Q: I rented a car from Turo in Baltimore recently. My family met our host at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, and he gave us the keys to the vehicle. Everything was going well, and we were enjoying our trip until a few days later, when we could not find our rental in our hotel parking lot.
We called all surrounding hotels to see if it had been parked incorrectly and towed. I texted the host of the car and asked if he had picked up the car. The host did not know the car’s whereabouts. I then called Turo, and a representative told me to report it stolen. So, I called the police. An officer asked for the owner’s address and then informed me the car had not been stolen, but repossessed by the lien holder.
I called Turo to report this, and they again advised me to report the car stolen. I called the police officer back. She told me that if I said the vehicle was stolen, that would be considered fraud.
I called Turo for days and days asking for assistance. They gave me absolutely no support. I missed the last two days of vacation trying to track down our rental car to get our stuff out of it. The biggest problem was that my son had left his epilepsy medication in the vehicle. I do not understand how Turo can hold no liability. They know their hosts are breaking the rules with their finance companies, and they let the customer suffer when things go wrong.
Things went very wrong in Baltimore, and Turo has done nothing to help me. They refunded the last day of our rental — that was their only offer. I want my son’s medications, our other belongings and our rental fees returned. Can you help me?
— Michelle Marshall, Franklin, North Carolina
A: Turo bears some responsibility for your rental disaster. But the question is, how much? Technically, Turo isn’t a car rental company. It connects users to hosts who have vehicles they want to rent out. Think of it as Airbnb for cars. The rental agreement between you and Turo makes it clear that it’s just an intermediary, which is why it initially offered a small refund and didn’t cover the $850 worth of epilepsy medication left in the vehicle. Turo’s terms of service contain a limitation of liability clause that lets it off for such losses.
But, let’s talk about that. I’m sure you already know that leaving valuables in your car isn’t the best idea. And, if it’s someone else’s car, parked next to a hotel hundreds of miles from home, you definitely don’t want to leave valuables, including prescription medications, in the vehicle.
Ultimately, your host was responsible for keeping up his car payments and following the rules set by Turo. You could have leaned on him, but I doubt he would have paid for your son’s medication. The next step would have been to contact someone at a higher level at Turo. You can easily find their names and emails online.
Even though you weren’t entitled to a refund of your son’s medication or, for that matter, for your rental, I think it was the right thing to do. I contacted Turo on your behalf, and Turo spokeswoman Catherine Mejia told me, “Since the incident, we have been working toward a resolution with this guest, including providing reimbursement for the trip and offering reimbursement for lost items.” Turo offered to reimburse you for your son’s medication and your missing belongings.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or firstname.lastname@example.org.