Rental Cars in Spain – What to do if you have a Claim for Damages

car_rentalIn times of recession if you have to rent a car you might be looking to save on insurance, on the other hand car rental companies will be looking even harder to see if there’s any minor damage on returned cars. Rental cars come with basic insurance and normally the customer will be offered an additional policy in order to reduce the excess. The additional insurance can often be around 10€ a day, leading to many people deciding not to pay for it. However, what should you do if the car rental company claims for damages that you didn’t cause.

In the first place make sure that when you pick up your car you check both the car itself and the paperwork carefully, even if you’re in a hurry to get on your way. Car rental companies will note any scratches, dents or missing items on the paperwork, but it’s your responsibility to make sure that what they’ve already shown covers everything. If you find any additional defects, you should insist they be noted down by the company rep both on the paperwork and on their computer record (if possible). If you haven’t paid for additional insurance it’s also a good idea to take a few photos of each side of the car, just in case you need them later on.

For those who opt for the basic insurance package, when you return the car it will be checked with zeal, so be prepared. The best option is to return it in office hours so it will be checked at that moment. If this isn’t possible, then you may get a letter some weeks later informing you of damage and the cost of repair. Of course, if you know that any additional scratches are your fault, you’ll have to pay. However, sometimes the costs incurred related to the actual damage suffered may seem excessive.

If you are informed at a later date of damages and costs for repair that you don’t agree with, note that it is the responsibility of the company to prove that the damages happened when the car was in your possession. If they are unable to prove this, then you are under no liability to pay. For any claims under 6000€, in Spain you can use the local Junta Arbitral de Transport Terrestre (Land Transport Arbitrators Board) without any need for a lawyer or other representative – although if your Spanish isn’t great it may help to have someone represent you. The service is free; all you need to do is present a written claim and the decision of the Board is as valid as a judicial sentence.

If a car hire company explicitly excludes this Board in their rental contracts, they have to state what other mechanism is accepted. If you rented your car through a travel agency then the agency is responsible for making the claim.

In the UK and Eire there are various insurance companies that offer policies for car hire excess insurance at prices considerably below those offered by the car hire companies themselves (try insurance comparison site MoneyMaxim). These sites show European daily and annual cover – a bargain if you hire more than once a year. However if you’re resident in Spain, you’ll have to check with each individual company to see if their terms & conditions apply before paying for cover. To date we’ve not been able to find a price comparison site equivalent in Spain.