Don't Trust The Fine Print...

Money, Extra-Fees, Rentals, … and don’t always rely on common advice.

I just came across another one of those cookie-cutter lists of ways to save when traveling. You could probably predict; when it came to rental cars and insurance it basically said not to buy the extra insurances.

No doubt these extras are just another nickel and dime approach to separate you from more of your money.

Specifically the common advice is to not pay twice for the same thing. “Before you purchase the extra insurance, check to see if your regular car insurance covers you in a rental car. Most policies do. Some credit cards also provide insurance; check with your company to find out.”

Take it from someone who has been there… Three year ago, on vacation, we rented a car from Hertz and paid for it with American Express. I’d heard the advice before that Amex covers you, so I didn’t even consider the insurances.

Yes, I was in an accident, and yes it was my fault. We were merging onto a major road. The car in front began to accelerate. I looked back to make sure there was room for us in the oncoming traffic and when I verified the fact I depressed the accelerator. Before my head turned fully back to the road in front of us, I hit the back of the car in front that had stopped for no reason.

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Nobody was hurt, thankfully. The cars were damaged with my rental taking the majority of the impact.

The police wrote a report, I was ticketed and we began the process of contacting insurance companies, the rental company and even contacting Amex for their coverage.

In the end, the repairs were covered on both cars easily enough but I was hit with a $1200 bill for “Loss of Use.” Because the rental agency could not generate revenue while repairs were being made I had to pay effectively full rates while the body shop took their sweet time repairing the vehicle.

Generally, I am reluctant to pay for any “extra” optional insurances and fees. After having this experience however, I may just think differently next time.

Honestly, I can’t believe I just wrote that last line. A life time of “extra” fees could be paid with $1200 thought. hmmmmm…

Readers: Extra fees seem to be more and more common. Which ones frustrate you the most? Have you ever tried to negotiate them away and been refused?

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photo by adam*b

5 comments to Don’t Trust The Fine Print…

  • A “loss of use” bill sounds sketchy and a clever way to nickel and dime you out of more fees.

    I understand from a business perspective that out of order assets means taking a revenue hit, but shouldn’t American Express cover this since that’s what the Amex Business Travel Card (if that’s what you used) is for?
    .-= Matt SF´s last blog ..Maybe a Little Obsessive Compulsive Behavior is a Good Thing =-.

  • That’s a really good question. I’ve had extended warranties on vehicles and got my money’s worth in some cases, not used it at all in other cases, and not had coverage and needed it for one vehicle but not another. It’s almost a craps shoot when you think about it. I guess it depends on your level of comfort for risk.

    I had a minor incident in a rental car a long time ago and luckily I was covered since I was on military leave. I have to confess to never getting the extended warranty because my credit cards are supposed to cover any damages but now I wonder if that’s such a good idea.

    Did you try to fight the charges? I agree with Matt, seems like a kind of underhanded thing to do, and it makes me wonder why they don’t warn people about this potential charge instead of leaving you to believe you’re 100% covered.
    .-= David @ MBA briefs´s last blog ..The definition of FAILURE =-.

  • I hadn’t heard of this, so I did some research. Apparently, if your credit card covers loss of use, it will be in the fine print. Some do, like World Master card for instance. However, another interesting thing I read is that the rental car company is required to prove an actual loss of use. For instance, if all of the cars of that type weren’t rented out during the period they charged you, they can’t bill you for a loss. An insurance company that covers loss of use will send a certified letter demanding records. Individuals can do the same thing.

    I’m really glad you shared this, though, I would never have thought of it.
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..Surviving Debt Recovery: Watch out for that Tree! =-.

  • I ALWAYS try to refute the charges – even when it’s my own fault!

    Plus, that amount seems high. Assuming you rented a standard car @ $60/day, did the repairs take 20 days to complete? And beyond that, I would ask the agency to prove they operated at 100% capacity every single day of the year. Where they trying to tell you that not a single vehicle in their lot goes un-rented at any time?

  • The LeanLifeCoach

    @ MattSF – I assumed they would cover it as well, FAIL! It was a personal AMEX card, don’t know if that made a difference. I did argue with them to no avail.
    @ David – They do warn you, if effect, every time they try to sell you the extra insurance.
    @ Tracy – Kudos for the research, what I learned is that your CC company can ask for the proof. In this case, Hertz, has a policy against providing the data.
    @ FinEngr – I did refute the charge with the rental agency, mostly due to the length of LOU. They stated they had no control over the repair cycle. So I called the body shop that was working on the car and learned it was due to a parts delay. Then I contacted their supplier to expedite the part (at no extra charge), and argued with the rental company that the circumstances were outside of my control and the delay was not my responsibility. I did eventually get a “discount” but was still hit with a $1200 bill.

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