Damage to hire cars and the costs charged by car rental companies to repair them are common topics discussed via social media and in the press. What is often overlooked or not asked is why these costs are so seemingly high and how they can be avoided.
When hiring a car, as customers, we are given the option to fully inspect the vehicle prior to hire and ensure that the condition of the car is in line with the vehicle condition report that is completed in our presence. However, we are so often in a rush to get to our final destination that this major step is not given the time or detail that it requires.
Additionally, irrespective of how much care we take of a vehicle, minor damage such as scratches, scrapes or small dents can occur, often without us being aware of it at the time (e.g. when the car is parked and other cars are manoeuvring in and out of parking spaces, other people opening and banging doors onto the car, chips to paint work and windscreens from stones and other debris.) The list of causes is endless, however regardless of how the damage has been caused, the person hiring the car is held responsible for any damage while it is in their custody.
Insurance will of course cover most major damage, but the main cost to us as consumers lies in the dreaded insurance excess, which is invariably high, but not something we consider the true impact of when entering into a car rental contract.
The only way to have absolute 100% peace of mind is to purchase the car rental company’s fully comprehensive insurance when collecting your vehicle, which will allow you to simply walk away regardless of incident or accident (unless it was caused by driver negligence). However, as most of us decline this offer, we end up having to provide a full security deposit for the excess which is then held by the car rental company if there is damage to the vehicle whilst the damage is assessed, final charges are communicated and, where appropriate, refunds are issued.
The question often asked is why the cost to repair damage is seemingly so high when our local garage or body shop could repair the vehicle for what seems a fraction of the cost communicated by the rental company? Firstly, repairs often cannot be done at location and the vehicle needs to be taken out of service for repairs, which carries a cost, as they are unable to rent the vehicle out while it is in the garage. Secondly, as most rental cars are leased from major manufacturers, repairs must be done by authorised repairers, using genuine parts and paint matching.
Where damage falls outside of the BVRLA (British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association) recognised damage matrix (the industry standard pricing system to determine the cost of damage repairs), an external independent expert is called in to assess the damage.
As much as we as customers would like to think otherwise, the objective of a car rental company when it comes to damage is to cover the costs of repair, refurbishment or replacement of each vehicle (depending on the severity of the damage). Ultimately if we hire a car, it is our responsibility to return the vehicle in the exact same condition, or expect to pay for any damages to return the car to its former state.
Since most damage that occurs to a vehicle is outside of the driver’s control, it is highly recommended that you take out some type of insurance – whether it be a third party reimbursement policy (as long as you are able to have the deposit held for a length of time in case of incident until you are able to claim it back from the insurers), or the rental company’s fully comprehensive insurance which will remove all liability.
Authored by Nicki Clarke, Independent Marketing Consultant, NHC Marketing