Traveler stuck with bill after car dies

  • By Christopher Elliott
  • Friday, November 16, 2012 2:33pm
  • Life

Q: I rented a car through Auto Europe. During my rental, the car didn’t work properly. The vehicle wouldn’t move when I pressed on the accelerator, and it felt dangerous to drive. I called the company from my hotel and asked for another car.

Auto Europe insisted on charging my credit card $138 to tow the car. They say the car wouldn’t start, but it actually did, it just didn’t run right. I’ve been back and forth with Auto Europe by email, and it has offered $50 off on my next car rental.

I think it’s the rental company’s responsibility to give me a working car. Auto Europe won’t do anything. Can you help me get a refund for the tow?

Arnold Berman, Devon, Pa.

A: You’re right. Auto Europe should have made sure you received a working car. Actually Auto Europe handles reservations for several European car rental companies, so technically, it was that car rental company’s responsibility, but that doesn’t really matter to you.

Your case underscores the importance of conducting a careful inspection of your car before you accept it. If your vehicle doesn’t start immediately or if anything else looks suspicious, for instance: if the lights don’t turn on, the windshield wiper doesn’t work or the tags are about to expire, then politely ask for another car.

Auto Europe says that when you contacted the car rental company, it sent its roadside assistance service to your hotel to bring the car back to the garage. They determined that nothing was wrong with your car, and claim that it has been rented since then “with no further issues.”

In the event that a vehicle is towed, the rental policy you signed when you checked out your rental says you will be charged for it. I guess the real question is: Did you receive a car that broke down, and if so, whose fault is it?

If, as you say, the car was having trouble and simply stopped working while you were driving it, then I agree, the car rental company should take responsibility for it. But if the car worked fine and you were unfamiliar with how it worked (a common problem with Americans renting in Europe) then the company would have cause to charge you for towing the vehicle.

I can’t tell which it is. When you have an intractable conflict like this, you have one last option before contacting me: You can get in touch with your credit card company and dispute the charge.

But I thought I would ask Auto Europe about your case before you did that. Auto Europe credited your card for $138, the entire amount of the tow charges. I hope your next rental car works better.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “Scammed.” Read more travel tips on his blog, www.elliott.org or email him at celliott@ngs.org.

&Copy; 2012 Christopher Elliott/ Tribune Media Services, Inc.

More in Life

Expo in Stanwood can help you get ready for the country

The Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winterschool is set for Jan. 27 at the high school.

Curries continues home-cooked Indian cuisine at new location

The restaurant, now located on Evergreen Way, also puts an Indian spin on Northwest cooking.

Want to buy a house this year? Here’s how to start saving up

Here are five ways to help you put 10 percent of your income per year toward buying a house.

Beer of the Week: Scuttlebutt’s Night Circus

The Everett brewery’s head brewer had nightmares trying to dial in its new coffee and coconut ale.

A visit to the nursery helps put you in the mood to garden

Not ready to get back into gardening? January is still a fun time to poke around a garden center.

Plant of Merit: Hybrid oriental hellebores, Lenten rose

What: Oriental hybrid hellebores, with the common name Lenten rose, are a… Continue reading

What’s new this year for travelers in England, Ireland

The nations are improving tourism infrastructures and adding exhibits to well-known sights.

Long rocking bench with strange fence is for protecting baby

The settee is a furniture form that dates to the 1810s. It’s a lengthened Windsor or Hitchcock chair.

Home and Garden calendar for Snohomish County and beyond

“The Promise of Spring”: Plant sale and workshops by Northwest Perennial Alliance,… Continue reading

Most Read