Why You Should Take Pictures Of Your Rental Car Before Driving It Off The Lot

Renting a car is a great way to have full control over your schedule and travel, but it can also cause massive headaches if you're not careful. Rental car companies indeed take on huge liability by handing over the keys to random drivers. After all, have you seen how badly people drive? However, accidents, dings, and dents are not always the driver's fault. In fact, they can sometimes be evidence of driver carelessness — previous drivers who weren't as careful with their rental while on the road. Even worse, a rental car company can hold you liable for this damage when you return it.

This is a common scam that can happen with less reputable rental car companies and is every vehicle renter's worst nightmare ... that is if you don't take the right precautions. Luckily, there's plenty you can do to make sure you're not on the hook for other people's mistakes.

How to document your rental car to avoid scams

The best way to prevent getting scammed in the first place is by finding a reputable rental car company. You can do this by checking reviews online or vetting North American companies on the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Typically, people only write reviews for rental car companies if they've had a bad experience, so take what you read with a grain of salt. But there might be some diamonds in the rough, so peruse them. If any discusses a charge for damage they did not cause, you'll know to be careful. Even if the reviews don't state any of this, you should still document the state of your vehicle before you drive off with it and after you return it. The best way to do this is to take photos and a video of the exterior and interior with your phone.

Before you do this, also make sure you know where to locate the timestamp of these photos. You can find this on iPhones by tapping the lowercase "i" symbol on the bottom right of the image or by swiping up. You can also swipe up on Android phones to find the timestamp or by tapping the three dots in the top right corner.

What can happen if you're on the line for damage

While you might think a rental car company wouldn't be so bold as to falsely accuse its customers of inflicting thousands of dollars of damage to a car, it definitely can happen. Unfortunately, thousands of rental car drivers can attest to this.

One such driver was charged over $3,400 for damages that occurred weeks after she returned the car. The company claimed she had caused water damage to the vehicle, as well as its speakers, carpeting, and electrical. When she picked up and returned the car, the attendant did a visual check and cleared her to go. Their evidence of said damage? A photo of the car's wheel two weeks after she had returned it ... not the most bulletproof case, yet the driver was still on the hook for $2,000 after several conversations with the company.

While you can opt not to pay it and dispute the claims with your credit card company, you can still be sent to collections for not paying their fees. This can severely damage your credit score and lead to issues and frustration down the road. So while we know it can be annoying, it's important to take the time to document the state of your rental car before you hit the road. It can make the difference between having a great memory of your trip or a terrible one!