Why You Should Film Your Car Rental Before Driving Off The Lot
Renting a car can feel like life and death, especially these days when prices are high, people aren’t used to traveling and every company is seemingly short staffed. So much stress! And then what happens when something goes wrong? I recently had exactly that happen and I quickly “won my case” to save $17.46. Oh yeah! This is just one example of why you should film your car rental before driving off the lot.
The reason I am writing this is because someone recently posted about a bogus charge from a car rental company in our MtM Facebook community (link to group). That person was charged a bunch of fees because the car didn’t have a front license plate when it was returned. He claims the license plate was never there, but he has no evidence.
Video Tape Car Rental – When & Why
One thing I started doing a long time ago is taking a quick video of my car rental in a couple of scenarios. First, if I am at an airport with plenty of cameras, etc. I simply inspect the car and ensure there isn’t any damage. If there are some minor scratches or dings I’ll take a picture of them, but these are generally never an issue and I don’t do a video, but I probably should since it only takes a minute.
Outside of U.S. airport rentals though I take a video of the car front to back and top to bottom. Cell phone cameras are very high quality so a quick sweep of the entire car in 4K does a pretty good job. (Turn on your phone’s video flash if it is dark!) If there are some real trouble areas then I take photos of those to have a better look. I started doing this when I hacked my Mexican Car Rental and have done it ever since.
Always Document Damage
Before I move on to how I “won my case”, I should mention if there is ever any damage you are nervous about then ABSOLUTELY 100% get it documented before you leave the lot. Never be shy about asking them to ACCURATELY document any damage (no matter how small) you are uncomfortable with. But sometimes you miss stuff or aren’t aware of what you should be looking for. That is when video can be your friend.
A Fuel Discrepancy – Saved by Video
In my recent case I rented a car from National Car Rental in Miami Beach. When I got there luckily there wasn’t a line, but when I was done there were 4 people behind me. I was given a specific car and there was no exit agent in this small off-airport location. My paperwork also strangely didn’t have the car’s mileage (luckily I had unlimited) or the gas. That was the problem.
Given that this is a city location they don’t fill up the cars and the car I received only had 1/4 tank. I noticed this wasn’t documented on my paperwork (there was no fuel level noted) so I headed back to the desk to find the 4 people who were behind me waiting for that same single clerk. I wasn’t going to take more of his time, so I decided to leave. Before I did though I made sure to video the car, the fuel indicator and in the same video a bit about the garage to prove I was there when I filmed it.
A Sneaky Return to National
Upon returning my car in Tampa, the National agent scanned the windshield, verified everything and handed me my receipt without saying a word. I had brought the car back with 3/8 of a tank which was more than it had when I rented it, but he had stuck on a fuel surcharge for returning the car below the fuel level. Apparently Miami Beach said it was at half of a tank. Ugh.
Of course this kind of stuff happens when you are running late for a flight and don’t have time to do anything to fix it. I did bring it up to the agent on the spot and I showed him the video, but he was powerless to fix it. He said he needed to wait for his supervisor to return, but he would notate it and I would “get an email correct” within the hour. That never came.
Thankfully National has pretty good customer service and an email inquiry got them to refund my money without even having to send the video. Perhaps he notated it or maybe they just felt sorry for me, but I was happy for this little bit of customer service in the end.
Why You Should Film Your Car Rental – Bottom Line
Renting a car can be stressful these days, but there are ways to ensure you can take some of the stress out of it. Always make sure to notate and document any damage you are uncomfortable with and film some video for evidence later. Maybe it is a waste of 2-3 minutes whenever you rent a car, but it could save you tons of headaches later. And of course the videos become memories of the time you spent in that rental. Ah. Memories.