Conclusion to my rental car accident…

A couple of days ago I posted about how I (stupidly) had an accident in my rental car in Germany, and you guys were more helpful than I could have ever dreamed of, so thank you! Up front, here’s a picture of the damage, since a lot of you have been asking just how bad it was:

With that out of the way, here’s how it went down, since I had the accident at about 10PM in Berchtesgaden, and had a flight the following afternoon out of Munich, at around 3PM.

We left Berchtesgaden for Munich at around 10AM, and the ride was supposed to take ~90 minutes. Unfortunately traffic was awful, so the drive took about three hours instead.

I was driving without a driver’s side mirror so was worried I’d be pulled over by the police, though amazingly enough I didn’t see a single police car until we were on the airport grounds about to return the car, at which point the police car followed us.

He drove up close behind me and it looked like they were running the license plate. I made a left turn and the cop made a left turn as well. Crap. Fortunately when I turned into the rental car return area the cop didn’t follow me, so at least I didn’t have to deal with the police.

I was even more terrified of the reaction I’d have to deal with from the people at the rental car agency. Munich Airport has contract workers that handle rental car returns, so all agencies’ cars are returned in the same place, and employees come up to your car once you park it to take the keys, record the speedometer, etc.

I was embarrassed and terrified about the situation, so as the guy walked up to my car I simply said “I had a bit of an accident, unfortunately.” He didn’t say a word, took a few pictures of the damage using the portable tablet he had, and said “okay.” “Okay?!?” I was fully expecting someone like Matt from “Operation Repo” to come outside and kick my a$$ when they saw my accident, though there was none of that.

I asked the guy what I should do next, and he said “you can go to the Europcar counter if you want.” If I want?! You mean I’m not going to be handcuffed and taken to prison? Whew.

I did that, and explained to the agent at the Europecar counter that I had a bit of an accident with my rental car, and handed him the invoice I was given for the rental by the agent outside.

He said “okay, and what do you want me to do?” I said “shouldn’t I fill out a form or something?” He walked away and said “you can fill out this form.” I just had to write down my name, address, and my recap of the accident (aka “I’m an idiot and hit a pole”). He photocopied it and sent me on my way. He said they would contact me if I needed to pay anything, though said when the damage isn’t too bad they usually won’t even contact the person.

So yeah, that was far too easy. Maybe they deal with accidents all the time, but I was amazed by how calm/lax everyone was about it. I figured a manager would be called right away, he’d ridicule me, and then I’d have to fill out paperwork for hours.

I’m not sure what exactly I should do now. I believe I have 30 days to file my claim with American Express. My Europcar rental came with 1,050 Euros worth of insurance, which is the standard for them, so I’m not sure if that will cover it or not (I suspect not?).

Do I contact American Express anyway to open a claim, or should I wait a couple of weeks to see when Europcar contacts me, still leaving plenty of time for me to file a claim with American Express if need be?

Thanks again to everyone for their help, and I’ve gotta say this experience was at pleasant as I could possibly imagine (well, within the realm of being an accident). Unfortunately I suspect it’s not over yet, but I guess we’ll see!

Comments

  1. Actually, your rental most probably didn’t come with 1,050 Euros of insurance but 1,050 Euros is the amount you have to pay yourself and the rest is insured. That’s how it usually works with rentals here in Germany.

    Judging from the photo they’ll have to swap out the driver’s side door which will cost more than that so they will bill you for the 1,050 Euros.

    My advice is to call American Express already even though you haven’t gotten the invoice for the accident yet. They will tell you how to proceed.

  2. Rotten luck. The vehicle will have been inspected and damage assessed after you left the outstation. Fortunately the damage does appear to be limited to the door panel but Europcar’s repair shop may elect to repaint the adjacent panels. Going on past experience you’re probably looking at around €2,000 of repairs. Paintwork is frighteningly expensive. It’s worth double checking the excess on your CDW – €1,050 does seem high but annoyingly it’s not unusual. An invoice will be sent out to you. Stay calm, and in the meantime explore other insurance policies you have to see if they will cover the excess. Good luck!

  3. If all the damaged is in the photo, then it’s not that bad – a single element to paint over isn’t that expensive – I’m sure it’s much less then the mirror on MB invoice.

  4. Lucky, I had a similar accident in Iceland last year. The dealership can’t do much until they take it to a shop. In my case, I don’t have auto insurance and I didn’t pay for any CDW, the car rental company deducted about 1,800USD from my VISA Signature card after sending me the invoice from the shop. I filed a case with VISA signature and was eventually able to get all my money back (took about 4-5 month). Make sure you keep all the picture, documents, police report and rental agreement. I suggest you file a claim with AMEX asap so you get the process started. The process with VISA signature was done all online, didn’t speak to one customer service throughout this process. Good Luck.

  5. Lucky,
    Whatever you do, do NOT report it to your insurance company in the US. Your rates will go way up.
    Talk to Amex and pay the bill from Europcar and get the 25$ coverage from Amex for future.

  6. The mirror is an heated and electric operated one and paiting is neccessary. Will be easily above 2000 EUR.

    Like other I assume the 1050 EUR is Selbstbehalt, i.e. the amount of money you have to pay to Europcar yourself if you have an accident. Should be the maximun you have to pay (if this assumption is right).

    Usually the CDW of credit cards covers this accidents if there is insurance alreay included but the “Selstbehalt” not zeroed out.

    You should read the t&c of AmEx as they differ from country to country given the local differences in the markets. And they also differ from card (company) to card (Company).

    My advise is to read t&c and contact AmEx as soon as possible and finally ask them about the procedures. Usually you have to fill out a police report (even if no other car was involved but a tree, pole, sign, etc.)

  7. Easy going. The rental car companies are used to having cars returned damaged and then it follows an automated process. Damage assessment -> repair -> billing (minus any deductible from insurance).

    If you rented the car with an Amex Platinum make sure you read the fine print. Most of these policies require that you notify Amex or the insurance underwriter within a certain time. Amex process should be relatively painless from prior experience as long as you followed the instructions and terms&conditions. I’m not sure if Amex will be hung up on the fact that there is already an insurance involved as usually they say you should decline all additional insurance with the rental company.

    This damage looks significant, I would expect this to cost somewhat in the region of 2500 EUR (yes it is crazy but bear in mind that a car on average is already double price than in the US).

  8. Call up American Express, get their help to open a claim with their insurance provider, there’s no reason not to do so.

    You’ll probably hear about the damage… eventually.

  9. +1 to what Gary said.

    Yes, you must open a claim now with Amex. It might be months before you hear anything from the rental car company and then it will be too late. Opening a claim with Amex will not affect your personal auto insurance rates.

    The replies above are all pretty funny, btw.

    -David

  10. Wow talk about overly dramatic. So you damaged a car owned by a big corporation. Did you really expect the employees to care all that much about what you did to a car they don’t personally own? I’m sure they see these types of things 100x a day.

  11. Twenty years ago I “totaled” a brand new car in Germany by sliding backwards on a narrow, steep icy road that serviced a retreat site just outside of Munich. I had the choice of sliding off the downhill side of the road which would have been a fatal event or guiding the car into a tree on the uphill side of the road. The tree literally bisected the car in two. I had rented the vehicle on a Mileage Plus premium car with insurance. After 6 months, I finally received a bill from the rental car agency for ~$8000 which was the cost of the repair. (I was shocked that they were able to put that car back together again). Unfortunately the insurance coverage on the MP card required that claims be submitted within 90 days of an accident. Before paying the bill, I wrote to Mileage Plus explaining the accident and through unclear mechanisms they they interceded. I ended up paying nothing. I do not know if this reflected the many thousands of dollars I have spent with United or if there was a loop hole that the credit card company was able to exploit. In any event I very much doubt that I would receive similar treatment in today’s economy.

  12. I am suprised nobody has brought up the loss of use charges that rental car agencies add on to the damage claims. Insurance companies do not cover the loss of rental income during the vehicles down time. If they bill you for this it is usually at rack rate for each day the vehicle is out unrentable. This amount can be negotiated during settlement.

  13. 15 years ago, I returned a rental car with a broken side window (thieves). The agency said I’d get something in the mail when the damage was assessed. I didn’t, so I didn’t file with my insurance company or credit card. About 3 months later, I got a “second notice” in the mail from the rental company, and by then it was too late to report under the policy deadlines, and I ended up out of pocket about $350.

    So wait if you want, but know the deadlines to file and don’t let them slip by.

  14. I agree completely with FLYGVA. Please read up Amex and rental company contracts and call up American Express. That is the best thing to do.

  15. @ mr pickles,

    Europcar may add loss of use damages but since its pretty clear the cost of repairing the physical damage to the door and mirror alone will eclipse the CDW excess, its a bit of a moot point really.

  16. I would call Amex ASAP. The rental company is apt to simply charge your card on file for any damage they believe you owe. As the CDW waiver on the platinum card is your primary insurance, Amex will likely not bill you for the damage charge until the accident is resolved (hopefully in your favor with no billing at all.)This way you won’t be out of pocket for any money while waiting on Amex to settle the claim.
    The credit card coverage is primary outside of the US because unless you have a rider covering you for international driving your US policy is not valid outside the states. The only way the rental company has to collect funds from you is to charge your card and I am sure that is in the fine print of the rental contract. While they should notify you before they do it, I would not count on it.
    Also, Amex probably has a time limit on how long you have to file a claim. Stop that clock now. Even if they do not eventually have to pay anything, yo want them on your side.
    As for notifying your US insurance carrier, I will leave that up to you. Many policies have a clause requiring you to notify them of any accident in which you are involved, even if you are judged not at fault or if their coverage would not apply. While I don’t think that they wold ever be able to find out, read your own policy first to see if this is a requirement. Most (maybe all) insurance companies use a clearing house for “claims” and “mvrs.” These are checked on policy renewals even if you have not reported anything directly. I don’t think either service has international data (maybe Canada and Mexico, but surely not EU.)
    Once you have the facts, then you can make an informed decision about what to do. Good luck with this. It is a pain!

  17. I would definitely talk to someone at AMEX now and let them help you through the process. I wouldn’t expect to hear from anyone at Europcar in the near future, they might not even contact you further and just bill your card for the repairs. IMO, it’s better to get ahead of it than wait for a larger problem to manifest.

  18. When I lived in Germany, I rented a car every week. Always took out the insurance, as the cars almost always came back with missing panels, gas doors, bent rims, etc.

    Worth every penny.

  19. Agree with Paul’s excellent post. As well, it is best to contact AMEX NOW as there is definitely a time limit on contacting the CC companies. You’ll likely only be on for the deductible. I always buy down the deductible when I’m renting there as basic deductible amounts can be very high, but YMMV.

  20. 1050 sounds like the standard cdw excess. Given the damage, they probably will charge you this amount. You should open a case with Amex right now, they probably then request a copy of the rental contract, damage report, experts damage opinion ( this will be done by Europcar automatically, but you have to request a copy of the report from them ), invoice and copy of your credit card statement.

  21. 1) Damages don’t look that bad, but will be significant. 2000 EURO plus loss of use will easily be racked up as they might have to replace the door entirely.

    2) Call AMEX immediately and open a claim. I have had to do it twice in 12 years (although both incidents were not my fault….boulder rolling into car/hit and run in parking lot) domestically, and they do take great care of the issue. I just had to fill out the paper work, and they took over from there.

    3) When renting cars in Europe, ALWAYS buy the extra insurance they offer so you can have peace of mind that you won’t get creamed if someone hits your car in a parking lot or garage and takes off before you notice the damage. Parking garages and spaces in particular are much tighter there, so fender benders are far more common. This advice is even more important in Southern European counties like Spain and Italy where scam artists routinely try to hit your car on purpose (happened to me on a drive from NAP to FCO last year) and then pretend it was your fault to fraudulently get paid out by insurance.

  22. FYI on posters comments on loss of use charges which are not covered by credit card rental insurance coverage

    – most loss of use claims by rental car companies are getting rejected as the rental car companies now have to prove that the car would have been rented out if available (no other cars available). They’ve been sued a few times over this and lost.

  23. On a completely different note, the best part of this post for me was learning you watch Operation Repo.

    I’d be more afraid of Sonia!

  24. I have dealt with several damaged to my rentals with Amex insurance. Although all were in the US, it’s been really easy. You can go and open claim online and let the two companies sort it out.

  25. Another +1 for all of those recommending you call AMEX ASAP. You have nothing to lose. The insurance coverage is a benefit you pay for and are entitled to.

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