Couple falls victim to bogus rental car charges

Posted at 12:00 AM, May 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-03 00:00:56-04

A Wisconsin couple was told to pay up for damage to their rental car -- damage they didn't cause.  There's one thing this family didn't do when renting the car, and it could help you avoid the same bogus bill.

The Dettman family rented a car from Thrifty for a weekend trip to California. The drop-off was at the airport in San Francisco.  

'The attendant comes over, takes the keys, and does the walkaround," David Dettman said. "Checks the gas, checks the odometer and said, 'Good to go.'"

A few weeks later, they got a bill for almost $400 in damages -- way more than what they paid to rent the car.

"We had no way of proving that the car was in good shape like we left it," David Dettman said.

The third party handling the claim for Thrifty also sent pictures of the damage.  Alyson Dettman asked for more.

"We asked them for additional information, for pictures with a time, date, for the renters that took this vehicle after us," she said. "They said they couldn't provide any of that information."

The Dettmans made calls and sent emails disputing the charges. A volunteer at WCPO's sister station in Wisconsin helped them resolve the issue with Thrifty.

"The very next day, I got a call from Thrifty, and they said it was all a big mistake," Alyson Dettman said.

Bogus damage repair claims are concerning according to Ran Hoth, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin. It's not a major source of the car rental complaints coming into the BBB, but damage disputes can be a large dollar amount.  Protecting yourself is up to the renter.

"There's not always an inspector there to make sure any damage that may have been done, was done by you," Hoth said.

Things you should do when renting a car:

  • Take pictures when you pick up the car and drop it off.
  • Don't forget the roof, hood and trunk.
  • Make sure all photos have a timestamp.

That's something the Dettmans will be diligent about doing, starting with their next trip.

Wisconsin has received 14 complaints against car rental companies in the last two years dealing specifically with charges for damaged vehicles. Only one of those was against Thrifty.