Fasten Your Seatbelt! 5 Crazy (and Completely Gross) Tales About Car Rentals Gone Terribly Wrong

Fasten Your Seatbelt! 5 Crazy (and Completely Gross) Tales About Car Rentals Gone Terribly Wrong

These drivers had to navigate some rather unexpected twists and turns.

By Michele Laufik

Booking, driving, and returning a rental car isn’t always a smooth ride. There’s the inevitable disappointment (“Um, this tin can is a mid-size?”), along with learning how to operate the darn thing (“How do you turn on the headlights?!”). All those hiccups are pretty common and par for the course, but sometimes road trips in a rental car can take a turn for the worse. From puke-infused vehicles to water-logged gas tanks, these drivers encountered some unseen speed bumps when renting cars on the road.

1. Car Sick

“I once rented a Zipcar that a previous renter had thrown up in,” explained a former New York resident. “It clearly had been sitting there for a while because it was growing mold. When I called the company, they offered me another car but at a super inconvenient location, and we were leaving the city that very minute for a wedding that evening in upstate New York. We ended up throwing out the vomited-on floor mat and driving the two hours to our destination with the windows down. Needless to say, my blowout was shot.” 

2. Como Se Dice... Screwed?

While in Chile, a D.C. couple decided to rent a car to travel to Patagonia from the airport. After driving through a steady rainstorm, they noticed a flashing light on the dashboard. Despite the manual being written in Spanish, they were able to figure out that the warning light indicated that there was water in the gas tank or engine and immediate maintenance was required. Un problema, they told us: ”There are no garages or mechanics in one of the most remote places in the world.” So they called the rental company who told them it would be a few hundred dollars and take several hours before someone could come out to look at the car.

Fortunately, the maintenance man at their bed and breakfast was able to replace the fuel filter, allowing them to get back to the airport: “We happened to be staying at a place with possibly the only mechanic in all of Patagonia!”

3. May I Take Your Order?

Back in 2002, an unlucky New Jersey fella rented a car from Enterprise. He said, “Because I didn't know any better, when I rented the car, I opted to use my own insurance rather than shell out extra for the rental insurance. When they walked me around the car, I didn't pay close enough attention to all the details and missed a half-assed attempt to cover up some damage on the passenger-side door.” Apparently, a previous customer used touch-up paint to cover a small gash on the door, which was undetectable on quick glance.

When he returned the car, the company found the attempted cover-up. “They said I was responsible for the damage because I didn't see it on the initial walk-around and would charge me my deductible, which was $500. As I stood in the office arguing with them, one of the employees came in and took lunch orders. He then jumped in the car that I had just been accused of damaging, drove it to Wendy's, and returned with food for the staff.”

After pleading his case with no luck, he called customer service and explained the situation, including the lunch run. “I asked them, how do they know it wasn't a worker taking the cars out for joy rides, damaging them, touching them up, and then passing the damage off on unsuspecting customers. Using vehicles for personal use was against company policy and Enterprise let me off the hook. Now I almost always get the insurance.”

4. Parking Up the Wrong Tree

While some drivers are charged for damage they didn’t do, others get away scot free — even after hitting a tree. Like this guy: “I was with a younger cousin who was an inexperienced driver on this small island just north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina…. All went well until we parked. He hit the gas instead of the brake and we drove up a small, wood-chipped embankment into a small tree. There were light scratches, which the car company never mentioned. And either did I.”

5. Joy Rides

On Reddit, some former Enterprise employees offered up the dirt… on us drivers. And, well, we’re kinda disgusting. The one thing most likely to be found in a returned rental car?: “Lots of used condoms. Wash your hands if you ever get into a rental car. Wash them a lot.” Note to self: Invest in hand sanitizer. There’s also this interesting L&O-like tidbit: “I found a loaded gun once. We worked a lot with the local [police department] and they would rent cars to do undercover work. They always asked for American cars that were grey or black — nothing bright, nothing that would stick out, and nothing small or slow. Surprisingly, when we called the station to let them know they were missing a gun, no one came to pick it up for nearly a week. Is that normal?” 

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