One of the most common problems that car rental firms and their customers experience is disputes over damage.
The rental firm claims – often after the car has been returned – that certain damage has been caused by the renter. The renter disputes this but is unable to provide evidence to back his or her claim up – apart from the notes from the walkaround inspection at the beginning and end of each rental.
The problem with a walkaround inspection is that it is not always very accurate or comprehensive. The last two times I hired a car (from a major international car rental firm), the pickup walkaround inspections were flawed:
- One the first occasion, the car I was collecting was black and was still wet from being washed after its last rental. On top of this, it was dark outside. You try finding minor paintwork damage or small dents on a wet, black car in the dark. I just had to take a chance that all was okay.
- On the second occasion, the agent from the rental company did not notice that both of the car’s wing mirrors had been badly scraped and then touched up (also badly!) by a previous customer. I pointed this out and it was recorded – but otherwise I might have been held responsible.
Hertz’s solution is to start taking high resolution ‘before and after’ photographs of each car. The scheme has been trialled for the last month at a US car rental location and Hertz is positive about the impact it has had.
Hertz hopes that the scheme will help reduce customer disputes and lower its repair bills, which run to $170m a year at present.
I can see the benefits of this system. Hertz will be able to produce before and after photos to prove that a car was damaged during the rental period. However, in the cases I mentioned above, photographs would only really have helped in the second instance. A wet car photographed in the dark will still not show up damage like a dry one in daylight.
Has anyone had any experience of this system in practice, yet? If so, leave a comment below, I’d be very interested to know more about how it works in reality.