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What Happens If You Scratch A Rental Car (A Comprehensive Guide)

Car rental companies have revolutionized the way we used to travel. Not only have they provided us the freedom to travel at our own pace, but they are also cost-efficient. However, with all the freedom they provide, there are specific responsibilities that come with rental cars as well. 

These responsibilities include taking care of a rental car when it is in your possession. It also includes the responsibility to prevent damage like dents and scratches from happening to the car. But no one can always avoid accidents. No matter how aware you are, sometimes the rental car gets damaged.


If you are going through the same situation or somehow there are new scratches on the rental car, you must have a few questions in your mind. These questions may include whether you should get the car repaired before returning it. Who is liable to pay for the car scratches? And how much you may have to pay for the damages? 

Well, first, you must not panic. Secondly, here is everything you must know about what happens if you scratch a rental car. So, read the blog till the end to make an informed decision about your next course of action. 

What Is Rental Car Damage?

When you rent a car, understanding the word "damage" is important. Generally, damage to a rental vehicle refers to any defect or change in a car that may affect the functionality of a vehicle. 

Damage can be minor, such as dents and scratches, to major, like structural damage, damage to the car's interior, or mechanical damage that can happen because of an accident. 

Difference Between Minor And Significant Damage 

Minor and significant damages are the two types of damage that can happen to your rental car. Minor damages include small dents or scratches on the car's exterior that do not affect the vehicle's performance.

On the other hand, significant damages can be serious such as large scratches or dents that need bodywork repair or any mechanical issue that harms the vehicle's functionality. These damages make you pay higher repair charges. 

It is essential to check the car to see if there are any new damages before you return the vehicle. You can effectively cope with the situation when you understand the company's policies related to damage and insurance options. 

Have You Paid For Collision Damage Waiver?

Mostly when you rent a car, the rental company provides you with an option to sign the Collision Damage Waiver. If you select the same, you must pay some additional fee upon your car rental fee. So, whenever you face a situation where the rental car faces damages, first look at whether you signed for Collision Damage Waiver. 

If yes, then with the Collision Damage Waiver, the car rental company will charge the cost of the repair and other losses that have occurred because of the unavailability of the car for renting as it's undergoing repairs. 

What Is Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) 

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) helps the renter pay for damages that happened to the rental car. Due to its quality, the waiver is also known as the Physical Damage Waiver and Loss Damage Waiver. The damage waiver provided in it depends upon the car and where it was heading. 

The Potential Cost Charged For Minor Scratches

The cost of repair charged for a minor scratch is between $25 to $80. However, that depends on the car rental company's policies and the severity of the damage. 

Before you pick up and return the car, it is important to document its condition, which can help you reduce the cost. Understanding the damage policies of a car rental company and considering the CDW can help you mitigate the cost as well.

Also Read: Top 10 Car Rental Companies In Lanham, Maryland

How Much Will You Have To Pay For Significant Damages?

Major scratches or dents come under significant damage, which can cost you more compared to minor damage. Moreover, these damages are not covered by the Collision Damage Waiver. 

Understanding The Consequences Of Significant Damages 

Significant damage can range from $500 to $3000, depending on the damage's severity, the car's location, and the car rental company's administrative fees. These damages can affect the functionality of the vehicle. 

Factors That Influence The Cost Of Significant Damage

The location and size of the damage, specialized parts, luxury vehicles, high-tech components, and the rental company's administration can all affect the repair cost. 

Does Rental Insurance Cover Bumper Damage And Scratches?

Yes, the rental car insurance covers bumper damage and minor damage. These include dents, windshield chips, and dings. Moreover, you can purchase an additional damage waiver form to protect yourself from liability. But, if you do not buy a damage waiver, you will be liable for any damage caused to the car. 

What To Do If A Little Damage Is Caused To A Rented Car?

If you get a scratch on your rented car, inform the car rental company immediately. You likely have to follow the process set by the company to report any vehicle damage. Moreover, you should click pictures and make videos from various angles before you return the car.

Other than that, reviewing the car rental insurance policy and checking whether the scratch incidents are covered under the insurance policy is suggested. 

However, if the scratches caused by you are not under the insurance policy, you will have to pay for the damage. You should always keep damage-related documents, such as repair receipts and reports. If you don't inform them about the damage before returning the vehicle, and if the car rental company finds out about it, you may have to pay the fine.  

How To Inform About Damage To A Car Rental Company?

The process for reporting damage to a car rental company may depend from company to company, but the below-mentioned steps are generally applicable to everyone:

Take An Estimation Of The Damage

As soon as you notice the damage, estimate its severity. Make proper notes of the location, size, and type of the damage caused.

Make A Document Of The Damage

Click multiple pictures and make videos of the damage, including the surroundings of the car and the licensed plate.

Contact The Car Rental Company

As soon as possible contact the car rental company to report the damage. Some companies tell you to follow the process to send detailed information and share the photos or videos you took. 

Make A Complete Report On The Damage

The car rental company wants you to send them the complete damage report over the phone, in person, or online, whatever suits you the best when you return the car. Be honest with your damage report. 

Contact Your Insurance Provider

If you have any personal travel insurance or auto insurance policy that covers car rental damage, inform your insurance provider about the accident. 

Importance Of Accurately And Timely Reporting A Damage 

It is important to report car rental damage timely and accurate for many reasons:

Confirming About The Damage With Rental Company

Most rental companies require you to report the damage promptly. If you fail to do so, it could violate the car rental company's terms and result in additional charges. 

Help To Protect Your Rights

When you report and document the damage, you create proof that will protect your rights if any dispute happens about the charges or damage. 

Minimize Your Cost

If you inform the rental company about the damage before returning the car, it helps the company to repair the damage quickly because they know the damage in advance. It can be important if you are responsible for the damage.

Insurance Claims

If you depend on the insurance to cover the damage, timely and accurate reporting is required to file a claim. 


Renting a car comes with many responsibilities, like taking care of the vehicle in your hands. Moreover, you have to understand the additional charges for damage from minor scratches to significant damages to avoid unexpected charges. Also, you must understand the car rental company policies and insurance terms, such as the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). 

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you scratch a rental car? 

If you cause the scratch, immediately report the damage to the rental company. It depends on the damage and the rental company's terms which you may be responsible for paying the repair cost. 

How much will it charge for a dent in a rental car? 

The charges for the dent depend on various factors like the repair cost, damage, and the rental company's policy.