Rent A Car, You're Responsible

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

March 2, 2006

The next time you rent a car, you'd better be absolutely sure you're covered for weather damage. Rental car companies will no longer pay for damages done by weather related storms, like hurricanes.

If you're in the market to rent a car watch out for the new policy. Hertz, Budget and Avis are now holding drivers responsible for damage caused by bad weather, from hurricanes to hail.

When asked if the renter should be responsible, car renter Mimi Pohl said, "Absolutely not, I think that's something that a rental company should have already taken into consideration."

Consumer groups agree. "The rental car companies are taking advantage of hurricane Katrina and Wilma to pass these costs onto consumers," said Clarence Ditlow, of the Center For Auto Safety.

When the storm clouds start rolling in, Hertz Rent-A-Car said they want drivers to get out of harms way and take the car with them.

But critics say it's just a way to scare you into paying for what's called a loss-damage waiver.

"Now you're afraid of having to pay $20,000 or $25,000 dollars for your vehicle, should it get destroyed for no fault of your own," said Ditlow.

For about 9 dollars a day the rental companies will take on the responsibility just in-case something happens to the vehicle.

"It just seems [like] that should be covered anyway," said Pohl.

Only two states currently have laws in place that prohibit drivers from being stuck with the cost of storm damage and Virginia is not one of them. But, the Center for Auto Safety is pushing for protection in every state.

"We're going to suggest to every state attorney general that they adopt the language of the California code, and prohibit this egregious, unfair conduct by the rental car companies," said Ditlow.

The companies said the changes were underway before last year's devastating hurricanes. But when renting a car, officials recommend you do your homework, your own car insurance policy may cover damage to rentals.

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