Travel season is just getting underway and with it brings a rise in the number of people looking to rent a car. For the uninitiated, the rental car industry can be confusing, needlessly complicated and, in some instances, deceptive. There are a host of hidden fees and upcharges used by nearly all rental car companies.
After receiving over 800 complaints, the Better Business Bureau has given Payless Car Rental company an F rating and is asking the attorneys general in California, Florida, New Jersey and Oklahoma to begin investigations into the company and its practices.
It’s the Old “Bait and Switch”
A common theme among the complaints against Payless is that consumers are lured in by a low price and are then surprised when their final cost as much as doubles due to additional fees. Such discrepancies are so frequent that frustrated Payless customers have begun their own Facebook page and the company is facing a class action lawsuit.
Police officer Richard Alexander is a plaintiff in this lawsuit. He arranged a vacation rental for his family through a third-party website and received a quote of $217. He picked up the car and received verbal confirmation that the $217 price was correct. He asserts that during the completion of the rental paperwork, he denied the offered insurance as he was covered by his personal auto insurance policy. Alexander was quite surprised that his final bill upon return of the car was $528. This unexpected total included the addition of fees for, among other things, the insurance protection that he had denied.
Good Morning America Investigates
ABC News program Good Morning America did an investigation of Payless sending producers to four rental locations in New York and New Jersey. In an effort to check the safety of the vehicles, they brought all four rentals to the Great Bear Auto and Body Shop in Flushing, New York for a thorough mechanical inspection. Three of the four checked out mechanically, but the fourth had tires with sufficient wear to be dangerous. To the company’s credit, a call to Payless resulted in a manager apology and the offer of a full refund.
The real surprise came at the end of the four rentals. Upon return, two of the four producers were presented with final bills that included over $35 a day in additional charges for loss damage waiver insurance and roadside assistance after asking for contracts with no added upgrades or fees.
If your upcoming travel plans involve renting a car, do a little homework to avoid any potential surprises. Basic daily rates for rental cars vary widely from company to company and from day to day. Start your search early and booked in advance to find the best rate. In most cases, your personal auto insurance will cover you if anything should happen in a rental car. Check with your own auto insurer to be sure. In some cases, a credit card company will assume the responsibility of primary insurance if you pay for the rental with their card. Finally, don’t leave the counter without confirming the final dollar amount of the contract and, before returning the car, be sure to top off the gas tank. There is no place in America where gasoline is more expensive than at the rental company.