Budget Rent A Car Accused of Scamming Customers — and What You Can Do to Prevent From Becoming a Victim

Check the vehicle you rent for damage before driving away from the rental car facility. Photograph: Close-up of damaged car inspected by mechanic ©istockphoto.com by Bartłomiej Szewczyk.

Customers of Budget Rent A Car are accusing the company of overcharging them for minor damage to vehicles in British Columbia — and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating the allegations, as the alleged infractions have reportedly occurred in multiple locations.

Worse, former employees admit to consciously lying to customers and purposely bilking them by charging them significantly more than what it cost for minor repairs — some of which have never been done, allowing employees to charge multiple customers for the same damage. If that was not already bad enough, international customers were especially targeted.

Claiming that he had cracked the right bottom front light of a vehicle he rented, FlyerTalk member Guy Betsy was initially charged $375.00 for a “deposit” and that the light would cost no more than $50.00 to repair as it was “small”, with the rest to be refunded to him. Instead, he only had $75.00 refunded to him, as the damage claim of $212.82 plus the $75.00 “administration fee” and $12.00 for loss of use of the vehicle totaled $299.82.

FlyerTalk member CanadianConnection33 has personally experienced allegedly negligent and intentional overcharging from Budget Rent A Car — and has successfully fought it. Furthermore, one of the more recent and eventful fights of CanadianConnection33 with Budget Rent A Car arose from a dispute with a location in British Columbia, which may now become part of this probe.

Although this happened in Canada, this is no surprise to me. I used to work for a company which had a corporate contract with Budget Rent A Car. I once returned a car to the Los Angeles International Airport location, and they charged me substantially extra for damages so minor that they were not even worth mentioning. Fortunately, my employer at that time paid for the rental and the damages — which were not even caused by me, by the way — but that does not render the practice any less egregious.

Here is my advice to you whenever you rent a vehicle — no matter which car rental company you choose:

  • First, check with your credit card company to ensure that they include rental car insurance as part of your contracted benefits. If for some reason a rental car company claims that you are responsible for damage to the car, it is better to have them challenge the credit card company than your insurance company, which could possibly raise your vehicle insurance premiums as a result — even if the damage was not your fault.
  • Walk around the car and inspect both the interior and exterior thoroughly. This includes bumpers, grilles, tires, seats, floor mats, the carpeting under the floor mats, the glove compartment, lenses for the lights, trunk — everywhere on and in the vehicle.
  • If you see a minor scrape, rub it with your finger or cloth to ensure it is dirt and not a scratch. If the scrape is indeed a scratch, record it either by writing down the location of the scrape on the vehicle, or take a photograph of it — or, preferably, do both.
  • If the car is deemed a no-smoking vehicle, ensure that there is no tobacco odor or ashes in the ash tray — you could be charged with a cleaning fee. Look for stains or other potential damage.
  • Before pulling out of the parking space, test the equipment. Ensure that the lights, turn signals, radio, windshield wipers and fluid, and other electronics operate properly. This is for your safety as well as your protection from being a victim of fraud.
  • Report any anomalies you find to the rental car attendant before you leave the facility, and ensure that the attendant records it in your contract, as well as initials the findings.
  • If the attendant refuses for any reason to officially record and acknowledge the damage — which has never happened to me — either report it to the supervisor of the attendant or patronize another rental car company. Regardless — whatever you do — do not leave the facility with the car, because once you do, you are now responsible for the “repairs.” It will be your word against the word of the representatives of the rental car company when the time for confrontation comes.
  • While the vehicle is your responsibility, take care to obey all traffic laws. Try to park in places where the possibility of the car getting “dinged” by a careless fellow driver can be mitigated or eliminated. If you find damage caused by someone else and you are certain as to who is the perpetrator, record the license plate of the vehicle in question and call the police to file an accident report. Take insurance information from the suspect, if possible.
  • Lastly, do not allow yourself to be coerced into being a victim. If you believe you are being scammed by the rental car company, record every detail you can regarding your experience to either contact the corporate office of the rental car company, the police, a consumer advocate organization — or even the media, if necessary. You can also dispute the charges with your credit card company.

Keep in mind that some car rental companies are more stringent than others. I find renting from National Car Rental to be far more of a pleasant experience than Thrifty or Dollar, which I attempt to avoid. Aside from a rental car issue in Cyprus which consumed the better part of a day, I also usually have no issues renting from Avis.

Your car rental experience will be uneventful most of the time. However, all it takes is one time to be scammed — and if that happens to you, the cost in terms of time, effort and money can potentially be enormous. Do yourself a favor and be fully prepared before your rent your next vehicle. A good place to start is to go to the Car Rental Programs/Partners forum on FlyerTalk and visit the sub-forums of the individual car rental companies to read what has already been posted and ask for advice.

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Comments (Showing 5 of 5)

  • Great White North at 4:25pm November 28, 2012

    I’ll definitely be avoiding Budget from now on. I heard an interview on CBC Radio this morning with a former Budget employee who laid bare the entire fraudelent scheme. Besides overcharging for repairs, the repairs frequently weren’t even done–the vehicle was just rented out again. And when the were done, they were always completed by a company owned by the same people as the budget franchisee, at over inflated prices. It would be in Budget’s corporate interest to cut this cancer out of their organization as soon as possible and mare sure that reparations are paid to all those who were defrauded–they can go after the franchisee for reparations later.

  • China Clipper at 1:27am November 29, 2012

    Quote: “If the attendant refuses for any reason to officially record and acknowledge the damage — which has never happened to me”

    I couldn’t believe I read that. It’s happened to me more times than I can count. Truck rentals are even worse: I’ve had Ryder Truck rental agents demand that I sign the form agreeing to the truck’s condition before being permitted to see the truck.

    Definitely agree though that Hertz and Avis are better than the cut-rate services. Enterprise is hit-and-miss. Most franchise businesses are hit-and-miss.

  • mbpasadena at 12:00pm January 27, 2013

    At YVR, Budget has staff inspect the car and mark a chart on the paperwork, for me it’s been in the last moment before departure. Similarly when I arrived. I’ve seen this habit before, and can understand it. Thankfully, I had no problems with Budget. But, I did encounter an overvigilant staff member at Enterprise–it was only another staff (cleaning staff) who said “it was there already” that assuaged her neurosis. I did not go back to Enterprise for many years, I’ve gone back once in the past year, no problem.

    But my point is to compare with Avis (where a credit card gets me into Avis’ President’s group), and even Alamo. Avis performed due diligence–not neurosis. Alamo similarly, based on multiple rentals at SEA–they looked, but did not fixate on things.

    Sometimes rental-agency staff are quite casual. This story reinforces to me–be more diligent than less.

    And, based on a few rentals at Budget YVR, this story indicates that I missed the worst. I’ll avoid ALL Budget office until it’s clear that they treat customers normally.

  • Karen2 at 12:09am February 02, 2013

    I had the scheme pulled on me in Redmond, OR where you park the car and are not met by an attendent. I like to pull in and have an employee look over the car on the spot. A week after we returned home from Redmond, a person from Budget called to say we had dinged the windshield. I knew we had not as we had just washed it because it was loaded with tree pollen from sitting out all night. In fact, the lot was gravel so the employee picking up the car could have done it if, indeed, it was done at all. The agent calling got very threatening and said if we did not pay immediately (something like $25), she would send our account to collections! I wrote to Christopher Elliot (travel writer) who discussed the issue with Budget corporate and they agreed to drop the charge. This was about 5 yrs ago and he told me it was a new scam of theirs then and to avoid renting from Budget. We have not had any other car company pull that on us. And we don’t rent from Budget.

    • Brian Cohen at 10:06am October 01, 2013

      I am currently going through a rental car experience where I was attempting to avoid that from happening.
      I intend to report on it in the near future when it is resolved.
      Thank you, Karen2.

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