Drivers warned to take photos of rental cars
Irish people returning home for Christmas are being warned to take photographs of rental cars after a series of horror stories about damage charges.
Expats and tourists have told how they were charged for damage which they claim was not caused by them and said they were left with no option but to pay as they had a flight to catch within hours.
Others took out 'full cover' insurance only to learn that this did not include damage to wheel rims.
Michael McBurney, a retired Aer Lingus pilot who now lives in Asia, rented an Opel from Avis at Dublin Airport last September. On returning the vehicle a week later, he was charged for damage to one of the wheels, despite providing photos showing that the damage was pre-existing.
"When I went outside, I found the car was covered in dents and scuffs and scratches," Mr McBurney said.
"I took plenty of photos of all the panels, because I knew I could be blamed for any scratch and there were dozens.
"I drove the car safely for a week and returned it two hours before my flight to Hong Kong. At the inspection, a staff member walked around the car and told me I had damaged a tyre."
A supervisor who was working on the returns desk came along and told Mr McBurney that he would have to pay €130 for the scuff mark on the sidewall of the left front tyre.
"I then told him I had taken photos of all the wheels. He didn't seem interested.
"Being in a hurry for my flight, I had to just pay and leave - but not before I took more photos." Mr McBurney examined his 'before and after' photos when he returned to Hong Kong, which confirmed that the damage was pre-existing.
He sent the photographs to the Avis claims department, which agreed the damage "may not" have been caused by him and granted a refund.
A spokesperson for Avis said: "We do not discuss individual cases with third parties. We have dealt with the complaint and have no further comment to make."
John McDonagh, who is from Galway and lives in New York, was charged €969 by Hertz for scuff marks on tyres of an Audi that he had rented at Dublin Airport last May.
Mr McDonagh wasn't informed of this when returning the vehicle and only noticed the charge on his account when he returned to the United States.
He had also taken out 'super cover' insurance with Hertz but was later informed that this didn't cover fuel contamination, keys and/or damage to the rims of the wheels.
He said there was a significant lack of transparency as the invoice he received when returning the car at the airport was for €846.95. However, there was also a section that said ".01 damage to vehicle".
He assumed that this meant one cent, but it ended up costing him nearly €1,000.
Mr McDonagh said: "When you return your car to Dublin after you have just driven from the west of Ireland, you are tired, you look at your invoice and I didn't see anything unusual.
"But I also didn't understand that .01 is code for damages to be assessed.
"I had full insurance on the car when I rented at Dublin Airport but apparently the insurance on the tyres and rims is separate." The damage report from Hertz said "chunks taken out of tyres".
Mr McDonagh argued his case with Hertz and was later issued a full refund.
Hertz could not be contacted for comment.