The most trusted and popular consumer complaints website
Explore your opportunities! Create an account or Sign In

National Car Rental / charging me for damage I know nothing about

1 United States Review updated:

I was on a business trip in Charleston, SC last month and got a National rental car at the airport, based on best price.

I didn't immediately check it out thoroughly because I was expecting to be met by a rep on the way out to go over the car. However, nobody stopped me and by the time I realized nobody would be checking out the car I was on main road. It wasn't really until I stopped and looked around did I realize that the car had not been cleaned at all inside or out -- there was trash on the floor and the cupholders were sticky. I was already quite far from the airport and since I was supposed to be meeting someone soon I decided I didn't have time to go back, return the car, and wait for it to be cleaned. I called National at some time during my stay to inform them that car hadn't been cleaned.

When I returned the car, somebody met me to go over it. Amidst the dirt, there was a slight surface scratch/scuff mark but I informed the person that it was probably there already because nobody checked out the car when I picked it up. I know I didn't scratch it or was involved in any bumps or collisions. Nothing was said to me or written on my rental agreement when I went to the desk to settle the bill.

The other day, a month later, I received a letter from the National damage recovery department saying they had received a report of damage and that I was liable, so I need to inform my insurance company or credit card. They did not say what the damage was or how much it was. I tried to call this department yesterday and after going through several layers of voice menus, was told they were unable to take my call because of the high volume of calls, and to leave a message. I did, but didn't receive a call back. I then called National customer service. They looked up my rental agreement and verified that there were no notations on it. They told me I would have to call the damage recovery department to find out what it was about. I asked them, if I had done some damage, shouldn't that be notated on the contract? She said that she doesn't/cannot see that information and it would have been forwarded to the damage recovery department. I ended up writing the recovery department a letter telling them I have no idea what they are talking about because I returned the car in the condition I had received it and had not been informed of any damage.

Last night, I received a letter from a "billing service" company telling me that "due to their sheer volume of claims" National Car Rental has asked them to partner with them in the processing of this claim. Apparently I owe $478.39. For what, I don't know. I now have to write THEM a letter within 30 days to dispute this claim.

Is there any way they can have a claim against me when they never informed me that I did any damage?

I can see this being a long drawn out process of me having to keep writing letters defending against something I didn't do.

Sort by: UpDate | Rating


  • Jt
      23rd of Mar, 2007
    0 Votes

    Just had a similar experience with National. However, car was clean when I got it. It also already had a scratch on the front bumper but no one was around to tell about this.

    When I returned the man asked me about the damage. I told him it was already there. He said "okay" and when I asked what would happen next he said nothing, "everything is okay" is what he told me. I didn't have time to follow up inside but now I've received a letter saying I'm responsible for damage.

    Would be interested to find out how your situation worked out since I'm now going to have to deal with them.

  • Fr
      29th of Mar, 2007
    0 Votes

    I have a similar problem with Advantage Rent-a-Car. At the post-rental inspection, no issues...guy didn't tell me anything. Couple weeks later, I get a bill for $4000. Yes, that's the correct number of zeros. Apparently there's extensive damage to the hood and roof of the vehicle. My advice to you would be to very carefully scour the paperwork sent to you...mine contains some errors. These may prove useful in a litigation situation. Get all communication IN WRITING.

    This is a cost-recovery program employed by rental car agencies, and they hold all the leverage. My claim has been sent to a collections-type agency. I am sending a letter disputing the debt and denying liability. If they contact me again regarding the debt, I will find an attorney and sue the hell out of them for harassment. Same deal if they put a mark on my credit score. When it comes down to it, the burden of proof is on them to prove the damages happened during your rental. Good luck with that Advantage!

    If you want to settle and make it go away, chances are your auto insurance and/or credit card company cover you for this. Yes, your premiums will go up, but hey, at least you don't have to go to court. Let me know what happens, I'm curious.

  • Ro
      4th of Apr, 2007
    0 Votes

    I am the original poster and this is a follow up.

    I contacted American Express car rental protection department and told them the whole sorry story. I told them that I was disputing the claim. They said they would handle it directly with the agency so I sent them copies of the letters I had written to both National and the billing company, with a cover letter again reiterating that I did not do any damage and didn't feel that they should pay this claim.

    A few days later I received a letter from Amex with a claim number and a website to see the status of my claim. They said they would contact the the rental car company to obtain the documentation. Just now I visited the website again and it appears that they have not received any supporting documentation (such as damage report) from National. I haven't heard back from National or the billing agency either. It's been a month. No news is good news. Of course, I could get another bill any time.

    I just don't think they have any documentation to support their claim.

  • Iy
      8th of Jun, 2007
    0 Votes

    National Car rental seems to do that to all their customer. I had the same experience but the car i burrowed was stolen on their facility. Because a man who pretended to be an employee stood in front of the office door to prevent me from dropping the key on the drop box myself. So he dropped the key in the box where I and my companions can see that he did drop it. The next day i called the rental and told me the car is stolen. they have me pay a second day 56.00 w/c is ok i don't care as long as i will no have problems with them. But after they know my card has loss collision damage because i was supposed to ask them to claim the money fro my insurance credit card, after 4 months they billed me 548.00 for damages w/c i really don't know if its true. the car was lost for 1 day only. Now they are asking me to pay it in 15 days. Thats the total earning that i only have for 2 weeks, so they don't want me to eat? This is something that they seem to do all the time.

  • Gr
      6th of Oct, 2007
    0 Votes

    I am going through this experience now. I was on a trip and when I returned to the airport, the girl at the counter said that since I needed to get on a flight, they would by-pass the post rental inspection check. Fine.

    I get home and then on a Monday I get a call from their claims guy stating that there was an obvious scratch on the car and that I would be sent an estimate on the repair. I told him that I wasn't paying for it cause the damage could have been done prior to them bringing the car into the wash bay or even prior to my rental as the scratch was not nearly as obvious as he made it sound. He sent me a picture and the scratch was by the rear passenger side bumper by the tire.

    So, I wake up this morning and start some online banking and notice a charge for $596.40! I am calling Visa and disputing the claim this morning and if this doesn't get cleared up right away, I will seek legal action against National Car Rentals in Windsor, On Canada Airport.

  • La
      14th of Feb, 2008
    0 Votes

    BEWARE OF National Car Rental. DO NOT RENT FROM THIS COMPANY. I rented a car in October 2006 and while traveling out of state, hit a deer on the interstate. I reported the accident to the State Highway Patrol and my insurance carrier. The damage was mainly cosmetic and I drove the car from VA to NC with no problem. The amount of damage to the vehicle was $3900.00. which my insurance carrier paid. Several months later, I began receiving demand letters from some idiot company named Purco Fleet Services on behalf of National Car Rental demanding I pay the total value of the car to the tune of $21,000.00! I had to retain an attorney who informed Purco IDIOTS that their demand for claims was illegal in NC. They ignored all letters and placed a $6K collection on my credit! Now I am having to sue these ###S for Slander of Credit. REPORT NATIONAL CAR TO THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION! I DID. DO NOT RENT FROM NATIONAL CAR RENTAL OR ALAMO!

  • Bi
      15th of Apr, 2008
    0 Votes

    I am living an almost identical experience

    I landed San Francisco at midnight and rented a car from National
    I was not given a sheetto mark or told to inspect the car by either the rental agent or the women in the yard.
    I picked up a RAV 4 - which at midnight had no apparent damage

    Next morning in bright sunlight I noticed a small dent in the door and the wheel housing was scratched
    When I returned the car in Sacramento the inspector said he had to call in the damage - he did - and when he came back he informed me and the other inspector from National that the damage had already been reported. I informed them about National's failure in San Francisco to perform or advise me to perform a damage inspection. I was told that this was a common problem at San Francisco airport.

    Now in the mail I get a damage report claiming I need to provide my insurance information for unspecified damages.

    This is nuts!

  • Bi
      15th of Apr, 2008
    0 Votes

    I wonder if the credit card companies monitor the car rental companies. I am suspicious that unethical car rental companies check the type of card you use and if you have damage/loss coverage they automatically issue a damage claim. This would be fraud but I am certain the credit card companies are too busy to investigate.

    We need a smart investigative reporter to research and expose the problem.

  • St
      8th of May, 2008
    0 Votes

    Same here. Got National car from Ann Arbor airport one night, no walkaround taking it or returning it; damage claim arrives a month later. I didn't do it and didn't see it, nor did my 3 passengers over 4 days driving... but they want $297 for it. Launched same process as all others have described. Great use of our time, right? Nasty, reprehensible, slimy. Third world stuff.

  • Ch
      25th of Aug, 2008
    0 Votes

    Wow... Same story but I have a slight twist. When I checked in at Colorado Springs Airport, there was NO Initial Inspection. There was a lady standing at the counter at check-in and she told me where to go to pick the car up. No one was outside for ANY inspection. When I showed back up to return the vehicle, there was no on.. period. I had an 0300 morning flight, and there was only a drop off card board box sitting there. Either way, a month later I receive a letter about a TICKET!!! The letter stated I received the Parking Violation on Sunday (2 days after I showed up) exactly at midnight?? There was no ticket, I was back at my hotel because I had to be to work at 0500 that next morning!!! Either way I contacted the Court System and gave them the information. They confirmed that the ticket was for the month PRIOR to my rental time. They even stated this is a common problem with them that they receive the letter from the court system and they don't pay attention to it. They just automatically think the date they receive the letter from the court system is the date that the incident happens so they charge that customer! I contacted the Dispute office for National, and told them the facts. They said that I have to prove it with a letter from the court system. So I had to wait for a letter from the court system, scanned that in, and then emailed it to the Citations Dept like I was informed. 20 days later I receive an email from their company stating "due to high number of customer service request we are having a delay in addressing your issue. If is already been resolved please disregard. If not, them please re-submit your question". ALMOST an ENTIRE month later?!?!?! So I'm calling them up again to discover what is happening. Legal action is my next place to go if they want to play this game some more. And being military, I have quite a big stick to carry!

  • Je
      26th of Sep, 2008
    -1 Votes

    Dear National,
    I believe that I have been a good customer of yours for the past 12 years. I respect the vehicles I rent. Spent a lot of money along the way earning my executive status. Here's the deal. On 9/08 I rented a Toyota Highlander from the Rochester airport. On 9/12, round a bout 7:30 a.m. I returned the vehicle to Rochester airport, unloaded my bags and waited for a National attendent to check the car out and give me my reciept. This was done in a timely and professional manner. Cool. Fast forward to 9/18 when I get a hate letter from the damage/recovery unit asking me to fill out a damage/loss reportform.Whaaat? What did I damage? What is the loss? These are questions that legal will ask you. National, I returned your vehicle in good faith, in a timely manner and cleaner than it was when I rented it. Faithfully submitted j.j.s.

  • Ma
      30th of Sep, 2008
    0 Votes
    National Car Rental - 5-hour wait to pick up a rented car
    National Car Rental
    Union Square
    San Francisco
    United States

    I rented a car with National one month in advance. I had to pick it up at their Union Square premises in San Francisco. I arrived punctually on the agreed time and date and had to wait for almost 5 hours to pick up the car.

    All clients from National and Alamo (both companies share the same premises) were made to wait in line, first in the street under the burning sun and afterwards in an unhealthy garage.

    No explanation was given by National or Alamo employees and they did not seem surprised by such unacceptable situation, so I guess it must be usual.

  • Hu
      9th of Feb, 2009
    0 Votes

    If you have any advice please let me know:
    I joined the National Car Rental Emerald program to speed up the rental process. I landed in Miami and the car I had reserved was gone. I went inside and spoke with the clerk, who directed me to a Minivan. I was in too much of a hurry to care what the vehicle was so I left. The van sat parked in my garage for the next 2 days while I was home visiting. I went back to the airport and dropped the vehicle off.
    At the time I dropped it, 2ea National employees came over to check fuel, mileage and what I thought was an inspection of the vehicle. A young lady walked around the van and then gave me an invoice. Two weeks later, I get a bill for $1603. I called the Miami branch, since this is where I dropped the vehicle and they had NO IDEA what I was talking about. Then I was given a number to the "Damage and Recovery Unit". I promptly called and left a message. After a couple weeks of no response, I sent an e-mail through the National web page asking for the accident report and for them to insure that the "damage" was not performed AFTER I dropped the vehicle off. (I am under the impression that one of their employees bumped it from behind and this is the way to save cover themselves). I received a reply stating that they would look into this and get back to me. In the next letter I was being threatened, saying that I have not contacted them (at this point I contacted them 3 times) and they were going to take “LEGAL ACTION”. So, I called the Recovery Unit again. This time I was not as nice as the times prior. I demanded (on the answering machine) that someone contact me back to further discuss this issue. To date NO ONE has contacted me. Now I have a letter from First Financial Asset Mgnt, Inc. giving me 3 options of how I would like to pay the balance owed. I have tried to call them and give them a 4th option, but presently I am in another country and “800” numbers do not work from here. I need to find out if this bordering on harassment. They cannot ignore me then send me threats in the mail, can they?

  • Do
      9th of Mar, 2009
    0 Votes

    I rented from National from the Ontario Airport in California. They did not pre rental inspection with me. The car was fine when I took it. When i returned it, the technician scanned the bar code of the windshield and said everything looks good. I stood there and asked if a physical inspection was necessary. He looked over the car quickly and said everything is fine you're good to go. I proceeded to the check out counter and wanted a receipt to see if any hidden cost were charged to my credit card. The gal asked if the technician notice anything wrong with the car, I said not. She said, okay here's your receipt and have a good day. Then 2 weeks later I get a claim about a CRACKED WINDSHIELD. I'm sure anyone would've noticed a cracked windshield when I returned it on the stop. I would've noticed it because I drove in the car for 4 hours straight. This is National Car Rental being a bullie. They are responsible for performing a return inspection. Any damages must be noted at the time of the return. The minute you walk away, you are no longer responsible for the car and if you are not informed of any damages at that time, any discoveries after the fact should not count. I am disputing the claim now. A return inspection must also be documented and signed by you acknowledging any damages they find. That way you can physically inspect the vehicle there yourself. I am reporting this to the FTC and I am looking to sue National Car Rental for filing a false claim. They just try to see how many people they can get to pay them for trumpt up charges. Get everything in writing. Send a letter to every address you can find for them. They have so many and the address you see on the documents they send you is for PAYMENT ONLY. If you send a written dispute there, its to the wrong place. I believe the correct address for everyone is in Tulsa, but you need to do your research. Calling them and asking for it does no good, they will not tell you. They also say to fax it, but its the wrong number, its for payment only. They try to hide, but they can be found. Best thing is to send it to every address you find. Good luck to anyone dealing with this frauduelent company with poor business practice similar to that of a crook. They need to go out of business and all be put in JAIL. I will post again once I have an out come to my situation.

  • Sa
      11th of Aug, 2009
    0 Votes

    I am into exact same situation now.. I rented a car from National on 7/09/09 in RDU airport. I returned the care on 7/17/09, the guy at the returns looked at it, walked around the car, and said, "everything looks good", and gave me the bill for my upgrade (I booked it through priceline). Almost after a month, I got a letter from "Damage Recovery Unit" stating that there is a damage to the car. They didn't mention what damage or any other details.. I am trying to find out what to do next. I called the ph# given on the letter and they always say that they'll call me back.. I've gone through all your experiences, and looks like there is no solution as such.. I've decided fight this case and file a complaint in AG's office. If any of you have any other solution, please let me know..

  • Se
      8th of Sep, 2009
    0 Votes

    Same thing happened with me. But with National's sister company Alamo rent a car. They have referred this to a collection agency and I am refusing to pay. I did the inspection when I picked up and dropped off and the gate agent said the car was fine. I rented the car in April from LAX Alamo in Long Beach... I got a $700 bill for scratches that happened during the time I rented the car. I have not been able to talk to anyone at Alamo/Vanguard/Enterprise as they NEVER pick up the phone or return phone calls. Steve Howard is the name of the Vanguard rep.. I recommend to EVERYONE renting a car to make a video with digital camera with a walkaround BEFORE and AFTER you drop off.. I did not do this, but I will still fight this.. Please keep up dates of all your progress as I will do the same. I WILL FIGHT THIS TOOTH AND NAIL AS I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THESE INCORRECT charges...

  • On
      2nd of Mar, 2010
    0 Votes

    ya, I joined the club yesterday. I returned the car at Scottsdale Airport and the car was clean, new, and had absolutely no damage. No one inspected the car; the guy sitting at the counter said don't worry, just give him the keys;

    Two weeks fast fwd, I got a letter claiming $500 for front bumper damage; called them asked what kind of documentation they have to pin this on me.. no response; Stacey Moore ext 6158 never picks up the phone, nor does she return messages. I have sent a letter detailing the dispute and have called Amex and told them about the dispute. I am calling my legal department for help on how to deal with this.

  • An
      8th of Mar, 2010
    0 Votes

    Guess I am the latest entrant in the club :(
    I rented a Minivan with National at Plano, TX on 10/30/09 and returned it back on 11/01/09. As usual the agent inspected the car for any damage and handed me a receipt stating the amount due from me is $0.0, perfect. 4 months later in March 2010 I tried to rent through Enterprise and they tell me I am on the "DO NOT RENT" list. They tell me to call National's damage department and I am left stranded without a car for 3 days because the damage dept works conveniently Monday to Friday 9-4 CST. On calling they tell me the car I returned on 11/01/09 had a damaged windshield and they have sent me 4 letters that I never received. Further the case is now with First Financial collection agency and I dont know what to do next. I called 1st Financial and asked them to call me back. I am very concerned at this stage and am not sure what to do.

    P.S - I see a lot of similar complaints here but don't see any helpful resolutions, please post your feedback in case anyone has had luck getting these guys straightened up.

  • Ki
      25th of Mar, 2010
    +1 Votes

    One thin i noticed is that none of u people purchased any of the rental car coverage...if you think that you are covered by your own insurance or your "credit card" 100% then turn the claim to them...after all that's why we have insurance. Why wait and call and wait and call and end up in collection (good luck fixing that ) buy their insurance or use yours.

  • Jf
      29th of Mar, 2010
    -1 Votes

    March 22nd, 2010

    Damage Recover Unit
    P.O. Box 842264
    Dallas, TX 75284-2264

    RE: National Claim Number XXXXXXXX
    To Whom It May Concern:
    I would like to begin my diatribe by letting the recipient of this notice know that this is not a personal attack on you, this is a valid and legitimate complaint about the manner in which your company has chosen to do business. Before I enumerate my specific contention points, I will let you in on the events that lead to this formal and extremely public complaint.
    On the morning I picked up the car from the desk located in Pensacola, Florida, I immediately proceeded to XXXX, Florida where I retrieve a backpack, a small roll on bag, and a cocker spaniel belonging to my mother. The purpose of my flight into that city and subsequent rental of your car was to transport the animal back to Charleston South, Carolina so that my mother would have the opportunity to travel and support my sister during the birth of her child. The trip was direct and uneventful. The next morning, I deposited my luggage and the animal at my temporary housing. My luggage was in the back seat and the dog was in the seat next to me; I recall this well, as I had left my keys in my un-laundered garments and retrieved them prior to getting out of the car. I did not wish to search for them at the threshold as it was particularly cold that morning.
    I next proceeded to refuel and returned the vehicle. When I arrived at the Charleston airport, I pulled up 2 spaces from the truck used by your employee. He was hesitant to get out of the idling vehicle as it was cold and windy just off the tarmac. Once he finally capitulated to the inevitability that he was going to have to join me in the morning chill, we did the traditional walk around inspection of the vehicle. This included the examination of the mileage, gasoline level, and condition of the body, windshield, cabin, and tires. This inspection was slow and thorough. Once he completed his duties, I was provided a receipt in the amount of 91.30 dollars and we parted ways.
    For your review, here is the detailed record of the transaction

    This afternoon I received a letter, forwarded from my house at XXXXX indicating that the car was damaged. I was confused when my wife called me to inform me of the communication. She called and spoke with Tanya. She was told that there was damage to the right lower side of the trunk, in the form of a dent. If the damage was to the inside of the trunk it is not possible that I caused it, and if it was to the outside, your representative would surely have flagged it and had me fill out the necessary paperwork before issuing me a receipt and closing out the transaction.
    I feel that you have insulted my integrity and intelligence at this point. I can prove that damage was not present at the time of deposit at the Charleston air port, as witnessed by the absence of a report of said damage at that time. Your representative exercised due care during the inspection and any issues should have been brought up and addressed at that time! Since the burden of proof lay with the prosecutors, I fully expect that your company will investigate and have prepared for my review: the parking lot video, an interview with the employees involved, and any other evidence that you plan to use as documentation of the discovery process in this matter. I suspect that the damage was caused after I left the lot, perhaps even by your employees, acting carelessly.
    Further since the vehicle is the subject of investigation, I trust that it has been removed from service and the damage can be examined by me, my attorney, and a certified mechanic/body shop of my insurance company’s choice. Please provide us a full copy of your evidence via certified mail no later than 2 weeks upon delivery of this correspondence. Please also work with your training and legal department to council your staff and train them better to avoid this type of infuriation for customers in the future. The time to find, document, and resolve this type of issue is when an asset changes hand.
    I shall send copies of this letter to the South Carolina department of Consumer Affairs, all appropriate Better Business Bureaus with jurisdiction over the drop off location, my insurance company, my credit card, and our attorney’s office.

Post your comment