Essential Guide To Avoiding Car Hire Excess Scams

An Opinium survey of 2000 hire car drivers commissioned by found that only one in three drivers who hire a car check for damage before leaving the lot.

This news is surprising – considering the huge financial losses to be made if you haven’t thoroughly checked your hire car before driving off with it. Not checking your car can lead to claims of damage that are absolutely not your responsibility, but you’ll have no way to prove that you had nothing to do with the damage.

However, if you can’t prove that the damage is not your fault, the financial responsibility will fall to you.

How Does Damage Checking Work?

Before you take the keys to the car you have hired and drive off, it’s imperative that you accurately fill in the form provided to you by the car hire company that denotes any and all damage. This is so that when you return the car and the car is checked for damage, it can be compared to this document – and you cannot be held responsible for anything that has already been noted.

Damage Status Report

The form that the car hire company provides you with before you leave with your car can be confusing and time consuming to fill out. It’s essential that you leave yourself extra time to fill this form in accurately and fully – it will protect you from unfounded claims for scratches, dents and damage that are not your responsibility.

There will be multiple sections covering different parts of the car – the exterior, the interior, and an additional section for accessories. Take note of what has already been filled in by the supplier (if anything), and double check on the physical car for any damages listed.

Don’t Forget These Areas Of The Car

While it’s easy to remember to check the exterior of the car – windows, doors, bumpers, lights and mirrors, there are a number of areas that you are likely to forget to take a look at.

Make sure to check the interior accessories too – is there any damage to the GPS system? The radio? Check things like window mechanisms, especially if they’re manual and not electric. Also be sure to check damage to the floor of the car, as well as to the internal lighters and any fittings such as USB ports.

Also – feel free to take a sniff – does it smell like someone has been smoking in the car? Many vehicle rental companies do not allow smoking inside of their rental cars, so be sure to check that there isn’t a smell of cigarettes or smoking before you drive off with the car.

Carry Out Your Own Checks

Don’t take what’s on the form as given. Once you’ve reviewed the damage they’ve listed, carry out your own checks. If you find any additional dents, scratches or broken accessories, tick them off on the form and draw a circle on the diagrams of the car, showing where the damage is located. Be thorough and write down everything you see – even if you think it’s just a mark that will probably wash off!

Before And After

Luckily, most of us carry powerful cameras in our pockets these days. Before you set off, take photographs of both the interior and the exterior of the car, as well as any and all accessories provided with the car. Make sure they are clear – especially any images of pre existing damage to the vehicle.

Taking photographs of the car that have an accurate time associated with them helps to act as pre-emptive protection, in case you are held accountable for damage you have not caused. To this end, make sure that when you return the car, you also document the very same shots of the car – interior, exterior and accessories again.

Getting Signed Off

The form that you have filled in, and documented all prior damage to the vehicle (or a lack thereof), should then be signed off by an employee at the vehicle hire company. This is essential – especially where pre-existing damage exists. Have an employee of the company look over the form, visually match up any damages and sign the form, confirming the existence of the damage. This is especially important to protect you from claims against you – whether or not you cause damage.

What Happens If You Damage The Vehicle?

If you do end up damaging the vehicle – whether it’s a small dent or just a scratch, the before and after photographs, as well as the damage report form are still essential. These documents and photographs will ensure that you are only held responsible for the damage you caused, and that pre-existing damage, scratches and dents are not added on to any claims against you. It’s stressful enough when you’ve made your own mistake, without being held accountable for other people’s damage too.

Don’t Be The One In Three

The survey carried out by car hire insurers came back with surprising results – that one in three renters don’t pre check their hire vehicles for damage. While it’s natural to want to get on with your day, and filling in damage report forms and taking photographs can be cumbersome, it’s really essential that you empower yourself in any way that you can.

Documenting the damage in advance, checking every nook and cranny – will protect you whether you’re in an accident or not. Protect yourself – be part of the two in three.