Paying for damage to a rental vehicle is an issue that is regularly brought to our attention by our customers.

And there are often disputes between the hirer and the rental company as to when and how the damage was caused.

To get a better understanding, we commissioned a survey to over 2,000 of our customer base to find out your habits and procedures when it comes to checking the vehicle you’re renting.

Only a third of you (33%) said you checked the car fully for any pre-existing damage, including wheels and tyres, with 36% of you saying you check for major damage. However, we know from our own analysis of claims made that around 15% are related to damage to tyres, windscreens and/or undercarriage. This underlines the importance of taking the time to inspect the vehicle thoroughly before driving away.

One in seven of you (14%) said you have found damage on a hire car that was not highlighted on the checkout sheet, whilst 13% of you have been suspicious that a rental company would charge you for damage you did not cause. 6% of you told us that the rental company have accused you of damaging the vehicle when you hadn’t, and 9% received unexpected charges when you returned the car.

Taking all of this into account, we were surprised to learn that 18% of you have returned the hire car without it being signed off by a rental company employee, and only the same number of you take photos of the car to prove your innocence in the event of a dispute.

Documenting all aspects of the rental process is something we actively encourage people to do, and we’ve added a feature to our mobile app called SNAPs, which allows you to store pictures of your rental vehicle and documents both before and after the rental period. This makes them easier to reference at a later time should you require.

Our CEO, Ernesto Suarez, gives this advice: When you pick up a hire car it’s essential to check it over thoroughly and note every mark, no matter how insignificant on the checkout sheet, including any damage and scuffs to the wheels. Spending a few minutes taking photographs of the hire car at the start and end of the hire provides a lasting record of the hire car's condition and should stop any potential disputes with hire car companies in their tracks.

We see plenty of people getting charged for minor wheel damage or scratches on the bumper which were on the car when they picked it up but unfortunately were not noted in the paperwork. Sadly, in the modern world of vehicle rental this can be tantamount to writing a blank cheque to the rental desk.

In the event that you need to contest a damage claim made by the rental company, query it within 14 days directly with them. If a satisfactory outcome cannot be reached, you can direct your complaint to the European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS) –

Disclaimer: All prices contained in this article were correct on the original date of publication. Prices may change over time, so for current prices, please get a quote.