Do I really have to pay for this ding on the rental?

ding on the rental

When Robin Legan rents a car from Sixt in France, a representative promises her that she won’t be charged for pre-existing damage to the vehicle’s door. So why did it present her with a $503 bill? Does she have to pay for this ding on the rental?

Question

I recently rented a car from Sixt in Beauvais, France. On the rental agreement, there’s a form to list previous damage, but it’s a bit generic. It doesn’t give the renter a place to show other damage, like in the U.S., where they give you a diagram of the car.

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I told the Sixt employee helping me in the parking lot that there was a ding on the rental. It was on the driver’s door. He reassured me that it was part of the previous damages listed.

However, when we returned the car to the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, a Sixt representative told me I would be responsible for the damage and I had to sign a damage agreement. Sixt wants to charge me $503 for the damaged door.

I would like Sixt to drop the claim. As of this point, the company has not charged our credit card. I feel Sixt is taking advantage of foreign travelers and was very deceptive. — Robin Legan, Twinsburg, Ohio

Answer

Sixt shouldn’t rent a damaged car — and you should never accept one. What’s wrong with a little dent on your rental car? It’s too easy for a misunderstanding to happen between you and the rental company.

In a perfect world, you would have turned down the rental with a damaged door. Then, Sixt would have given you a different car — without a ding on the rental. Problem solved!

If Sixt only had one available rental car, which can happen at locations in smaller towns, then you should have recorded the damage by taking a photo, asking a car rental employee to sign the damage form, and noting the employee’s name, title, and contact information. Ideally, you’d ask that person to write “pre-existing damage” on the form, so there would be no doubt that you didn’t dent the door.

But instead, you took the employee’s word for it — an easy thing to do when you’re in a hurry. You noted the damage, but on a form where you couldn’t even pinpoint the exact location of the dent. The Sixt paperwork was meaningless.

And what about insurance? I’m troubled by your $503 claim. It’s so close to the deductible on a car insurance policy (and, besides, your policy might not even cover you in Europe). In my experience, that kind of claim is highly suspicious.

How to contact Sixt about a ding on the rental

You could have appealed your case to an executive at Sixt. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the Sixt executives on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

I often hear from readers who say I should write about a case I couldn’t solve. Well, here you go! I contacted Sixt on your behalf. It responded directly to you, claiming you didn’t return the car in the same condition as you received it.

“The damage in question was ascertained at the time of drop-off, in your presence,” it added. “In addition, you sign[ed] the check-in sheet with the new damage written on it, without any additional comment.”

This is an unfortunate cautionary tale. Next time you rent a car, please don’t accept a dented vehicle — and take lots of photos. After my inquiry, Sixt lowered its bill to $95.