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What Happens If You Scratch Your Rental Car?

Like most people, you do your best to protect your rental car by avoiding tight parking spaces or rough neighborhoods. Unfortunately, accidents happen. You may back into a post in the parking lot, bump into another vehicle when trying to parallel park, or fall victim to flying rocks on the highway. 

Worse yet, you could get charged for scratches or dings that were already on the vehicle if the rental agency didn't document them. 

Instead of spending your entire trip worried about the damage your rental car could incur, keep reading this article! We’ll discuss what to do if you accidentally scratch your rental car. Plus, we'll share great tips for protecting yourself from liability before and after a rental car is in your possession.

Are Scratches Considered Damage?

Most often, rental car companies consider scratches damage and will charge you a fee to repair them, especially severe ones. Generally, any scratch two inches or longer is considered damage. More minor scratches may also be classified as damage if there are multiple. 

Moreover, if the scratches are in the upholstery, the car rental company may penalize you for interior damage. These fees tend to be more costly, which is why most agencies recommend keeping pets in crates or using seat covers.

On the other hand, light scratches to the exterior usually fall into the normal wear and tear category. Most often, rental companies don't charge you for this type of minor damage.

Of course, these are just general rules, and most companies will have a specific policy as to what they consider damage. 

It's best to understand damage policies before renting a vehicle, especially if you'll be traveling with pets or kids. Here are a few examples. 


When you rent with AVR, you can sign a collision damage waiver (CDW). The CDW cost varies according to the rental period and location but is usually well worth it. If any accidents happen, you won't have to pay for the loss or damage to the vehicle. 

There's also a deductible damage waiver (DDW), which renters with an auto collision policy can add to their rental. The DDW covers loss or damage of the rental up to the amount of your personal auto insurance deductible. 


The optional damage waiver covers damages to a rental car, including dents, scratches, and a chipped windshield. 

If you do not purchase the damage waiver with your rental and your rental car gets scratched or damaged, you will have to pay for the repairs out of pocket. You may also pay with your personal auto insurance policy if it covers the damage. 


Hertz offers an optional loss damage waiver (LDW), which you can add to your rental for an additional fee. The LDW relieves you from the responsibility of paying for rental car damage, provided you use the vehicle according to the terms of your rental agreement. 

As you can see, companies don’t often specify what scratches they consider to be damage to a rental vehicle. Your best bet is to cover all your bases by adding on the collision damage waiver at the time of booking, especially if you are anxious about what could happen if you accidentally damage the vehicle. 

Top Tips for Handling Scratches on Rental Cars

If you find a scratch on your rental car, it isn't the end of the world. Take a deep breath and follow these steps. 

Document Damage

The best way to avoid getting charged for scratches you didn't put on a car is to inspect the vehicle thoroughly at the time of pick up. Even if the rental company has already done its inspection, take photos and examine the body, windshield, and interior for pre-existing damage, including scratches, scuffs, and dents.  

If you find scratches, even minor ones, let the rental company know and take pictures of them. If you are worried about liability, you can ask the rental agent to give you a replacement free of damage. 

Before returning your rental vehicle, you should follow the same steps — inspect and take photos of the car inside and out. If the rental car charges you for any damage that happens later, you'll have proof that it wasn't here when you returned the keys. This will allow you to dispute the unfair charges and get a refund.



Review Your Rental Policy

If you rented a car from a company different from the ones we discussed above, it's best to look at your rental policy. It will let you know the specifics about what scratches the rental agency considers damage or how they handle these situations. 

The rental policy may also help you determine whether scratches are covered under your collision damage waiver (CDW) or loss damage waiver (LDW). If you didn't add these to your rental, you would likely need to compensate the rental company for the damages. 

If you aren't sure of the rental car company's policies on scratches after reviewing your rental agreement and paperwork, call their customer service number or check their website FAQ for more information. 

Contact Your Insurance Provider

The cost to repair the scratch will depend on the size and severity of the paint damage. Another factor to consider is the brand of the car since a Mercedes will likely cost more to fix than a Ford SUV rental.

Thankfully, no matter what kind of scratch your rental car has, you can likely find a way to cover the damages without breaking the bank. Your first option should be to contact your insurance provider. If you have collision insurance, it will probably cover scratches. However, you must cover the deductible before your insurance coverage kicks in. 

Another option is to contact the credit card company — if you paid for your rental car with one — to see what coverage they offer. They'll let you know the conditions or terms you need to meet to receive coverage, how to file damage claims, and what type of damage they cover. 

Depending on how you plan to cover the damages, your credit card or car insurance company can help you work with the rental car company. 

Whatever you do, avoid trying to fix the scratch yourself. If the rental company isn't happy with the repair, you'll likely end up paying for the damages anyways. And, if you already paid an auto body shop, that'll mean paying the cost of repairs twice. 

Protect Your Rental Vehicle with AVR

Even if you're a responsible renter, scratches happen! Thankfully, you won't be charged for any damages that happen before or after the car is in your possession if you carefully document the car's condition. 

Getting the right coverage during the rental period will also eliminate the possibility of running into unexpected expenses due to scratches, dings, or dents. 

At AVR Van Rental, we offer renters liability insurance, deductible damage waivers, and collision damage waivers. Add them to your booking so you can have peace of mind and enjoy your vacation without worrying about what may happen if you get a scratch on your rental car. You don’t even have to sacrifice affordability by using an AVR van rental discount code!

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