Deceptive Policy: The Subconscious Effect of Rental Car Loss Waiver Coverage


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Are there any good car rental companies or am I just unlucky?

This week I rented a car with Budget. It was not a great customer experience. We were kept waiting for the shuttle service for 25 minutes at the Philly Airport. We tried to call them 3 times to see where the shuttle was but there was no answer. When they did arrive, there were no apologies for the delay. We went inside to get our car only to find ourselves waiting in a long line of people, the result of a limited number of agents available. No apologies for the delay again. The people treated us like robots and… well, honestly, the list of errors goes on and on.

Budget isn’t the only one with a poor experience, however. Let me say that Hertz and Alamo, who I have tried before, are also poor. When we recently rented from Enterprise, the car wasn’t cleaned and no fuel again causing a delay. When Enterprise called us after our experience and asked us what we would give them for their Net Promoter Score (NPS), we told the agent a 6.

He asked what he had to do so we would give him a 10 on NPS. We said give us $X amount off the bill, which he did without hesitation. Clearly he was ‘gaming’ the system as his job performance is measured by the amount of high scores. But the fact is that the experience was still a 6, no matter how he got to a 10.

So you can see why I don’t think much of rental car companies. Then I learned something that made me like them even less…

Two Potential Fees That Could Cost You 1000′s

When you think you have coverage from your credit card for your rental car, your answer when the agent at the rental car desk asks if you want their additional coverage is usually a swift and resolute no. But new liabilities that the rental car company is charging might need to change your answer.

In recent years, the rental car agencies have maneuvered themselves into having the right to charge two new liabilities in the case of an accident. These include Diminution of Value and Loss of Use. Here is an overview of each:

  • Diminution of Value is the difference between the value of the rental car before the accident and the value after the accident, once the car has been repaired.
  • Loss of Use is the daily amount that the rental agency could have earned if the car was in service while it was getting repaired.

As you can imagine, the charges associated with either of these liabilities could literally be thousands of dollars. Worse than that, credit card companies cover neither of these fees. So guess who is on the hook for the liability? That’s right, you, the renter. If you wonder why, just think back to the densely printed contract that you signed but didn’t bother to read. Many courts have upheld that this contract and the fees that result from it are legal and binding.

Fortunately, I have not had this happen to me (knocking wood as I type this). But another woman from Texas was not as lucky.
According to an article on, cardholder Kimberly Esquivel called Discover to make sure she was covered since she already knew that her auto insurance did not. The call center agent for the credit card company assured her that she was. So naturally she refused the additional coverage at the rental car agency.

Esquivel had an accident in the parking lot at Sea World. Discover paid her $3000 in damages. But they didn’t cover the Loss of Use and other administrative fees that were not covered by the agreement. Needless to say, Esquivel was shocked to get a bill from the rental car company for nearly $1000.

She said of her experience in the story, “It was very, very frustrating. They say, ‘We’ve got you covered,’ but that’s not true. I’d been a customer with Discover for almost 20 years. That was the first time in 20 years that I really needed them, and they let me down.”

What Can We Learn from This Story

I find it difficult to find a good experience with rental cars. I sometimes wonder if the senior execs ever rent a car? One of our most popular services is a Customer Mirror. This is where we act as a Customer. We take videos, pictures, record conversations, copies of letters, etc., and then present back to Exec what their experience is like. Normally they are horrified. I think if we did this for any of the rental car companies they would also be horrified.

But in the Esquivel’s case, it wasn’t just the rental car that let her down, but also the credit card company. To the credit card companies I would say that Customers need to know that they can trust you to “have them covered” when you say you do. If you are not going to cover certain fees or liabilities, you need to let your customers know up front so they can take the necessary measures to protect themselves.

On another note, has a handy PDF that helps consumers determine what is and isn’t covered.

Most of all, we all need to learn to read what we sign at the rental counter and make sure that we know whether we need the Loss Waiver Coverage they offer or not.
Based on what they could charge if there was an accident, you may find that the additional $25 per day is worth the additional peace of mind that you have if you have an accident.

It isn’t the best option, or really even a good option. But presently, it’s the only option we have as renters. I, for one, am hopeful that a company will come in and change all this with a better experience.

In the meantime if there is a good car rental place that any of you would suggest, please let me know. My search continues….

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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