Budget Rent-A-Car Car Rentals

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Budget Rent-A-Car
Customer Relations Mgr, PO Box 111580,
Carrollton, TX 75011-1580
800-214-6094 (ph)
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An Inside Look at the Cutthroat Culture of Rental Car Sales
StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarBy -
Rating: 1/51

CALIFORNIA -- As a former rental car employee at a busy and well known Southern CA Budget location, I feel I can offer some valuable insight into the rental car employee culture that is becoming more and more pervasive not only in other Budget locations throughout the U. S., but also the other major rental car companies that many people rent from.

Since I have only worked at Budget though, I can't make any definitive claims about the other rental car companies. However, I do know that from speaking to other rental car agents at other companies as well as reading reviews on other consumer and employee review sites, it is IMPERATIVE that the consumer take their time reading EVERYTHING on the contract before they sign everything. I feel an inside look into the rental car culture might be helpful to the consumer and answer some questions on why it's important to read everything before you sign.

Some consumers might be under the impression that most rental car agents are unethical, money hungry hustlers that will do anything to pad their commissions. While there are many rental agents out there that do fit that description, I would say that the majority out there either fall into 1 of 2 camps:

1 camp is the agent that faces a daily struggle with their values and really hates having to pressure customers into buying stuff they don't want, but they need the job to feed the kids, pay the rent, pay student loans, etc. in a tough economy. They aren't driven so much by the commissions, but by the threat of being fired by management if their sales numbers aren't considered acceptable. Many agents in this camp have been in the industry for a long time and have seen it change from a customer service focused industry into a cutthroat sales environment.

The 2nd camp quickly realizes that this industry is not for them and either quits on their own, or gets fired in a matter of months due to low sales numbers. Many people in this camp have strong customer service skills, but for various reasons don't badger the customer with upsells, products, and other services like the management expects.

As for the unscrupulous sales agents, they pretty much ruin it not only for the customer, but also the employees that are trying their best to remain ethical. The management loves these agents since they are bringing in the revenue, but everyone else hates them. These agents can basically do whatever they want including lying to the customer, or misleading them into paying extra for something they probably didn't even realize they paid for and management will almost always back them up since the contract has been signed.

How do you spot the unscrupulous sales agents? This isn't easy since many of them are rather charming chameleons that are so good at schmoozing the customer. Some things to keep in mind though when renting: All products and services are OPTIONAL no matter what the agent may tell you. You are not required by law to purchase the damage waiver for the rental car (Called LDW or CDW depending on the location), supplemental liability insurance/renter's liability insurance (SLI or RLI), personal accidents and effects (PAE), and roadside service (RSN).

Some agents may lie to the customer and say LDW/CDW, SLI or RLI, PAE, and RSN are airport taxes or state taxes, but that is false. If a customer chooses to decline LDW/CDW, PAE, SLI, and RLI, the contract should clearly say "Declined" next to all 4 waiver/insurance options.

Here is the tricky part though: Some agents will put that you are accepting all coverages into the computer system even if you said you are declining all coverages. If the agent did that, on your contract the word "Accepted" will be printed next to LDW/CDW, PAE, SLI, and RLI. That means you are accepting full coverage. The tricky agent will lie to you though and twist things around and say that "accepted" next to the coverages means you are declining all coverages. To someone that doesn't understand English well or is really tired from a long day, it is understandable how one can get confused with this twisting of words.

My best advice is to have your original reservation printout with you to compare the price to what the contract states. If you don't know what your original price was, you can potentially become an easy victim for the dishonest sales agent. Just remember that LDW/CDW, PAE, SLI, RLI, and RSN are NOT taxes and NOT mandatory to take.

Another common trick an agent might do is "bundle" coverages together if you ask for just 1 thing. For example, say if you only want to cover the car with the LDW/CDW an agent might throw on SLI or RSN too. The agent may present this as "Partial Coverage" or "The Basic Coverage" making it seem like in order to cover the car, you have to purchase it in a "package" with other insurance. That is a complete lie and false. Some agents might continue to argue with you and say LDW/CDW is not sold separately and part of a package. That's a lie. Everything is sold separately and not part of a package. Don't fall for that common trick.

Tricky wording is another common trick rental agents do everywhere. Some examples for coverages: "Will you be taking the full protection package or just the basic?", "Will you be taking the full protection package or partial package?", and "Do you just want the basic protection?" The rental agent that uses these phrases is trying to trick you into taking some type of coverage no matter what. Some customers fall for this trick thinking "Basic and Partial" mean no coverage at all.

Here the agent didn't really give you an option to decline anything, so if you don't want any coverage, you have to tell the agent explicitly that you don't need any coverage. Even after you explicitly tell the agent you don't want anything, be prepared for fear based tactics to try to get you to accept coverage. Then be prepared to read the contract afterwards to be sure everything was "DECLINED."

You REALLY have to be careful on the upsell attempt. Management encourages tricky wording for the upsell in order to get as much money out of the consumer as possible. I can't disclose the method that they use explicitly since this method is actually owned by an outside company that many rental car companies hire in order to increase profits. I can tell you that almost no upgrade is free usually (unless the rental car company doesn't have your car class that you booked, then they often do a free upgrade), and if it is too good to be true, it probably is.

Let's just say that if you are booked into a Toyota Corolla, don't expect that you are saving money from your original reservation by upgrading into a BMW, Dodge Charger, Camaro, Mustang, etc. or getting a free upgrade. You are paying more and many times much more than your original booking if you fall for this common upsell trick. For anything that is an upgrade or sounds like an upgrade, always ask how much more it's going to cost you to avoid this.

If you took the time to read all of this, I congratulate you. I hope you find all of this information helpful. Just remember to carefully read everything on the contract before you sign anything. Once you sign that document, there is little that you can do since it is legally binding. If you do find yourself a victim though complain to corporate only, and NOT the local management especially if it's a franchise location. Nothing will change unless corporate gets enough complaints.

Budget Ireland SCAM cost me $1800!!! - HOW TO GET MONEY BACK
By -

DUBLIN IRELAND -- In May 2009, I had a troubling experience in Ireland (apparently notorious for scamming tourists). I have fought for six months and I have WON! Here's my story and here's how to defeat these common scams. I rented a car from the Dublin airport, a grey VW Golf, and it was acting funny from the start. It stalled when the clutch was almost fully depressed and the gears would grind even when the clutch was fully depressed.

At first I dismissed the stalling as learning a new cars behavior. But after only driving the vehicle for 9km (5.5 mi), the clutch burnt out leaving me stranded. Keep in mind I have years of experience on a stick shift as it was the first car I learned how to drive. I filled out an incident report and was told I would be contacted within days if there were any issues.

I left Ireland for the USA 16 days later. Six weeks after THAT, I received a bill in the mail. They had already charged my credit card $1801.13!!! This included towing the vehicle from Dublin (country capital) to Galway (~200 km) along with labor, parts, and a "loss of car hire" fee of 88 euro. Even insurance companies get to assess damage before paying. Why wasn't I afforded this opportunity? I was never given a copy of my own statement, OR a copy of the investigation report concluding I was at fault. I was never even notified they were holding me liable or given information regarding where and when the vehicle was being repaired.

There is no way I burned out a clutch in only 9 km and there is no way it should cost almost $2K to repair. Budget of the U.S. says they have no jurisdiction. I've filed a complaint to the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, the European Consumer Center, the Car Rental Council of Ireland, and have sent certified letters to the car agency. It sucks because for the last month I have been raving about how wonderful Ireland was. So beautiful and everyone was so nice. I even had my co-worker convinced she would retire there (she retires next month).

I have since learned that Ireland is notorious for doing this to international renters. I started doing my own research and here's what I found: Something like half of all complaints against car rental agencies in Europe are against Ireland. There are SIX authorized VW dealerships in Dublin that quoted a third of the price to repair a clutch. Low clutch/transmission fluid can simulate a burnt out clutch. I contacted VW in Ireland and even they say there it is “highly unusual” for a clutch to burn out in 9km. I saved this email (you must get this info in writing).

Budget supposedly towed my vehicle all the way to Galway to "repair" when there were six authorized VW dealerships locally. They towed it to Flynn Brothers Garage. After calling around in Ireland, this is the same company as Flynn Brothers Rent A Car... which has the same phone number and is affiliated with Budget Rent a Car. So did they even really tow it to repair it? Or did they just have their sister company write up a fake invoice? The invoice didn't even have an odometer reading.

The repair on the invoice occurred SIX WEEKS after my trip. This implies that the car just sat around for six weeks before a repair yet they charged me only 88 euro for "loss of car hire." I began blogging and right here on my3cents.com, a man named ** found my story.

Here's HIS story.... exactly one week prior to me, in April, he rented a grey VW Golf from the Dublin airport from Budget Rent a car. He drove his for 15 minutes before he realized something was wrong. He actually returned his vehicle. Seven weeks later, in June, he was charged $1801 from Flynn Brothers in Galway. This man has 30 years of experience driving stick shifts in over 50 countries with no issues but suddenly they say he broke their car?

Now that I've told you my story, let me update you on my WINNING RESULT: My credit card denied my dispute to no surprise and same for **. So ** found a lawyer ("solicitor") locally to Budget HQ in Ireland. They went through the 3 month process of sending letters and Budget claiming it was still our fault. They wouldn't budge, so we hit them with court papers. This time I will no longer accept the original $1800.

I wrote an invoice for my time and money spent on the issue with receipts (logged international phone calls, certified mail, car checks, plus all of the HOURS spent) and charged my hourly rate as an engineer. Then we hit them with court papers demanding not only the $1800, but about $4700 total and that is to be ON TOP of our lawyer fees. Guess what. One day before the court date, my lawyer was sent a check for $4704.02!! I just got it in the mail and I am cashing it today! ** got his check a few weeks ago.

NEVER GIVE UP. If you are in the right, you will prevail if you persevere enough. ** and I also contacted the Garda (police) in Ireland. Mostly they said it was a civil matter but ** somehow got one to go pay Budget a visit and ask some questions. This just adds more pressure. Also I got Christopher Elliott, the travel guy from MSNBC (after multiple emails pleading for his interference) to contact Budget in Ireland as well. They never responded but more pressure is better.

Now that I've won after 7 long months, I want to do my job to help others as well. So if this has happened to you, in ANY country, here's how you win! Don't pay your credit card. Dispute it. Keep in mind you WILL LOSE the dispute, but the process takes months and buys you time. In the meantime, go ahead and begin your research. Blog like crazy. Ya never know who you will find out there that can help you out (like **).

I also emailed Christopher Elliott, the travel guy from MSNBC. It took about 5 emails before I got his attention but once I did get his attention he contacted Budget in Ireland and that hopefully added pressure. Email news agencies, radio shows, anyone. Probably one out of 50 will respond, but you need all the publicity you can get to add pressure.

You must work with the local legal system. Even countries like Ireland have such different laws than the U.S. It will take time. Be patient. They will play chicken with you but stick it out; you will win. Just a letter from a lawyer will most likely not do it. It will take at least serving them papers for court. They will most likely wait until last minute before the court date to pay up. You just have to be patient and be persistent!! Let it go to court if it has to. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission so it's logged. Once a company has so many complaints, they are required to investigate. Do your part in making sure this doesn't happen to others. GOOD LUCK!

Awfully Terrible
StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarBy -
Rating: 1/51

GLENDALE, CALIFORNIA -- I must say [I] am not a person who writes or read reviews but after my horrible and very emotional experience with this location, I will fully concur after the fact to the previous reviews on other web site, PLEASE STAY AWAY! I travel a lot and have used budget rentals many times, yet this is my first time at this Glendale location. My upfront service was good, yet staff was a little unprofessional with very casual attire (it was mid week) and used slang to describe the car functions. Overlooking this concern (slang used because I'm African American). Yet out the door service was good...

Now when it came time for me to extend my rental another week, that's when their level of service and customer care was outstandingly AWFUL. I called and spoke to an agent at the branch extending the car for 1 to 2 weeks, because I was going into surgery and also informed the agent of this fact. The agent said, "no problem and it would be taken care of..." I said thank you and ended phone conversation.

As I was recovering in the hospital, apparently this branch attempted several times to get another deposit on my credit without my verbal or written permission and the card was declined. (I inform my credit card company to place a hold on my card(s) while I was being hospitalized).

The day I was released from the hospital traveling from Northern CA and in no man's land, I find out that manager named, ** has report the car stolen via voice mail message. I immediately contacted the police department which stated it was not in their system as a stolen car yet. I then contacted the manager, ** to resolve and find a solution for this issue, then later spoken to his Regional Manager named, **...

After explaining the situation of my hospitalization, the manager, ** just want to be argumentative and made no effort for a solution. ** did apologize for hear about that I was hospitalized and could see it was just an error in communication, yet still refused to find a solution.

(Note: at this point the car is still not in the police system as a stolen car and we could contact the police station, stop the action and made arrangements with the supervision of the police department). Regional Manager ** just told me I was no longer able to drive the car. To avoid being pulled over and arrested for a misunderstanding, I had the car towed to the nearest 24 hour Budget rental location and checked in.

The next morning I called the police station, spoke to the Detective assign to the case, he verified that the car was at a budget rental location and in good condition, called me back and said the matter was closed.(Total talk time 18 mins. to resolve this matter alone).

My goal in posting this review to share my horrific experience with this location in Glendale, (which is not a corporate office, but an independent leasing office). Independent offices have much less supervision from Budget Corporate, so they can and may be loose cannon). Also to warning everyone of this branch abuse of authority, the bad customer service/care and how this branch functions professionally. If you do rent here, I pray your experience will be better. I wish I would have just read the prior post on other sites before I rented there...because if I had, I WOULD NOT!

Screwed in Vegas by Deceptive Sales People
StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarBy -
Rating: 1/51

NEVADA -- I reserved a rental from Budget Car Rental and the written estimate I received was $260.00. Upon pick up the actual bill was $430.77! When I spoke with the salesperson I specifically said that I did not want their insurance and I also told them the name of my personal carrier and that I have Triple AAA towing. Despite this they still checked the box that I had "agreed" to their insurance and then they charged me an additional $100.00.

Watch out for their fine print "insurance waiver" which is one of the several spots that they ask you to "initial" before receiving the car. Regardless of what you agree to verbally you need to make sure they don't change what is on paper after it is presented to you. When I asked initially why the bill was so much different I was told it was because of the "high taxes in Nevada". I was never told it was because of the additional insurance they tacked on that I specifically said I didn't want.

When I returned the vehicle four days later I brought the issue up with their "customer service manager" and filed out a written complaint. I was told that they would review the "audio tape" to see if I had agreed to the insurance. Apparently they tape their customers without informing anyone that they are being taped. In my book that is illegal but regardless they never contacted me about the result as promised, billed my credit card, and I've been in a "customer service" tape recorded "leave us a message" loop ever since and it's been almost two weeks!

The bottom line is that for the $100 that they basically ripped me off of they have lost my business, my companies future business, and everyone that I come in contact with whom might be in need of a future rental car. It's now my personal quest to make sure everyone knows what a scamming company they really are. It's amazing how any company can think that they continue to do business this way and be successful.

Unhappy Customers? Why Not Call the Police!
StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarBy -
Rating: 1/51

CALGARY, ALABAMA -- NEVER rent from Budget, especially this location. I have never been treated with more rudeness and disdain and complete idiocy from a company than I have from Budget. I reserved a car through the 800 number and informed them that our primary driver was under 25. After giving all her license details - a class 5 GDL - I was told the only restriction was paying the underage fee, which we were fine with.

We arranged for a 6pm pickup because of schedules, and went to the location only to be told that the reservation would not be honored because it was a class 5 GDL. This put us in a very tough place as most other car reservation places in the area were already closed and we needed to leave town that night.

We escalated to the manager, who also refused to honor the reservation and grew more and more angry as we tried to resolve the situation. She was extremely defensive and abrasive and refused to give us contact information to further escalate and continually threatened to "call the cops" if we wouldn't shut up and leave the store. She finally gave us a business card to escalate to - our own - and when we threw it back on the counter she declared that we were officially abusive and went to call the police.

Obviously we left, and thankfully managed to secure a rental with Enterprise, who were amazing. I'm completely shocked and appalled at this woman's complete inability to provide any form of customer service or problem solving. She should not work in any public-facing job, especially in a management role. I am disgusted and not only will never rent from Budget again, but I have also recommended that my Visa card no longer associate with Budget for discount/advertising services as I don't want anyone to experience the same horrible situation that I did.

**read Before Using Your Debit Card With Budget
By -

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI -- Warning to all...this is what happens when you use your debit card: May 31, 2011 I rented a vehicle using my Utility Bill (address on bill **) and my most recent pay check stub (address on stub **) my current ID (address on ID **) and my debit card. I agreed to the rental fees for 1 week totaling $365.00 and a deposit of $150.00. It was explained to me by the rental agent (you should be able to pull her name from my original rental agreement) that upon my return of the vehicle the $150.00 will be refunded to me but could take up to 2 weeks depending on when my bank releases the funds.

I was told that if I were to need to extend the rental to call back in and authorize my card to be charged again. I was also instructed that if my method of payment were to change I would need to return back to the location to extend my rental. On May 7th at 10:00 I called in to extend my rental on the same original card given on May 31st. I was told by this agent (again you should be able to pull his name from this transaction) that my total charges to extend my rental would be $216.00 and the $150.00 will be released back into my account but would be used to make up for the rest of the rental charges.

I asked the agent to please confirm only $216.00 would be debited from my account so that I could make sure enough money was in my account to debit. I was reassured that the total amount of $216.00 would be debited, nothing more. I agreed to this. I checked my account at 2pm on 6/7 and the $216.00 was debited on 6/7. On 6/8 I viewed my account and an additional $150.00 was taken out as well. At 9:30am on 6/8 I called the Wyandotte location to question the additional $150.00 charge. It was explained to me that the agent I spoke to on 6/7 did not debit enough money and the $150.00 deducted from my account was to make up for the mistake.

The agent (**) apologized for the agent not taking out the correct amount and began to tell me there was nothing she can do. When I explained to her that my checking account had been drastically compromised, she interrupted me to advise me "Well you can just return the car and I will refund you for the days you have not used the car." I advised the agent that I asked the previous agent who extended my rental to confirm the single charge as advised $216.00 would be debited and was told "yes".

I advised her that I had no knowledge to question the $216.00 being incorrect because the person I talked to should have been giving me accurate information especially when dealing with a debit card and not a credit card. Since she did not display any concern for my current situation I asked to speak to the onsite manager. She advised me that she was the location manager and there was nothing she could do. She again advised me "You can return the car and I will refund you for the days you have not used."

I advised her that I was using the vehicle for job related travel and was unable to return the vehicle that day and should not be penalized by having to look for another vehicle because I was advised the incorrect information. Since the charges were valid in the end; I decided to let the matter go even though the matter was left unresolved.

On 6/14 I called in to advise that I would be returning the car late, I spoke with ** (a manager of another location, but at the 1217 location that day) and he advised me since I was returning the car late to be sure to have it back by 10:15 6/15 and to expect a $77 refund on my debit card instead of the entire $150.00.

I later received a call from the agent who originally rented me the car and she asked if I would be returning the car that day. I advised her that I spoke with Mike and he gave me instructions on returning the rental. She advised me that he was a manager and see saw the arrangements made. I advised her that I will be calling in on 6/15 to renew the rental. She advised me this was fine, however if I am changing my card in which the rental was being charged on I would need to come into the 1217 Wyandotte to do so. Otherwise, I could call in and extend the rental. 6/15 8am I call in to the 1217 Wyandotte location to renew the rental.

** was the person who answered the call, she asked me who I was and put me on hold for about 5 minutes. She came back to the phone and advised her systems were down and she would need to call me back. I gave her my work phone number because my cell phone was not on me that day. She did call me back about 30 minutes later advising me that I could not renew the rental because there was a debit card policy that stated no rental could be out over 14 days. I would need to come in, close out the contract and take out another rental.

I advised ** that finding out this information this late in the morning at work was once again putting me into another unnecessary position. I was never told this information at the time of the rental nor while talking to the agent on the phone the previous day. ** advised me that the policy was on the information I signed that is kept in the Budget rental office. I explained to ** that $300.00 total was being held on my debit card in addition to the $365 for another week. She advised this was her policy. While speaking with her over the phone I looked at my bank account and saw a new charge for $73.00.

I asked ** to have a District Manager call me immediately as this situation was getting out of hand. ** asked what number was best to contact me on and advised my work number, the same number she had been calling me on that morning. Waiting all day at work for a phone call back, I never received one. At 5pm, I regained access to my phone and saw that I had a message from **, I listened to the message and it was from **. He called my cell phone at 11:32am. ** advised that if the car was not returned Budget would report the car stolen.

In a panic, I call ** to first ask her why I was not contacted at work. She simply said "I don't know". I advised her that I was waiting on a call from her manager. She advised me, her manager did not want to call me back and he told ** to call me and "handle" it. ** said she would call her corporate office to try to find out what can be done at this point. ** called me at 5:45pm to advise me the car was reported stolen and there was nothing she could do. She advised me "Just drop the car off at the airport location since you live up north anyway, we close at 6. There is nothing I can do."

I advised her that I had my 2 young children with me and this is leaving me without any transportation at all. She advised me "If you continue to drive the car, you are creating grand theft auto, the best thing for you to do is drop it off at the airport location". I asked her if they could renew the rental, she looked up some rates and advised me it would be $86/day in addition to a $150 deposit.

I ended the call with ** and proceeded to call the Kansas City Police department in fear that if I got pulled over on the way to the airport with my children in the car, I would be in another very bad situation. I asked them to let me know if the vehicle identification number or license on the car had been reported stolen, they advised me no. The car had not been reported stolen. Feeling very angry and confused I looked at the back of my rental agreement that shows additional fees if the car is dropped at a different location. ** did not inform me of this, but today I am very glad that I did not.

6/16 7:30am I call the 1217 Wyandotte location to speak with ** to renew the rental. Prepared to pay the additional fees, I go into the location in person. Sherry asks me for my proof of income and utility bill. I advised her that they should already have that information on file from my previous rental; ** says "I told you over the phone yesterday I would need this.” I went back to the vehicle to retrieve the original documents used to rent the vehicle. I handed them to her; ** says she needs an updated pay check stub.

I called my boss and had him fax me a pay check stub. I also gave her my most recent utility bill. ** takes my debit card and drivers license along with my proof of income and utility bill and give me the total for the rental. I advised her that I was using my cell phone to move that exact amount over into my make account. ** runs my debit card. 30 seconds later ** hands me all of my information and says she cannot rent me the vehicle because the address on my pay check stub does not match the address on my utility bill. I advise her I just recently moved and it was an update still pending with my HR office. I asked her what other information I could give her. She says "Nothing".

I advised her that after 2 weeks of renting this vehicle they are just not seeing an error? She says "They never should have rented you the car in the first place. I can't let another mistake walk out the door." I asked her to allow me to gather my son's car seat and stroller from the back of the car. Sherry advised me "I don't have to let you get anything out of the car.” I asked her, what could she possibly want with a baby car seat? She then advised me that the car doors were unlocked. I went to gather my things from the car.

At 8:28 AM I am standing in downtown Kansas City with a stroller and have no transportation to work. I called Enterprise was picked up and in a car in less than 20 minutes. No issues at all. As soon as I got to work, I checked my account again, 93.00 had been debited that morning. If ** was not going to extend the rental, my question is why didn't she tell me that from the beginning and not waste my time? She led me to believe she was running my card for the new rental agreement that morning.

Once she confirmed the charges were through, she then advised me she could not help me. When I saw the charges on my card I called ** to find out that the charges were for and she advised me because the car was dropped late and the gas tank was on E. Had I had known ** had no intentions on renewing the rental I would have put gas in the car ready to turn back in, but my intentions were to rent the car again and head straight to work.

I was given the name Mr. ** who works in the Shawnee Kansas location as the DM. He, to this day has not returned my call and to the day the deposit for $150.00 has not made it to my bank. It is my hope that writing this letter this information will make it into the right hands and this entire situation costing my not only money but complete embarrassment at my place of employment because of being misinformed on several occasions by the employees and managers at the 1217 Wyandotte location.

Just Initial Here
By -

You rent a car for a few days because you don't want to drive your 1998 Contour with 105,000 miles from Philly to Erie to see your kid play clarinet in the Pennsylvania High School Music Educators State Band. So you pick "Budget."

Here's what can happen: They offer you their insurance coverages. The total premium is about $53 per day. You say, "Nah, I've got GEICO (or Allstate or State Farm or Nationwide.) I'm covered." The kid behind the counter says "Okay fine, initial here and here and here and sign here." You do it quickly. It's 9:30 AM and you have to leave by 10:00.

Maybe if you weren't pressed for time you'd read what you just signed. Because what you signed is a binding contractual obligation. You drive to Erie. The trip goes well. That night, while you're eating dinner, some drunk slams into the rental car in the parking lot at Damone's. He leaves the scene. Amazingly, nobody saw anything except a black coupe with front end damage charging out of the parking lot with its lights off, making a right on red, and laying rubber into the darkness.

A few days after it's towed to the Ford dealer. The rented Taurus' damage is estimated by an appraiser hired by Budget. Believe it or not, there's $6800 of damage on Budget's vehicle! Budget hauls it away - they don't actually fix vehicles hit that severely - and you relax, because your "Insurance Guy" told you your insurance would cover the damage.

You're out your $500 deductible, but you can deal. Weeks later, back at Budget, they're preparing their demand for reimbursement from your insurance company. They list the $6800 in damages. They list the $200 tow. They list the $150 in storage at the Ford dealer. These amounts are no problem for your insurance company to accept. Your insurer is only too willing to pay them since liability is not an issue.

But then Budget gets creative. All rental companies are creative, but Budget is extremely creative. Because Budget tells the insurer, in their "Demand for Payment," that there's more to this request than the damages and the tow and the storage. You may ask, "What more can there be?" Well... there's "Administrative and Estimating Fees". "What are these?" Budget might reply with this: "Estimates don't write themselves. We had to have an Independent Appraiser go to the vehicle and write it. He charged us $125 for this service. Then there's all our paper handling so we added an additional $30 for that."

Next there's "Loss of Use". "What's 'Loss of Use'?" Budget might reply: "Since this car was damaged we weren't able to rent it to anybody else. And because this vehicle was out of service we MAY have lost SEVERAL customers (believe me, they didn't). So we used our formula (more secret than Coca-Cola's) to figure out our Loss of Use amount. We've calculated the amount to be $990!" Now most rental companies demand Loss of Use reimbursement from the insurer. But they might drop the demand when the Loss of Use is denied. Usually other companies are asking for about $350. $990 is the HIGHEST Loss of Use I've ever seen.

Finally, there's the piece of resistance of all the extra fees: Valued Customer, may I present... "DIMINISHED VALUE!" As stated, all car rental companies fool around with Loss of Use and admin fees when presenting reimbursement demands to the renter's insurance company. But Budget is the unmitigated "KING." And their Crown of Thorns is the godforsaken concept of "DIMINISHED VALUE." What Budget is saying with Dim Val is this: "We lost sales revenue at the auction on this vehicle when you wrecked it. And because we did we're going to charge you for our loss."

IMPORTANT: Don't let your eyes glaze over at this point, because what I'm going to tell you directly impacts not only your pocketbook but your, and your families', emotional well being.

Budget uses their in-house created "Diminished Value" worksheet. No expert on auto physical damage, no auto-rental-industry overseeing committee developed it. It's Budget's in-house created Frankenstein. When calculating how much Dim Val to demand from the insurer, Budget calculates how many of the replacement parts, and how much of the repair labor, and how much of the refinish labor is eligible for inclusion in their formula.

They enter these figures onto their calculation sheet (which they send to insurance reviewers like me, so I HAVE studied them) and they multiply a subtotal by a pre-determined mathematical factor, such as 2.35, (I'm NOT making this up) and this determines a final dollar amount which they present to the insurer as part of their demand. If the damage to the vehicle is significant, as with my FICTIONAL renter described above, this Diminished Value figure can be FOUR or FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS! Or more!

Budget then sends their demand to your insurer. It consists of the estimate amount (let's use the $6800 from above) PLUS the admin fee ($150) PLUS the Loss of Use ($990) PLUS the Diminished Value (say, $4600). So Budget says to your insurance company: "We want $12,450 for this $6800 loss!" Folks, your insurance company is NOT going to pay it. You can't blame them. They'll pay the $6800 plus the related tows and storage, etc. but they won't pay for the crap. Check your policy.

It may specifically state that they won't pay for this crap. Although I don't think they use that word. They won't pay for the crap because, as a "Third Party" to this loss, they only owe for "what we did" i.e. the damage to the rented vehicle which occurred while it was being used by our insured. They do not owe for Budget's subjective, unverifiable, costs-of-doing-business charges and alleged revenue-diminishing deletions. Insurers are NOT going to subsidize Budget's Profit Sharing Plan!

So Budget says this (and I had two claims I reviewed this week where this happened): Budget says, "We agree to your offer for PARTIAL settlement. WE WILL BILL YOUR INSURED FOR THE REST WHICH REPRESENTS THEIR CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATION." Do they do it? You betcha! What if you, like any righteously indignant victim who senses a major league screwing approaching, says, "Go to hell, Budget!" They may send your unpaid bill for $6000 to a collection agency, one of those endearing institutions which calls your house every other day and leaves messages on your voice mail.

Or perhaps they'll leave an intimidating message with your teenage daughter - one she has to relay to you tentatively at the dinner table - saying they need a call back concerning a "matter of great urgency." And through this collection agent, good ol' Budget might threaten to contact Trans Union, which they'll say they really don't WANT to do. But, they'll add, we can avoid all this unpleasantness if we can come to a payment agreement.

But if we can't reach an agreement, your recalcitrance, causing us to initiate this action, could cause your FICO score to drop precipitously from its current, pristine, 788. This horror story has happened because you waived the insurance coverage and signed the rental agreement, an agreement which is a legal contract which states you'll be responsible for "Diminished Value," an amount which could be in the thousands of dollars. And then you had to go and select the wrong parking spot at the restaurant.

Suddenly a trip of pleasure has become a long journey into a dark night of tension and turmoil. Budget seems to practice one of the worst traits a corporation can exhibit: Callous disregard and lack of empathy for their customer. True story: I looked at a demand from Budget this past week and saw a $7000 estimate to repair Budget's car. I looked at their demand sheet which accompanied the estimate. They wanted $13,700.

I know when I refuse to pay these outlandish fees, as I WILL do this coming week, (I left a message for their rep this evening) a return call will be received from "**" or "**" or "**" or "**," one of Budget's underpaid, easily exchangeable, improperly-seduced-into-believing-management-opportunities-exist, twenty-something employees (check out rental car company's employee turn-over rates.)

And with all the intimidation she can muster, she will say something like this: "Well, we'll just have to bill YOUR insured ( Note, this person is Budget's customer, too!) for the balance!" As loan sharking is to banking, so too is "Diminished Value" to car renting. Buyer beware! Stay away from Budget!

Budget Rent a Car Never Again
By -

I, along with my wife and 14 month old, arrived in orlando about 10:30am on saturday may 30, 2009. Excited about our family vacation. We collected our bags and made our way to the Budget rent a car counter and everything seemed to be going smoothly. ** checked us in with the online reservation made through hotwire.com. He gives us the sales pitch of upgrading us to an SUV for $10 more dollars a day, but we felt fine with our "full size" reservation.

He then tries to get us to buy the insurance telling us this was what "most people" do. I decline and decide to give him a break as it is probably part of the required sales pitch. We take our rental agreement across the street to the garage to pick up the car and this is where our experience takes multiple turns for the worse. As I was given the keys, I noted that they were for a Chevy Malibu, which according to the EPA classifications is a mid size, and I thought there had been some mistake. We make it down to the space and sure enough, it was a Chevy Malibu.

I was confused as our confirmation from Budget rent a car's website listed a "full size" car, Chevy Impala, Hyundai Sonata or similar. I understand the "or similar" but there is a great deal of concern that a Chevy Impala and a Chevy Malibu are considered similar, which are not considered similar by EPA or General Motors whom both classify the Impala as a "full size" or "large" and Malibu as "mid size." The trunk space alone is nearly 20% smaller in the Malibu as compared with the Impala. While I have highlighted the comparison with the Impala, it is similar with the Sonata, which is also classified as a full size.

After recognizing what I thought was a mistake, I went back to the key counter, passing five Hyundai Sonatas and two Chevy Impalas. I was then directed back across the street to where I signed my rental car contract. I went back down and talked with ** again who greeted me with "not big enough, need a bigger car?" I would not want to think that he purposely issued me the smallest car he could in a malevolent attempt to have me to pay more money for an upgrade.

I pull out the rental confirmation and detail for him the differences between the Malibu and the Impala and Sonata, and he only attempted to have me agree to a Mercury Grand Marques for an additional $35 a day. At this point ** became rude and dismissive telling me that the Malibu was what I had, unless I wanted to "pay more money." Sounds fairly close or "similar" to extortion to me. I thank ** and inform him that I needed to call Hotwire. I called Hotwire and spoke to a very friendly and helpful young man, it was quite the contrast.

After he made multiple attempts to reach customer service at the Budget rent a car there in Orlando. He called the main office, which only gave him another number that never got answered. After being on hold with him for 30 minutes he informed me that he had noted the complaint and gave me the number to customer service to continue trying. I then called the number and left my name and number along with rental agreement number, and have yet to hear from them. Not exactly the glowing example of promoting quality and service of Budget rent a car's mission statement.

At this point my 14 month old had been in the parking garage for over an hour, he had drunk just about all of his water and eaten all of his snacks. He was hungry and starting to fuss as he had growing tired of his stroller, but there isn't really a clean or safe area to walk or play in a parking deck. Frustrated, we go to the Malibu to install the car seat and the car reeks of dry, hot and stale, cigarette smoke. I refuse to subject the health of my child to a situation resulting from others failing to properly clean a car.

Again I head back to the key counter in the garage only to be referred back across the street to the rental counter. This time ** would barely even talk to me. I told him that the car reeked of cigarette smoke and he referred me wait for the next available agent. Miraculously the new agent now had a Hyundai Sonata, a "full size" car available. I was then able to go back over to the parking garage, pick up the new keys and load up my family. The new as well had an odor of cigarette smoke, but a hungry, crying toddler along with some airing out with the windows down convince us that we need to get going.

Finally about 12:30pm, almost two full hours since collecting our bags, we were leaving the Orlando airport to start our vacation. While there were no major concerns with the Sonata, we had to continuously be sure to air the car out before we loaded our family in it due to the smell. I also believed that I would be called by customer service, since I had left them my number, and the car could be sorted out afterwards. Much to my chagrin there didn't appear to be much customer service present with the Budget rent a car in Orlando.

Avoid Budget
StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarBy -
Rating: 1/51

GURNEE, ILLINOIS -- The rear driver side tire of our rental car kept going flat, and I had to keep stopping to fill it; probably since it was 4 below zero. I called Budget to ask if they wanted me to change the tire, or keep driving on it. The representative told me to do nothing and that they would bring a new car. I had to wait 5 hours for them to bring a new vehicle, greatly delaying our plans.

A month and a half later, I received a notice that they were going to charge me an additional $281.60 for roadside assistance. I at no time requested or needed roadside assistance. I could have easily changed the tire or kept driving and stop frequently to fill it.

I tried to call customer service to dispute the charges, but was told that department does not take phone calls and I had to e-mail them. Two days later ** e-mailed me that they were going to charge me the full $281.60 since I “needed” it, even though I did not request it. I escalated it to ** in the Executive Office of Budget. He said the most he could do is charge me half, claiming I could have refused to listen to Budget's instructions that they were going to switch out the car.

Then I asked for a receipt, so I could submit it to my insurance, which covers roadside assistance. Over a week and a half, I asked daily, and each time I received a receipt (from **) it either was for the incorrect amount or did not list roadside assistance at all. I called ** to complain, and asked if I could speak to his supervisor. He told me that there was not one higher than him in Budget, and refused to allow me to speak to anyone else. When I finally posted a complaint on the Budget Facebook I got the receipt.

Even though Budget is often cheaper, I'm going back to Enterprise (www.Enterprise.com). Their customer service is excellent, and they end up being less expensive in the long run, since they don't surprise their customers with unsubstantiated charges.

Very Unfriendly
StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarBy -
Rating: 1/51

ST. CHARLES, ILLINOIS -- I had the misfortune of trusting Budget for my car rental needs as I planned my family vacation to South Carolina this year. I had received a GREAT coupon for budget. So, I made my reservation & paid for my vehicle way in advance of our actual vacation. I felt like it was a done deal. I made hotel reservations the same way. To me, our family vacation was SECURE! I went to pick up the car at 5pm on July 29. I met with the man who runs the Tin-Cup Plaza location in St. Charles, IL and he even showed me the vehicle I would be renting.

We went back in the store & I was ready to get the keys. Anxious to get on the road to Myrtle Beach! I had a 16-hour drive ahead of me! I handed my debit card to him and upon running the card he told me I did not have good enough credit to rent the vehicle. I immediately felt tears start coming. He said "I am sorry there is NOTHING I can do". I offered to “phone a friend” to use their card. I called someone with a spotless credit history and a large amount of credit available.

He seemed a little put off that I wanted to try using another card. He reluctantly let me make the call. I had her speak to him on the phone and read her card number to which he announced "I am sorry but her credit is not worthy of Budget business either". Now it is 5:30 pm, and car rental businesses in the area close at 6pm. Budget was unable to immediately give me money back. I had to wait 3-5 business days. My vacation was on the brink of completely being ruined. Something I had been planning for months; no thanks to the care or concern of Budget or their employees.

He had no concern for me, and actually looked a bit happy with himself that he had just totally turned my world upside down. He said to me good luck. As I walked out of the store in tears I did the only thing I could do. I called Enterprise Car Rental Company on 13th Ave in St. Charles. The very friendly voice on the other end of the phone said, "come on over. We will take care of you".

I had to pay $580 vs the $220 Budget was charging, but I got a car & they were very hospitable and made me feel excited again about the vacation again. They had it cleaned and ready to go. I was home backing by 6pm. The extra $360 I had to pay cost my family nice meals and souvenirs while we were on the road, but we still got to go. No thanks to Budget!

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