Budget is charging me for damage I did not do

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Dec 14, 2017
I rented a car from a neighborhood Budget location in Kansas City, Mo and returned the car at the Budget Airport location 4 hours and 39 minutes later after driving 47 miles; this is pretty much the distance between the two locations. There was no damage done while the car was in my possession. When I turned in the car, a Budget employee inspected the car, and checked the mileage and fuel level. There was no mention of damage and I received a receipt with zero balance due. Two days after returning the car, I received a call from Budget stating that they had noticed damage to the front bumper. This was followed up 2 weeks later by a letter from Budget in Atlanta, GA stating that in the rental contract I agreed that I was responsible for all damage regardless of fault. The letter included an invoice for $522.20 for repair, loss of use, and an administrative fee. Copies of the repair report and invoice were also included. The car was very dirty when it was checked out and some of scratches could have been missed during my inspection. I called and emailed the person who wrote the letter denying my involvement in the damage and contesting the claim. She said that she would investigate the claim. I asked for photos of the damage, and she emailed to me 6 close-up photos that showed a variety of scratches and chips. Most of the damage was on the bottom side of the bumper, which is not visible by just a walk-around. I believe the photos are of the car I rented because of dirt and the VIN number and Budget sticker number that match my rental contract. A week later she sent an email with the results of her investigation stating that I was responsible for the damage because the three previous rentals did not note any damage and neither did I, and it was noted after my rental. I followed up with an email still denying that I had damaged the car and asked for an appeal process at Budget. She responded in an email that she went to her manager about the claim and in the final review, I would still be held responsible for the damage. She extended the due date by a week to 12/22/17, and stated that as a courtesy, Budget would drop the loss of use and administrative fees if the invoice was paid by the new due date. This reduces the claim by $100 to $422.20.

I cannot say that the damage did not occur prior to my renting the car. It was very dirty, and scratches could have been hidden. Scratches underneath the bumper could not have been seen except by lying on the ground or raising the car; I doubt the previous renters did this. The Budget employee who received the car did not note any damage. The damage could have happened after I turned it in, since the first phone call from Budget came two days later.

Unfortunately, I did not take any photos of the car at check-out or turn-in. I had not seen your website until researching this situation, and I will always take photos in the future. Is there any point to continue fighting this? Should I pay the claim first to avoid further charges and hit to credit rating? Would Budget charge my credit card which they have on file if I don't? If so, I could challenge it through my credit card company if that is worthwhile. Can you suggest strategies to fight this? Am I likely to be successful? I could provide more details, but this covers the situation. Any assistance or ideas will be greatly appreciated.

Carol Phillips

Staff Member
Dec 28, 2014
Coastal South Carolina
@Neil is correct. Follow the link's instructions to the letter, and keep copies of all correspondence.

You may find it interesting to learn that the reason we have that thread is because Rental Car Damage Claims are probably the #1 issue we deal with here. You're not alone.

Please let us know what transpires.
Likes: Neil Maley
Dec 14, 2017
Please chalk up another success onto your statistics for your wonderful forum website. I did follow your instructions, and Budget decided to drop the claim against me and write-off the cost of the damages. I truly appreciate the information, direction, and confidence that you all provided. I'm attaching the email letter that I wrote to Budget, followed by their response. I apologize for the protracted thread, but it might help others. In the future, I will photograph all my rental cars before and after driving them, and check much more closely for any damage.
Many thanks for your help. You are providing a great service.


I appreciate your reviewing this case with your manager and your offer to drop the loss of use and administrative fees associated with your claim.

However, I am convinced that absolutely no damage was done to the rental car while it was in my possession, and I still deny the claim that I was responsible for the damage. The car was returned with no damage done by me. The Budget employee who inspected the car and took mileage and fuel gauge readings on my return did not note or comment about any damage at the time of the cars return, and there was no mention of damage in the return paperwork. The car was thoroughly covered in dirt when it was checked out to me and it was returned in the same condition, having been driven only 47 miles on paved streets and highways from the pick-up location to the return location on a dry sunny day. It appears from the photos that you previously sent that dirt is covering portions of the damage. This indicates to me that at least some of the reported damage pre-dates my rental, and it could have been missed by other pre-rent inspections. Damage to the bottom of the bumper would not be visible from a walk-around inspection. The photos of the scratches and chips on the bottom of the bumper indicate multiple events that took place over time.

I want to better understand what has happened to the car, so it would help to see all of the evidence that you collected during your investigation of the claim. I am requesting the following information.

1. A copy of the original agreement when the car was checked out. You previously provided only a copy of the receipt when the car was returned.

2. A copy of the incident report.

3. Copies of all of the photos that were taken of the car and damage. These should be time and date stamped. I hope one of the photos would include the license plate and one will show more of a whole-car view as well.

4. Copies of the inspection slips from the previous renters. You mentioned that you looked at the three previous renters’ inspection slips. I would like to see the five previous renters’ inspection slips if possible.

5. Copies of inspections and/or incident reports for when the previous renters returned the car.

6. Any other information that you collected during your investigation.

Monica, I appreciate your help in getting copies of the above requested information, and I look forward to seeing the evidence of this claim.


Hello Mr. & Mrs. ,

I hope you are well. Thank you for your email. My manager and I have decided to write off this claim and to trust your words that you did not cause the damages and because the damages were realized after you had left the location. For future purposes, please do not accept a dirty vehicle at time of rental and if you do, make sure to thoroughly inspect the vehicle and mark any pre-existing damages on the inspection slip.

Budget will waive the cost of the damages associated with the vehicle that was rented and close your existing claim. Budget’s staff makes every attempt to detect damage upon return while our customer is on premise. Unfortunately, this damage was not noted at the time of your return. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope you will consider using Budget Car and Truck Rental to fulfill your next car rental needs.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.



Jun 27, 2017
Thank you, relevins. I have copied and pasted in my ever-growing "Car Rental Beware" folder. I followed the Elliott.com advice to a "T" before, during and after our last rental (which happened to be Budget) and had no problems. Thanks to this site, we were able to counter some of the incidents that occurred on the day we returned the rental.