CLEVELAND — Sharon McCue of Cleveland lived through what she called a rental car nightmare, after the car she returned turned up missing for more than a month leaving her with thousands in unexpected charges.
McCue told News 5 she rented a 2021 Toyota Camry from the Budget Rent-a-Car location near Hopkins International Airport on March 12 because her car broke down and she needed to get to work. She showed News 5 documentation that she returned the car to the same rental location on March 18.
But McCue explained a month-and-a-half later she received a certified letter from Budget loss prevention claiming she once again rented the $25,000 vehicle a day later and that the car had not been returned and was missing. She said Budget loss prevention also called her multiple times, left voicemail messages, and told her the car was missing.
“This was a terrible, terrible experience and it’s getting worse by the day," said McCue. "It’s turning out to be a nightmare.”
“I actually missed a couple days of work going down to the Cleveland Hopkins Airport trying to resolve this matter. I kept getting phone calls, I get text messages, I get a certified letter in the mail, threatening me with reporting the car stolen. They want to know what I did with it.”
McCue recalled the steps necessary to return it, as she did so on the 18.
“I had the vehicle up until the 18th, returned it early, and did the same process as far as returning it. Basically the same spot that I picked the car up for, there was a gentleman there when I was exiting the car, I had the key in my hand. He told me to put the key back in the ignition. I went in there, I was given the paperwork and she told me I would get an e-receipt, which I did get."
To make matters worse, McCue reported Budget then rang-up more than $5,000 in charges on her debit card for rental time on the car she never used, and told News 5 she was never given any bill on the charges.
“I received nothing, no kind of billing, no type of itemization for what these charges are for," said McCue. “You couldn’t even imagine, this incident it’s making me sick, I mean it’s making me physical ill.”
McCue said she called Budget numerous times to solve the issue but with no results.
News 5 contacted Budget Rent-a-Car Headquarters and it quickly responded and issued the following statement:
"Following an initial review of events, we have apologized and refunded Mrs. McCue the additional charges. We are carrying out further internal investigations to ensure this doesn't happen again."
Ericka Dilworth, Cleveland BBB Director of Operations, told News 5 that consumers need to take precautions when renting a vehicle.
“You need to make sure when you’re walking around that car that you note anything that you might see," said Dilworth. “Take pictures, make sure it’s noted on the contract, you have to cover all your bases.”
Dilworth suggests covering every little detail, down the gas tank.
“You need to make sure that the mileage is what it says it is, the level of gas is where it says it is, and every little tiny ding that could be going on in that car," said Dilworth.
She also suggests keeping a paper trail of all documents during the return process.
“When you return the car, make sure you're not returning it to some casual person hanging outside of the location. Make sure you get a receipt, you know I dropped the car off on such and such a date, you know, you have a signature, they have a signature.”
Meanwhile, McCue has a final warning if you're renting a car using your credit or debit card.
“I would absolutely highly urge people to definitely put an alert with their credit card company or their debit card if you’re getting a rental car," said McCue.