Am I liable for damage to my Turo even if I didn’t cause it?

Am I liable for damage to my Turo even if I didn’t cause it?

DEAR TRAVEL PROBLEM SOLUTION: My husband and I rented a car from Turo for a week while visiting San Diego. We paid for “minimum protection”, just to be on the safe side. We didn’t take any pictures of the car in the app before or after because we took great care of the car.

Christopher Elliott, travel troubleshooter...
Christopher Elliott, The Travel Troubleshooter

The day after we returned the car, I received a bill from Turo asking for $3,000 in damages (which is actually the maximum I would be required to pay with the protection plan I purchased).

The owner took pictures and there are some minor scratches on the black interior trim. The bill 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 pay $3000. Can you help me?

— Nancy Epstein, Boston

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

First, let’s look at some details about your lease. Turo is like Airbnb for cars, so you’re renting someone else’s vehicle. This was a late model BMW 4 Series so any repairs will be expensive. You also chose bare bones coverage with a high deductible, which meant you were on the hook for less than $3,000 in damages.

Turo offers three levels of insurance, ranging from “minimum” to “premier”. The minimum plan you have chosen 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 covers physical injury with a $3,000 deductible.

Are you liable for damage you did not cause? Yes. If your Turo host detects a rattle or scratch after you’ve rented your car, you’re in for it.

I have reviewed the photos of the claimed damage. The images were inconclusive. There could have been a scratch on the back panel, but it could also have been light hitting the panel the wrong way. For a $3,000 repair bill, I would expect to see a panel that was visibly scratched, if not detached from the interior of the car.

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

I am concerned about one thing you said in your help request. 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 a lot of unanswered questions about your lease. How did Turo get the $3,000 bill? What damage did the vehicle suffer? (You say you didn’t notice anything in the back seat and you didn’t carry anything in the back of the BMW that would have damaged it.) You could have sent these questions to Turo through the executive contacts that publish on my consumer protection page.

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 has 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 close the claim and you will not owe any damages at this time,” he added.


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

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