Rental Car Horror Stories

rental car horror storiesBad lodging, getting personal valuables stolen, being sick, or having car troubles – these are all things no tourist wants to deal with while being on vacation.


Rental car horror stories commonly involve issues like dubious damage claims, people getting ripped off with insurance, and cars not being ready when you try to collect them. Read on to discover some truly unfortunate rental car horror stories.


Comprehensive Insurance Lies


Every time you rent a car, you’re faced with the same dilemma: do I get rental car insurance and admit I may wreck this car and that I am a horrible driver, or is this insurance a total rip off that I, don’t need? David Mayes shares his story:


During the process of hiring a rental vehicle, I never anticipated I would practically end up paying for the cost of an entire new car! I was offered a complete insurance protection package by a major car rental company, which in the end I decided to take. I chose the option that reduced my excess to a total of $330 simply by paying a bit extra.


During my car hire I was involved in a collision that was my fault, even though I was not drunk, drugged or speeding. Thereafter I informed the police, returned the vehicle to the rental depot and paid the excess of $330, believing the rental company would cover me for the rest.


Two weeks later I received a letter in the mail, demanding that I pay $10,000 to them and $5000 to the owner of the other vehicle involved in the collision. After further investigation I discovered that the company insurance did not provide me with comprehensive coverage. Although the company personally informed me that I would only have to pay the excess in the event of an accident, I am now indebted to the company for $15,000; not such a cheap rental after all!




Warrant of Arrest


Renting a car shouldn’t be a disastrous experience. It doesn’t often involve two rental cars in a row breaking down. It should definitely not involve one of those cars getting towed by surprise or ending a vacation by nearly getting served with a warrant of arrest. The rental car user ‘autojim’ shares his experience.


Car #1 – Back in the days when I was designing/testing cooling systems for a living, I rented a 2000 Taurus from Hertz in Phoenix to use as a support vehicle for a 3-week test trip. Drove it for 3 days, and then it developed a heinous misfire and a CEL, so I swapped it out for another 2000 Taurus the day before we were leaving the confines of the then-Chrysler proving grounds for the road portion of the trip.



This is the face of man who likes to see you struggle.

Car #2 made it 5 days without a hitch. Then, while we were driving from San Diego on I-8, bound for Laughlin, Nevada, with 4 people & luggage aboard, it started losing power. Full throttle was good for about 25 mph on uphill, 35 on downhill. It is acting like the catalytic converter is completely clogged up. Coasted in to the thriving metropolis of Pine Valley, California, population: not many. No cell coverage. Find a place with a pay phone, call Hertz toll-free number. Nearest office is in El Cajon, toll-free operator can’t patch me through. Get a mess of quarters, call them, ask them to call pay phone back. They do. After some discussion (full credit here to the Hertz guys in El Cajon, who were polite as could be), they agree to come get us (me: “Make sure whatever you bring has room for 4 adults + luggage, as I’m not leaving anyone or anything behind.” Them: “[long pause] Oh. I’ll have to get a minivan, then.” “Thank you.”). Hour and a half later, they arrive, pick us up, note location of car at the Frosty Burger, and drive us the hour back to El Cajon. Much paperwork later, we have Car #3 and we’re on our way.


Easy, right? Well, no, not really. Because when the Hertz tow truck went back to Pine Valley to get the car, it wasn’t at the Frosty Burger. Which resulted in it being reported stolen. While it was theoretically still in my custody. Frantic phone messages waiting for me once I got into cell phone coverage again 2 days later (Las Vegas). They’re looking to hang the cost of the car on me, plus Car #3 isn’t shown on my account and *it* is on the verge of being reported stolen as well. Got *THAT* sorted out in a hurry. I suggested they talk to the owner/manager of the Frosty Burger in Pine Valley. Calls were made, and, indeed the “abandoned car” was towed to a local gas station/impound yard. Across the street from the Frosty Burger. Visible from where it was parked. Owned by the brother of the Frosty Burger’s owner. Pine Valley isn’t really that big of a town.


I was told the good news was that I’d called back before they’d issued a warrant for my arrest. Yeah, no kidding.




Never Got the Rental


There are some rental car companies that tend to be a bit shady when it comes to telling you how much everything will cost. $20 a day for a week can quickly become $200. In this case, the rental car company slowly but surely bumped up the price of this couple’s rental. With little money in the bank, user ‘RandomArt’ explains how he and his wife never got the car they needed:


My horror story involves never actually ending up with the rental. My wife and I were going through a bit of financial hardship due to lack of work a while back. When the clutch went out in our car, we had to get a rental so my wife can get back and forth to work as she works out of public transit range. The combination of ordering the clutch and having to pay rent and some bills right away had gutted both of our accounts so my father in law had offered to pay for the rental.


Of course, it’s never easy to get a straight answer from the rental agency as to how much you need to have in the account to pay for the deposit since neither of us have credit cards. The guy on the phone I talked to from Budget said that we only had to have enough to cover the cost of the car for however long we were going to rent it for, in our case about $160. So, with the money secured and a cheap car reserved, we set out into the summer heat (around 93 degrees plus stifling humidity) for our 3 mile trek to the closest Budget rental location. Keep in mind that my wife has a pretty low tolerance for heat, and we ended up having to stop rather often to rest because of it.


budget  car rental

It is said that only 2% of Budget car rental transactions end with a smile.

When we finally got to our destination, the guy (a different guy than who I talked to on the phone) tried to run our card without telling us how much it was being run for, only to have it decline. After it was declined he then told us that the deposit was $250. So, my wife and I left to go transfer some cash into her account so it would clear, which involved walking another half mile to the closest bank. We ended up pooling all of our money into her account to make it over $250 before heading back to Budget.


When we got back into the counter at budget, the same guy ran our card again and still declined it. When we asked him why, he said that we needed $255 and refused to run the card again. This set off an argument with me asserting that he had told us that we needed $250 earlier.


I ended up storming out a few minutes later with my wife in tears. The temperature had risen a bit for the long trudge home. The whole ordeal ended up making me 2 hours late for my shift at work, because it generally took me about an hour and a half to get to work on public transit.


It was my first and last experience with Budget.




Hiring a rental car should be a simple and pleasant experience. It is not a usual occurrence for something to go wrong but when it does go wrong, it can go horribly wrong! Make sure to read over all policies and conditions from car rental companies to ensure you don’t get stuck in an unforgiving predicament.



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About Amy

Amy Hicks, is the Marketing Director for the US team at Protect Your Bubble. She has over 12 years of experience in branding, product development, direct marketing, digital marketing, and customer relationship management. She has held positions with agencies as well as Fortune 500 firms. Amy has a BA in Finance and a Master’s of Science and Marketing from Georgia State. She’s been in Atlanta for over 30 years and lives in Smyrna with her 2 fun, wild kids and husband. Follow her on Google.