There are unfortunately a handful of…..let’s say unsavoury rental companies in New Zealand-a few more than a handful world wide obviously-that spoil it for the good ones. Mind you, there is a vast majority that handle ‘situations’ professionally (like the companies on this website), but some kinda..don’t.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, or more specific the Consumer Issues Branch, often deals with complaints about rental car companies. Particularly from travellers:
“These travellers have since returned home to their respective countries only to be greeted by a credit card bill with additional charges by rental companies for damages to the car. Damages these travellers say did not happen while they had the car in possession.” (March 2008 Newsletter Ministry of Consumer Affairs)
Cue to: It’s-your-word-against-theirs-drama.
It happens to the best of us: To my next door neighbour last year in Australia, in January this year to my brother in Belgium and, I suspect, to a whole lot more travellers world wide.
It might seem a bit over the top or even paranoid to you, but taking a couple of photos of your rented (or to be relocated, mind you)ride before and after each trip doesn’t hurt anybody. Particularly photographing any current damage(s) before driving away into the sunset. And, of course don’t forget to point out these existing damages to the rental company while you’re picking the car up. Even when the employee says: “Nah, that’s sweet” -as they usually phrase it here in New Zealand- persist and have it put on paper anyway and get a copy of it. You’re not being painful -well, maybe a little bit- but you’re just covering your ass, nothing wrong with that.
Now, when you drop your rental off at the designated point of no return, it’s best to get someone from the company to give it a final inspection and literally -yes, LITERALLY-sign it of as, again, ‘sweet as’. And while you’re at it, get a copy of that ‘sweet as’.
However, this is easier said than done as many travellers are droppping the car off outside office hours. Probably because that’s the whole concept of backpacking (or travelling in general for that matter); postponing and avoiding by all means the ‘office hour life’. But apparently early flights or late night flights have got something to do with it as well. So it would be a good idea to go with a reputable company that has staff available that’s willing to stick around for 24 hours a day for when you -emotionally-part ways with your rental set of wheels.
Please note that most of New Zealand’s rental car companies are a member of the Rental Association of New Zealand, and you can rely on them to treat you fairly and ethically. But should a company -where ever this might be on Mother Earth- act dishonourably (a.k.a ripping your off), then there are some rights you may have which could be useful to know.
And, as they would say in the States:”For God sakes, take those photos of the damn car will ya”