24 May 2024 Author: Andrey Davidenko

What to Do If You Scratch a Rental Car: A Step-by-Step Action Plan

Car rental is a popular service that comes in handy in many situations: business trips, vacations, moving, or when your own car is being repaired. However, even experienced drivers can face issues, such as scratches on a rented vehicle. Let’s figure out how to act wisely in such cases to minimize stress and financial losses.

Step-by-Step Guide: What to Do If You Scratch a Rental Car

Step 1: Document the Damage

So, you’ve discovered a scratch on your rental car. First, take photos of it from different angles. It’s best if the car’s license plates are visible in the pictures. Also, capture the overall appearance of the vehicle to make it clear that there are no other damages. This will come in handy if the company tries to attribute extra damage to you.

Write a brief description of the incident: where, when, and under what circumstances the scratch appeared. Indicate the estimated size of the damage.

Step 2: Contact the Rental Company

The next step is to immediately report the incident to the rental company. Don’t delay this, even if the damage seems minor. Hesitation may be interpreted as concealing the damage and aggravate your responsibility.

Large rental companies usually have a 24/7 customer support service. Call them and describe the situation in detail. Send photos of the damage by email or messenger if this option is available.

Record the time of the call and the name of the employee you spoke with. If possible, record the conversation (in some countries, you need to get the other person’s consent for this).

Step 3: Clarify What the Insurance Covers

Carefully re-read the rental agreement. It usually specifies what damages are covered by insurance. A common practice is that the renter pays for minor damage within the deductible, while more serious damage is covered by the insurance company.

If the information in the agreement is insufficient, clarify this point with the staff. Ask direct questions: will you have to pay anything in this particular case? What is the maximum amount that can be required of you?

Sometimes, protection against scratches is not included in the standard insurance package, but it can be purchased separately. If this option is not available, I recommend getting independent insurance in the future – for example, through insurance companies or banks.

Step 4: Collect Evidence of Innocence

This point is relevant if you didn’t cause the scratch yourself. For example, the car was damaged in a parking lot by another driver or suffered from hail.

Try to find witnesses and record their contact information. Take photos of the scene – if possible, with other cars, road signs, and surveillance cameras. If the perpetrator is known, record their car numbers and insurance details.

In cases where damage is caused by another person, the police are needed. Call them and wait for their arrival. The officers will draw up an inspection report and take statements from the participants. Based on these documents, the rental company will be able to recover damages from the guilty party, not from you.

Step 5: Agree on Compensation Terms

Let’s say you are found guilty of damaging the car. Now you need to discuss the procedure and amount of compensation with the rental company.

Ideally, all the nuances were stipulated when concluding the rental agreement. Re-read the relevant section. Usually, the company issues an invoice for the actual cost of repairs, confirmed by car service documents.

If there are no documents or the estimate seems overpriced, demand clarification. If necessary, involve an independent expert to assess the damage. Record all agreements with the rental company in writing.

Pay the invoice only after making sure it is justified. The ideal option is compensation through your insurance company directly to the rental company. If there is no insurance coverage, use secure transfer methods: bank transfer, payment systems with a refund option.

Helpful Tips

– Choose reputable rental companies and carefully read reviews. Saving on rent can result in big expenses in case of problems.

– Thoroughly inspect the car before and after renting. Record all scratches and damage, including the most minor ones, in the agreement.

– Don’t skimp on insurance. A good policy will save you from many risks.

– Follow traffic rules and parking etiquette. Most minor scratches happen due to negligence in parking lots.

Real Stories

“I arrived at the airport in a hurry to catch a plane. When I returned the car, the manager discovered a fresh scratch on the door, clearly from hitting another door. I had to pay a 200 euro deductible, although I didn’t feel guilty. Since then, I photograph all chips and scratches before renting and require them to be included in the contract.” (Maria, 42, New York)

“I rented a Mustang, decided to show off in front of my friends. I couldn’t make a turn and hit a guardrail. The result was an impressive scratch along the entire side. The repair cost a pretty penny, which was not covered by insurance. But it sobered me up – now I drive rental cars like my own, and I only drive recklessly in racing simulators.” (John, 29, Chicago)


A scratch on a rental car is an unpleasant but quite solvable incident. By following our recommendations, you can handle the situation with dignity and maintain a good relationship with the rental company. Be attentive, think through the risks in advance, and you can avoid stress and unnecessary costs when traveling in a rented vehicle.

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