important so you don’t spend your holiday worrying if the car might get damaged, but consider buying it advance from a standalone provider, which is normally considerably cheaper and usually offers more comprehensive cover. 

Many hire car companies offer two policies, Super Damage Waiver (£126 on average) and Tyre and Windscreen cover (£36 on average) totalling over £160 week. This is nearly six times more expensive than a policy from a specialist excess insurance provider, like iCarhireinsurance.com, which charges £27.96 for a week’s policy (or £3.49 a day), and which covers damage, theft, as well as tyre and windscreen cover. 

5.   Use a credit card – Use your credit card when booking your hire car to gain Section 75 protection. This means the credit card provider will protect purchases over £100, meaning you could get your money back if there is a problem. 

6.   Check the fuel policy – Make sure you know the fuel policy before you drive away. If you need to return it with a full tank, make sure you do, as the penalties can be expensive.

7.   Mileage restrictions – If you are planning a driving holiday make sure you check for any mileage restrictions so you don’t get caught out.

8.   Check the Vehicle for Damage and Take Photographic Evidence – To avoid unfair damage charges, car hirers should check vehicles thoroughly at pick-up and return, and take photos. iCarhireinsurance.com’s free travel app for travellers, called ‘iCarhire’, takes date and time-stamped photographs which can then be used as evidence in the event of a dispute or claim.

9.   Complain to relevant association – In the event of a dispute with a car rental company in Europe, contact The European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS), but it will only deal with complaints about member companies (usually the larger operators). Also, you do need to have booked directly with the car hire company. In the UK, contact the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) who again can assist with complaints about its members.

10. Clean the car – Anecdotally there are increasing reports of car hirers being fined for returning dirty cars. Try to keep the car in as clean a state as possible and take away rubbish and excess dirt.

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