I was quoted in yesterday's USA Today article "Should you say yes to rental car insurance? It depends" written by Gary Stoller after being interviewed about an experience in Ireland we had in 2005 which we affectionately refer to as "CSI Dublin." The quote relates back to the biggest lesson we learned after damage to our rental car was discovered upon returning it; always get the insurance when renting a car overseas.
We can laugh about the experience 2 and a half years later, but the only thing more stressful then driving on the roads of Ireland is dealing with a damaged rental car. To see more then just the inner city of Dublin we rented a car for two days and drove around the countryside dodging animals, stone walls and oncoming traffic with ease. After two days we had enough driving and returned the car to the airport, leaving us the opportunity to explore the city on foot for a few days. When the agents inspected our car they found the bumper stripped of paint with a small dent. Upon much protest, we were charged a $750 Euro deductible.
Examining the car, it became apparent that the damage was consistent with the car hitting a cement object, like a pole. We realized that the valet at the hotel must have damaged the car and the rental car company informed us to inspect the security tapes at the hotel to prove we did not cause the damage. The manager of the hotel was very helpful and sifted through the security tape from the evening before and we could not find any evidence that the car was damaged during that time. We then turned to our own camera where we saw the damage on a digital image that indicated that the accident happened two nights prior. Upon reviewing even more security tape we discovered there was a significant amount of time that our rental car was not accounted for on the tape leaving us no option but to head to the garage and find the scene of the crime ourselves.
We headed to the underbelly of the hotel with the general manager to inspect the area of the garage where the security cameras did not capture any footage. After some inspection it became obviously where the incident occurred; a huge amount of blue paint consistent with the color of our rental was on a pole and chips fresh on the floor. The manager apologized profusely as I took some photos and saved some paint chips in an envelope.
The hotel agreed to pay for the damages, however, would not pay the deducible outright before the car was fixed and a final bill was sent to them with the actual amount, which we all believed would be far less then the exorbitant deductible. Months later, the rental car company sent the hotel a bill for charges that were obviously unrelated to the incident, fixing much more then just the scratched bumper and sticking the hotel with the full deductible amount. So, four months later I received a $750 Euro check (which was worth $61 less then it did when I paid the deductible the first time), an apology and a voucher for 2 free nights at the hotel whenever life had me back in Dublin.
The experience left me quite bitter about rental car companies; the dishonesty of fixing more then just the damage incurred during my rental taught me that if you damage a car you will ALWAYS pay the full deductible amount. Yes, my own insurance would probably have covered some of the damage but the phone calls to Ireland to deal with the bills and the idiots at the car company would have cost me more time and money then the claim's worth. While I still decline the extra insurance domestically, the money it costs to get the extra insurance overseas is well worth saving an already expensive vacation; the experience almost ruined our European adventure.