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Budget Rental Rip-off

Budget Truck Rental advertises an $18.99 per day rental price but don’t expect to actually pay that when your moving day is done. I recently rented a truck from the company and it cost me $78, not including $25 for a dolly and pads.

I chose Budget because its archrival U-Haul had recently been the subject of an expose in the Los Angeles Times,1,6679268.story?ctrack=4&cset=true for its allegedly poor safety record. The Budget agent told me the $18.99 advertised rate did not include $1-a-mile in additional fees. Okay, it was only a two-mile move. He asked if I wanted insurance. Normally I decline this because my regular car insurance covers rentals, but I’d just been in a fender-bender and didn’t want to have to file any other claims. The insurance was another $20.

The real kicker came the next day when I returned the truck. I’d ask the agent if I could return it in the morning and he said okay. When I came at the same time I’d picked it up—9 A.M.— it turned out I owned $17 in late charges because the company’s return time was 8 A.M., regardless of when you pick it up.

I complained. The agent said there was nothing he could do—it was already in the system and in my contract as an 8 A.M. return. I called Budget’s customer service. The customer service rep said: “I’m surprised he didn’t charge you for a full day.”

I filed a complaint to the Better Business Bureau. Remarkably, that worked. I got a letter from Budget’s head office saying they would refund the $17 in late charges. I’d never mentioned at any point in this process that I worked for a media outlet.

I’m happy the company refunded my money but I’m sure there are a lot of people who wouldn’t pursue this as far as I did. If a company decides there are actually less than 24 hours in a daily rental they have a duty to disclose that verbally to customers and not just in the fine print of the contract. Also, I find that $18.99 advertised rate a little sneaky, considering how much a day ultimately cost me. Budget should be more upfront about its fees, or think of a more appropriate name for the company.

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