Travel Troubleshooter: Am I responsible for damage to my Turo even if I didn’t cause it?

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DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: My husband and I rented a car on Turo for a week while we were visiting San Diego. We paid for “minimum protection,” just to be on the safe side. We did not take any photos of the car in the app before or after because we took great care of the car.

Christopher Elliott, the Travel Troubleshooter 

The day after we returned the car, I received a bill from Turo claiming $3,000 in damages (which just so happens to be the maximum amount I would be required to pay with the protection plan I purchased).

The owner took photos, and there are some minor scuffs on the black interior trim. The invoice covered the cost of replacing three interior panels. This seems like a complete scam, especially since normal wear and tear does not qualify as damage. I don’t think I should have to pay the $3,000. Can you help me?

— Nancy Epstein, Boston

ANSWER: You’re right — your Turo bill looked suspicious. Not only did it coincidentally cover your entire deductible, but the evidence of the damage looked inconclusive.

First, let’s look at a few details about your rental. Turo is like Airbnb for cars, so you are renting someone else’s vehicle. This was a later model of the BMW 4 Series, so any repairs are bound to be expensive. You also selected the bare-bones coverage with a high deductible, which meant you were on the hook for damages of less than $3,000.

Turo offers three levels of insurance, ranging from “minimum” to “premier.” The minimum plan you selected costs 18% of the trip price. It includes the minimum amount of third-party liability insurance coverage, required by California. Your coverage is secondary to any personal insurance you may have, and it covers physical damage with a $3,000 deductible.

Are you responsible for damage that you didn’t do? Yes. If your Turo host discovers a ding or dent after you rent the car, you’re on the hook for it.

I reviewed the photos of the alleged damage. The images were inconclusive. There might have been a scuff to the back panel, but it could have also been the light hitting the panel the wrong way. For a $3,000 repair bill, I would have expected to see a panel that was visibly dented, if not ripped off from the inside of the car.

Avoiding this problem is easy. You could have taken “before” and “after” photos of the car. You can use the Turo app for iOS or Android to do that. The app even applies a time stamp to verify when you took the picture. Unfortunately, you didn’t do that.

I’m concerned about one thing you said in your request for help. You referred to what happened as “normal wear and tear.” When you’re renting someone’s car through a service like Turo, you want to return the vehicle in the same condition you found it. Please take good care of your Turo car.

I thought there were just too many unanswered questions about your rental. How did Turo come up with the $3,000 bill? What kind of damage had the vehicle sustained? (You say you didn’t notice anything in the back seat and did not carry anything in the back of the BMW that would have damaged it.) You could have sent these questions to Turo via the executive contacts I publish on my consumer advocacy site.

I asked Turo about the claim. I thought you deserved to have more information about the type of repairs needed before paying the bill. A Turo representative responded directly to you and said that based on a review of the evidence, it has determined that you are not responsible for the damages reported by the host.

“As a result, we are pleased to inform you that we will be closing the claim, and you will not owe anything for damages at the present time,” it added.


Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at chris@elliott.org or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help/.
(c) 2024 Christopher Elliott
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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