A new lawsuit filed last week by the city of San Francisco claims that Hertz charged customers nearly $25 each in excessive fees for using their PlatePass service when crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, bilking consumers out of millions.
In the press release announcing the suit, the San Francisco city attorney said, “Rather than Hertz putting you in the driver’s seat, they’re taking their customers to the cleaners.” While the Hertz case may be potentially illegal, there are plenty of legal ways that rental car companies jack up the cost of their services.
You probably already know that rental car companies overcharge for add-on insurance and gasoline, and for the convenience of renting from an airport. Here are three other fees that are often buried in the rental contracts:
1. Early return fees.
You might think that if bring your car back before the agreed date you’ll get credit for the unused days. Not always. Some companies charge you a fee for bringing the car back early, while others recalculate your daily rate, which could end up increasing your bill.
2. Over-charging for tolls.
The San Francisco suit is only the latest to point out a common practice among rental car companies. In November, New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether rental car companies were price gouging drivers under such schemes.
3. A daily loyalty fee.
Some auto rental companies charge customers who are enrolled in their loyalty programs a surcharge of about $1 a day to cover the administrative costs involved with the program. That may be worth it for frequent travelers who enjoy the perks of the rewards club, such as upgrades or waiving higher-cost fees such as those for a second driver, but make sure you know what you’re signing up for if you join such a program.