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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 http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-haul24jun24,1,6679268.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.
BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.