NBC10 Boston Responds

Dent Dispute: Mass. Couple on the Hook for Thousands After Rental Car Damaged Abroad

Most US auto insurers won’t cover you while you’re driving abroad, and while credit cards typically provide some insurance coverage for a rental car, debit cards do not

NBC Universal, Inc.

A Massachusetts couple will think twice before they ever rent a car again.

A dented door during a trip to Europe has left them on the hook for more than $14,000.    

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"I do a sport with my dog that is popular around the world, but small, it’s called Schutzhund," explained Tom DeNapoli, of Bourne.  

Last October DeNapoli was in Germany, representing the US in the world championships for giant schnauzers.

He and his wife needed a large vehicle to transport the dog and essentials for their 17-day trip.

"We rented the equivalent of a sprinter van from Hertz rental in Germany and sort of ignorantly assumed that my US insurance would cover me internationally," DeNapoli said.  "So at the rental counter, like probably most people, I just declined coverage out of sort of muscle memory and put the car on a Visa debit card and we went on our merry way."

DeNapoli said at some point during the trip, someone hit the van while it was parked, denting the passenger side sliding door. He pointed out the damage when he returned the rental and said Hertz told him they would contact him with an assessment.

"I eventually get a call from… a claim collector for Hertz out of New Hampshire who then tells me, in a very brief call, that they are calling it a total salvage and that the damage is upwards of $15,000," DeNapoli said.

"I’m thinking $15,000? How can this be? It’s a small dent, how can the vehicle be salvage, it’s completely drivable, it’s a superficial dent!"

DeNapoli's insurance did not cover the rental and the debit card he used didn’t offer any protections either.

The bill lists $13,276 for vehicle damage and $2,000 for loss of use and administrative and diminished value fees. The detailed damage report was in German so he couldn’t read it. 

If the car was undrivable, if this was a real damaged incident, obviously you’re liable, you’re liable. I get it. This is a dented door for $15,000!

Tom DeNapoli

"If the car was undrivable, if this was a real damaged incident, obviously you’re liable, you’re liable. I get it," DeNapoli said. "This is a dented door for $15,000!"

DeNapoli contacted NBC10 Boston Responds for help.

"Is there no sort of consumer-focused protection here?” he asked   "Can a rental company charge you whatever they want to charge you because you’ve signed away your rights by denying coverage?"

We contacted Hertz and asked them to take a look at the situation.  They got back to us, saying they had provided DeNapoli with a full breakdown of the repair costs.

They said:

"We have extensively reviewed this case and the damage was both structural and significant as assessed by a reputable third-party partner. As noted in the report, there was damage found on the front bumper and damage on the right sliding door. The structure of the door was also damaged, requiring the entire rear panel to be replaced, which makes up the bulk of the repair cost.   There was some minor pre-existing damage to the left rear that was inaccurately included in the report which will be deducted from the total which is €12,259.   Our customer care team has explained this to Mr. DeNapoli and has provided a full breakdown of the repair costs for further transparency."

The bill was reduced by about $1,400, leaving DeNapoli responsible for a little over $14,000 in damages. He is continuing to dispute the charges with Hertz. 

“So, cautionary tale,” he said. "Don’t decline, or make sure that whatever credit card or coverage you’ve got extends beyond the US border."

Most US auto insurers won’t cover you while you’re driving abroad, and while credit cards typically provide some insurance coverage for a rental car, debit cards do not.

But if you are renting outside the US, call your credit card company ahead of time, because every card has its own policies, restrictions and exclusions regarding international rentals.

And if you’re purchasing coverage through the rental car company, take the time to read and understand the policy.

If you have a consumer problem you need help with, you can contact us here, or call 1-888-521-NEWS. We will get back to you!

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