I waited to claim rental car damage — reader mistake story

Mar 20, 2020

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Dave, who missed the deadline to use one of his credit card benefits:

While on a road trip in Arizona last November, I was staying at a hotel near the Grand Canyon when a huge snowstorm blew through the area. The next morning, my rental car from Sixt was buried in snow, and upon digging it out, I discovered a thin crack in the windshield. Upon returning the car, an agent from Sixt noted the crack and told me someone would reach out if there was a damage claim.

A couple days later, I received an email invoice from Sixt that claimed the amount due was $0. I assumed this meant no damage claim would be filed, so I did not report the incident to the Chase Sapphire Reserve claims portal. In the past, I had seen thin windshield cracks fixed “in-house” with a glass sealant, so I assumed that Sixt had taken care of it.

It was not until three months later that Sixt sent me a separate claims invoice of over $300 for the crack in the windshield. At that point I was well past the 60-day window for reporting damage incidents through Chase. Chase Sapphire Reserve representatives claimed to be powerless, and though I spoke to numerous supervisors, none of them would budge on this case.

So, a lesson for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders who have never damaged a rental car before: A standard invoice sent to you after your rental contract is complete has no relation or bearing on a company’s claims process. Damage claims can take much longer, and the bill could arrive whenever the rental company gets around to sending it. If anything happens to your rental car, even the slightest dent, just report it to Chase within 60 days.

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Car rental companies are routinely slow to process damage claims, which means you could receive a bill weeks or months after returning your vehicle. However, you don’t have to wait for that bill to arrive to begin your own claims process. The collision damage waiver on the Sapphire Reserve (and some other cards) requires you to notify the benefit administrator of damage or theft within 60 days of the incident, but you have 100 days to file a claim form and 365 days to provide supporting documentation. Initiating a claim right away shields you from a sluggish response by your rental company. If that bill never comes, you’ll be no worse off.

Another way to protect yourself is by collecting relevant documentation. Keep your rental agreement, receipt and pre-rental inspection form — I recommend doing this even if your vehicle hasn’t been damaged. If you’re in an accident, get a copy of the police report and post-rental damage report. Finally, take pictures of your entire vehicle both before and after your rental, not only to document the extent of damage you caused, but also to absolve yourself of damage that isn’t your responsibility. You’ll likely need all this documentation to resolve a legitimate claim like the one Dave faced, but having proof of the vehicle’s condition can also help you dismiss frivolous claims made by the rental company.

Related: How to avoid letting car rental companies take advantage of you

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Dave a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by Andrei Stoica/EyeEm/Getty Images.

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