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Renting a car is common for business travelers and families on vacation. You can be in a car minutes after your flight has landed and when it’s time to return home, you just drop the car off and take a convenient shuttle to your terminal. Unfortunately, for some consumers, this is not always the end of the rental process.

If you return a rental car with dents, scratches, or in poorer condition than it was when you first got it, you may held liable. Here are some tips for returning rental cars so that you don’t end up with another bill weeks later.

Before booking a rental car, read the terms and conditions. It’s important to understand upfront charges, the return policy, fees for toll charges, and whether there are any restrictions on your rental, such as who can drive it and whether you have a daily mileage allowance.  You should also speak with your insurance company and make sure your collision and comprehensive auto insurance coverage extends to rentals. Knowing your coverage can save you from paying high rates for additional insurance that you do not need.

When you first get the vehicle, you should take pictures of it, both inside and out. This way, you have photo evidence of the condition it was in when it was given to you. Keep a close eye on the car throughout the rental period. If it gets damaged in any way, even if you are not responsible, you can be held accountable with the renting company. When you return your car, you should once again take photos of the interior and exterior. Rental companies should keep track of any changes to the condition of the car, but it is smart to be prepared with evidence of your own in case they incorrectly charge you.

It’s also smart to remain near the car while the rental car employee reviews the car for damages, mileage, and whether you returned the car with the same amount of gas as when you got it, if that’s required. Be sure to obtain a signed statement the company that indicates no damages to the car. Since many of us rent cars while traveling, here are some more tips for what to expect when returning a rental car at an airport.

Always check the car, including the trunk, before you leave to make sure you did not leave behind a phone, wallet, or other valuable item. Make note of the vehicle’s make, model and license plate just in case. If you do forget something, knowing this information might help the employees get your belongings back to you.

If a rental company wrongly bills you for damage charges, contact their customer support staff immediately and be prepared to use any photos or documents you have to help explain your case. In one instance, a man was refunded $184 after the rental company charged him for a broken windshield that did not occur while he was renting it. But remember, always hold on to the original document or photo and only send copies.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws and Arbitration Program, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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