Hertz Glitch is Falsely Reporting Cars Stolen, Landing Renters in Jail

Hertz reportedly has a system glitch that has been reporting some cars stolen even though they’ve been properly rented out. The customers that have rented the cars? They’ve been getting arrested. In a few cases they’ve faced guns drawn by police. One case even resulted in two weeks in prison.

While Hertz rents millions of vehicles, this has ‘only’ reportedly happened to about 30 people. The actual number could be higher, but if you rent from Hertz it’s statistically unlikely to happen to you. Still, the stories seem to have a common thread involving switching out of the originally-assigned vehicle.

[S]ome of the renters reported switching vehicles, upgrading cars, or reporting mechanical issues before being approached by the law. One driver returned a vehicle for a flat tire and was given another to drive instead, and when the company did not complete paperwork for the second vehicle, the car was reported stolen and the police got involved. Another driver was alerted to an expired registration on her rental but was ultimately arrested before she could even return the car a few days later.

Hertz has reportedly already paid out damages to some of the victims. Rather than denying the incidents they acknowledge “it happens” but notes that it’s “extremely rare.”

False reports of stolen vehicles are extremely rare,” said Hertz spokesperson Tressie Rose, told us in a statement. “When it has occurred, it has been the result of unique and extenuating circumstances. In the rare instance an error within our controls has occurred we take responsibility

Three years ago Hertz informed me that reservations for their cars are never guaranteed. Apparently that’s true even after you pick up your rental.

Hertz was once the rental company for business travelers. In this extended montage from Up in the Air when George Clooney is grounded in Omaha he wants to buy a Chrysler Sebring from Hertz. The part they didn’t show was Clooney getting arrested when Hertz failed to file paperwork on the sale.

Three years ago Avis was going after Hertz on Twitter, offering customers discounts, upgrades, and status matches. Maybe it’s time to fire up the old marketing engine and do that again, along with a promise not to send customers renting Avis cars to jail?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. This actually happened to me. My car was hit in the parking lot, police were called, Hertz in Burlington, VT told the police the car was stolen. Total BS, eventually worked it out but even after complaining to both the local Hertz station and practically yelling at Hertz corporate I was given the cold shoulder. That was about a year ago and THE LAST TIME I have rented with Hertz (I travel weekly and choose National now.

  2. Good to know that. Until they find how the glitch happened and fix it, I will not rent from Hertz.

  3. @ Nathan – Cold shoulder would be if they put you on their Do Not Rent list. As for National/Alamo/Enterprise, they’re bad just in other ways. If you forget your belongings in one of their cars, expect it to be picked over before it’s returned to you. Not even a keychain is so minor as to escape their employees’ sticky fingers.

  4. Hertz used to be better, but I’ve since moved onto National. They have great rates with the company where I work, I always get to pick my car, and it’s zero hassle getting out of the airport, even at places like JFK.

  5. Thankfully I wasn’t arrested in my situation
    However I received a bill for thousands if dollars for a car I returned in perfect condition in ATL
    It stated that I had totaled the car and along with a bill for the costs for repairs to the body, towing fees and time lost for not being able to rent the vehicle 🙁
    Except for the fact I returned the car and went straight away to board
    my flight shortly after the returning the car
    I did have to escalate to corporate but at least they were responsive thanks to a contact I knew at the time who sorted the nightmare out

  6. @ Chancer. I’m OK with them picking my stuff if I forget it in general. No hard feelings, kind of like a ‘stupid’ tax.

  7. Uber.

    Lyft.

    Do not rent cars.

    Uber.

    Lyft.

    Do

    Not

    Rent

    Cars

    …but do National or Silvercar if you must

  8. Good to know. Actually, filing a false police report is a crime. Shouldn’t some people at Hertz itself be in trouble with the police over this? Lame apologies and occasional payouts aren’t the solution. A one time failure I can sort of understand. Thirty people over a period of time? Absolutely not acceptable in any way.

  9. As I think anyone who frequently rents cars will tell you, National is now a significantly better company to rent from than Hertz. But there are a lot more Hertz locations (especially off-airport) than there are National locations. And, unless you have a decent corporate rate, National doesn’t really have competitive rates these days. So there are reasons to rent from Hertz. They’re generally OK.. You’re unlikely to wind up in jail. My biggest gripes with Hertz is that they sometimes want to charge my more for rentals if I sign into my online account instead of shop as a “guest.” And my prepaid rentals seem to NEVER automatically post Rewards points.

    That said, while renting cars in the USA can be a hassle, it is nothing like renting a car overseas, which is usually a far more time-consuming and expensive proposition. And you’re far more likely to be hassled over some scratch that was already on the car when you rented it (take a full video with your phone in the rental lot when you pick up the car). So I’m reluctant to say that Hertz USA is bad. They’re just not great.

  10. Used to rent from Hertz a lot, until about 8 years ago when they said “Sorry, our rental confirmation means nothing; we don’t have a car for you.” Never have been back. I walked over to the Avis counter, they matched my status and got me a better rate than Hertz. I’ve used Avis ever since and found them to be friendlier and more likely to give vehicle upgrades. Avis overseas is another matter. Definitely video the car from top to bottom before you leave.

  11. I may start renting from Hertz just to try to get arrested. I need $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  12. Had a similar incident with Hertz. Was given a car with a strong gas odor and was replaced with another car before leaving the Hertz facility. Two weeks later the police contacted me but had a receipt and explained the situation. No jail time and no apology from Hertz!

  13. First thing to do after returning rental car is CALL your credit card company and report your card lost (after you put it in the shredder). This way they can not bill your card since the card number changes.

    Thrifty charged me $50 to tell the New South Wales my address so they can send me a $140 camera speeding ticket.

    Sixt sent me a $1500 bill for a scratch a month after I dropped off the car to an empty lot (they do not have anyone at the lot) I sent them copies of the my photos along with bill for $100 processing fee for showing proof of no damage ….. still have not heard back from them or the check.

    My sister got a toll violation in Orlando from Hertz at the exact same time her plane was landing in MCO Airport.

  14. These stolen vehicles must be from non airport locations. There is too much control and camera technology to track vehicles at airport locations for Hertz to presume a car has been stolen without quickly or easily confirming that with a review of the checkout video.
    If they cannot track all of their cars at that point, they will lose a lot of cars to thieves. Also, Hertz owns dollar and thrifty, so I wonder if those brands were the culprit?
    National, with their paperless rental process, did not impress the NYPD when I was asked for a copy of the rental contract during a routine traffic stop. Also, the glove box was completely empty… no insurance proof. I guess I was lucky I wasn’t falsely arrested.

  15. Hertz is a train wreck. I haven’t set foot in a Hertz office in two years and I rent about 50x a year for travel. Before that, the last positive (or rather, not SO negative experience) was in 2013 when I rented a car and got an upgrade.

  16. Ah, Hertz. Great memories of my honeymoon. Rented a car in Kauai (many years ago) and the paperwork was all handwritten. About two weeks after returning I received a bill from them for a calculation error (they made) on the rental agreement. They charged me for another 50 cents. I am not making this up…….

  17. This just happened to us this week in California. Rented car at LAX and 2 days later, was detained by police in Westminster CA because the rental car had been reported stolen. Car was towed as evidence but local police let us take our belongings out of trunk. LAX did send another car over, and supposedly credited our account $50 (haven’t seen yet). Calls to LAX Hertz office manager were never returned as we wanted entire week free due to humiliation and embarrassment of incident. Will NEVER rent from Hertz again. Poor customer service !!!

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