Rental car workers have flown under the radar of employees that have to deal with shocking things on a daily basis. It turns out that some people treat rental cars like they don't have to be returned.
All posts have been edited for clarity.
“I worked at a car dealer that uses the same guidelines as a dealer like CarMax. When cars used to come in for service, we would loan them a similar car to theirs off the lot and let them take it with a dealer tag until their vehicle was finished.
We gave one lady a Jeep Grand Cherokee while her car was in for service. This was a slightly bigger vehicle than she was used to driving. Now, remember, these cars have to go back onto the lot once they’re done being driven, so every customer was warned that every vehicle should be treated with care, this lady didn’t get that memo.
After a week of driving a free loaner, she returned the Jeep complaining of the gas mileage and that she had the hardest time parking it. We just took it as she really didn’t like driving it. Boy, were we wrong. The whole passenger side had giant scratches going down the side, it looked like she had gone through the woods. Some of it was yellow so it looked like she clipped one of those yellow pillars in parking lots.
The interior was another horror story. The entire trunk area looked like the bed of a landscaper’s truck. Dirt and mud everywhere. Detailing took days to clean it out. The best part was the leftover seafood containers left under the front seats. The car sat for a week after being returned because of the exterior damage, giving time for the seafood to stew in the heat. If anyone doesn’t know what cooked seafood starts to smell like in un-refrigerated environments for a long period of time, it smells exactly what it is, a rotting carcass. The detailers weren’t really able to get that smell out of it after the various amount of harsh chemicals. That Jeep ended up going to auction rather than back on the lot rather than trying to fix and sell it for a profit.
They stopped loaning out lot vehicles after that one. They flagged her for future service and with the rental company, we then outsourced our loaner cars to.”
Stolen Rental Car
“I worked at a rental agency shortly after college, and very occasionally, people would rent cars and then just not give them back. We would call them over and over and leave messages to no avail. We would try to hit their card on file as the costs mounted but as you can imagine, the type of person ended up having their card decline fairly quickly. When rental charges are mounting and the person is MIA, the main concern of the branch became getting the car back.
So here’s one of the more adventurous parts of the job, eventually, we had to ‘repo’ the car. One such time, we basically staked out this guy’s house until he left with someone else, leaving the rental car in the driveway. The branch manager quickly jumped in the car and we drove back to the branch.
Inside the car were dozens of boxes of designer sneakers, hundreds of bootleg DVDs, and dozens of fake designer purses. There were also illicit substances in the car. We had to call the police to report all of the items in the car. Really, we called about the illicit substances, but when the officer came the manager showed them everything.
Around a month later, the renter came to the branch to ask if we had taken the car and if his personal items could be returned. The manager took him into the office and nothing ended up happening. The manager just informed him they turned the items in to the police because it was policy, not mentioning the illicit substances or obviously stolen and counterfeited items. While it all turned out okay, the rest of us in the branch were crapping themselves when the manager took him in the office. The dude who had driven him to the branch was sitting in there with us and we were all convinced we were about to get murdered.”
“I worked for Enterprise in Madison, Wisconsin. We constantly had people wanting to rent ‘MF Chargers,’ which we referred to as MFC’s, to take down to Chicago for the weekend. They would come back smoked out with ash all over everything, and McDonald’s bags everywhere. Just a complete mess.
We would rent cars for cash if we could get a five hundred dollar deposit on the vehicle, plus other documents showing they paid their bills and proof of residence. When people would return their car, we would give them a check for their deposit back because we didn’t keep the cash in the office. One guy freaked out so hard because he wanted the cash right then and there. He was getting very aggressive and said he was going to go get his weapon. We called the cops and the guy never returned.
I worked in the airport location for a few months, and I had an absolute disaster as a branch manager. I would always have to work the night shift by myself, and we had to stay until the last flight came in, no matter when that was, so if it was delayed, we had to stick around. My manager would leave early all the time, and never make sure I was set with cars for the night. She just hoped that other cars would return and I’d be good. I constantly didn’t have enough cars for people and would have to walk them over to Avis and hope they could rent them a car. Nightmare.
This one isn’t a horror story, but I used to rent cars to the owner of Culver’s frequently when his car was being serviced. He always took the additional insurance which was great for me. He got in an accident in one of our cars one time by backing into one of those yellow cement posts in a parking lot. He felt so terrible about it, but he was covered since had the extra insurance. Really nice guy.”
Car Full of Gas
“I rent out my own cars on Turo. One time someone brought the car back late by a few hours, which is a bit annoying but oh well.
Upon return, I noticed the front bumper was damaged, like they may have gone way too fast over a speed bump or something. Again, mistakes happen, there was a process for repairing stuff like that via insurance. It was just annoying that they pretended not to notice it was there at all.
The car was brought back very late at night so it was dark. Hard to inspect the interior well without sunlight.
When I opened the door, it smelled very strongly of ‘gas.’ Like wow. At the time I thought it smelled like ‘gas’ but didn’t have the confidence to say that for sure because maybe it was just strong perfume or something, I don’t smoke.
They said they vacuumed the car before bringing it back, but it didn’t look like it was particularly well vacuumed.
The next day, I did a proper inspection and took pictures for insurance, etc. There was ‘gas’ everywhere in the car. Yeah, they vacuumed it, but there were small pieces on the floors, under the carpets, in between seats, and actual big pieces in the center compartment.
My only theory is that they rented the car for transportation or selling purposes. But even then, it looked like there was a big ‘gas’ explosion inside the car, which doesn’t make sense.
It took a month to get the smell out even after having the car detailed. I had to leave windows open as much as possible, leave a bunch of drying sheets all over the car, etc.
Oh and that accident they had cost over four thousand dollars to repair.”
“Normally, we hated vans. They were huge and hard to clean with rows and rows of seats that needed to be vacuumed, sometimes scrubbed. Big families rented them to go skiing, usually, and they were caked with mud, muck, and road trip trash. Not only that but they’re chocked full of lost and found items. It sucked because we had to take the time, time we could be spending earning our bonus, to do paperwork.
Anything that could be considered personal property had to be logged, tagged, and stored. These were usually accessory articles of clothing like gloves and hats and stuff like that. Sometimes it was earbuds or a video game cartridge, maybe a piece of jewelry. But it could be anything. Any unopened food, for instance. If it was open we could just throw it away, but if it was unopened we had to log it. We would often fudge it but if it was something that had even a remote chance that someone would call back about, we had to log, tag, and stash.
So vans were always stuffed with things like that. On top of how long they took to clean, you had to do all that paperwork for some kid’s single glove or some dudebro’s beanie.
I happened to get a van, and I approached it with my usual attitude. I walked around it, filling out my form, noting no apparent exterior damage. It was even pretty clean. Very clean, in fact, it was gleaming. That was unusual, to say the least.
I opened the driver’s door to hop in, and I noticed the floormat was pristine. The seat was clean. The center console had no trash, no fast food cups, nothing. It was gleaming in the sun as though freshly plied with a coat of armor all. I hopped in, and the first thing that hit me was the smell. It smelled like when your mom would take a load of laundry out of the dryer on a cold day and dump it on top of you, all warm and fresh and clean, on the couch while you watched cartoons. And the dash? Not dust, and gleaming just like the console.
The passenger seat has was looks like a pamphlet on it, but that was it. I slowly turned around to look in the back, thinking the parents upfront, or whoever, were clean freaks and felt bad about the back, and it would be a disaster.
Nope. Each row of seats stood like impeccable soldiers at parade rest, dress uniforms pressed and perfect. Each seat belt was even folded neatly in its place, and from my vantage point, I could see the seats of the first row each had what looked like the same pamphlet on them.
I picked up the one on the passenger seat, and it was a religious pamphlet. Colorful pictures of smiling people, doing various stuff together, that sort of thing. Scripture and other text, a phone number.
Other than that, there was nothing in the van. It was like they had rented it, detailed it, placed the pamphlets, and returned it. Who were they hoping to reach? I took out the pamphlets, thought about logging them, said forget it, and threw them away.
I did the ‘check,’ which was to open every compartment, nook, and cranny, and ensure they were empty or contained only official company literature such as owners guide and stuff like that. They were all empty and clean, except the glove box which had the owner’s guide and a company guide to roadside assistance. The only other item was a box of opened dryer sheets, which I think is what made it smell so nice in there. I chucked that too, and parked it, whistling happily to myself, basking in the envy of my co-workers; a van counted double for your numbers, and a cream puff van was almost unheard of.”
Extra Cleaning Fees
“It looked like any other mid-size car. It was a dark blue Chevy Malibu, and sure, it was a little dusty on approach but this was New Mexico; all the cars are a little dusty. Upon closer inspection, it was pretty dirty. Okay, but no big deal. Most of the exterior grime came off in the wash. Exterior inspection showed no obvious damage, except, a quick scrape of some of the muck on the rocker panels showed that whoever rented this must have driven over freshly painted highway stripes, or something because there was a spattering of bright yellow stuck on like nothing I had seen before.
I opened the driver’s door to get in, and, the first thing that hit me was the smell. If I saw a rotting hog carcass in the back seat I would not have been surprised, because it would have explained the smell.
I did not get in. I looked inside and walked back to the island to fetch a mask, gloves, and a roll of heavy-duty garbage bags. Thick rubber gloves, like canvas dipped in plastic, for handling chemicals, not the thin latex jobs we usually wore. The mask, sadly, was just a dust mask. It’s all they gave us. The bags were thick and black and forty-gallon-sized.
I went back to the monster and started opening it up. First, it was full of trash and garbage. What’s the difference? Trash is like paper and plastic and stuff like that; garbage is banana peels and old french fries and such, mixed in with paper and plastic and so on. So this car was stuffed with both, mostly fast food bags with opened sauce packets and uneaten food, some of it crawling with maggots. There was loose garbage, too. Mostly uneaten food I can only assume had fallen out of various bags at some point.
After getting most of the gross debris out, I noticed the upholstery. It used to be gray. Now, it was mostly gray but, down the center of the seats and the floor was reddish brown, with some black.
How in the world the vehicle had gotten here, how the person driving it from the return lot got it here, I’ll never know. This car became a legend. Nobody seemed to know how it got there. But it was one of ours, it was in the system, the renters got charged a giant fee for the car.
The floor of both front seats was disturbing. Used protection, a couple of unused tampons, albeit in dirty wrappers, a snarl of fishing line, a crusty flip-flop, crushed with the imprint of a foot, crust with who knows what. A ton of random and disgusting things.
Under the passenger seat though, yeah there it is, there’s a used tampon.
I’m not cleaning this, I thought. This is a hazmat situation right here.
I went to get my manager, to say forget that car.
At first she’s like, ‘No way, no car is ever too dirty, quit being a little complainer,’ all that, as we walked from the office to the car.
I responded, ‘Forget you, lady.’
We had a great relationship.
I continued, ‘You can’t make me clean that car. There’s not enough money on Earth for me to clean that car. I’ll quit. I’ll sue.’
And then we got to the car, she gave it a quick look, and said, ‘Forget me!’
She had me reach in and put it in neutral, and we pushed it over to the side. Then she made some phone calls, came back out, had me rope a blue tarp over it. It sat in the sun, the hot, relentless, New Mexico sun, for three days before some corporate suits came out, took one look, and had the tow truck take it to salvage.
I think it was the back seat, which I did forget to mention. In the back seat were several trash bags, some white, some black, some just grocery store plastic bags, mostly full to bursting, a couple of which actually had. Filthy clothes, little more than rags, really, more trash and garbage, more hazmat type things like feminine products and protection, no diapers but what I will swear on my deathbed was toilet paper. Used toilet paper. Maggots and flies and basically the scariest insects imaginable.
I never opened the trunk. There could have been a dead body or a trunk full of Montezuma’s cursed gold in there, I’ll never know because I was done after the used tampon under the passenger seat.”
“Do Not Rent”
“There was a regular customer who kept smoking in his rentals. It was an automatic two hundred fifty dollar charge. Eventually, my manager refused to rent to him anymore. My manager tried for a company-wide ‘Do Not Rent’ but never got the approval.
The dude rented a truck from a branch three hours away. When his return date comes, he didn’t return the truck. The rental branch couldn’t contact him and the truck went missing for three weeks. Eventually, he dropped the truck at our branch overnight.
When we opened the branch the next morning we found the truck with a flat tire, side mirror hanging off, cracked windows, scratched paint, and the back seat covered in dog fur.
My manager finally got the approval for his ‘Do Not Rent.'”
“A 2012 Mazda Six pulled in, the people gout out and quickly went around the car inspecting it before heading towards the building. Eventually, I went out to the car for further evaluation. Nothing looked wrong on the exterior, the tires were inflated, all good. I opened the door and sat in the driver’s seat.
I started to smell something, not strong yet, and looked in the back to see if any food was left. I got out, opened the back passenger door, and saw a plastic bag shoved underneath the driver’s seat. There were two plastic bags wrapped around brown paper all wrapped with box tape. I shoved my head down there and retrieved it while holding my breath. I closed the door, went towards the trunk, and placed it on top. I started cutting the tape and a big gust of stink came out of the bag.
Finally, I got far enough and sure enough, it was a magazine. A food network magazine. Without gloves, I yank it out and something was odd. The pages weren’t flapping in the wind. I immediately throw it and went inside to get some gloves and a trash bag. I got the magazine in the trash bag and went back.
Someone decides to get curious and they take it out and start prying the pages open. At that point, the smell was everywhere. We look closer and it looked exactly like we feared. There were crusty and solidified patterns all over the place. Every page that had the women on the cooking channel, were cemented. Goodbye spring cookout recipes.
A customer came by and his senses must have been on overload. He looked at it and explained it was not what we feared but something called AdBlue. It was a fluid that newer vehicles used for emission purposes. The whole place got pranked.
We all learned something that day.”
“I Mean Yeah That Happens Sometimes”
“We went to Hawaii for our fifth anniversary. We never got to take a honeymoon, so this was kind of a bit of both. We reserved a standard economy car from Fox and they said they upgraded us to a convertible.
I asked them for the type of car I reserved, as the convertible had minimal luggage space.
They kind of shrugged and said, ‘But it’s an upgrade.’
My wife was giving me the ‘Just get the keys’ look, so I said great and signed for it.
We drive around for a little bit and hit the beach and saw some ants in the car. We figured maybe we picked up or parked on some ants. It was late so we went back to the room and slept off the eight hours of travel and layover.
The next morning, I saw more ants then I turned on the air.
Literally, hundreds of ants came flooding out of the vents. There was a nest in the car. They lived there. I dropped my wife off at a coffee shop and returned the car immediately.
They ended up giving me another convertible, which I didn’t want, but when I told them about the colony they said, ‘I mean yeah that happens sometimes.'”
“I used to be the guy that inspected the car when it came back from rental before you handed the keys over. It was quite common for me to miss one or two if lots of cars came back at the same time.
Once a guy got out of his car, our most expensive rental unit, and sprinted towards the airport, although I didn’t actually see him go in. I was left checking his car for damage. All seemed fine until I opened the glove box.
Inside were two large pink toys, some furry handcuffs, a magazine, and a baggy with white powder in.
I thought it was a prank until I realized there was nobody around to see it. I didn’t get my usual report that the keys were handed back safely, but didn’t think much of it.
The next day the cops had taken the car out back and were tearing it to pieces. There were blocks and blocks of white powder stashed inside the driver and passenger door. It must have been hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I got grilled by the cops about what happened and what I touched but my guess is that he was trying to smuggle and got cold feet or something.
Anyway, it was something different from the crushing monotony of that job.”
“I got to work at six o’clock in the morning to start prepping overnight dropped cars. I pulled the first car around to the wash bay and in the dead center was a steaming pile of human poop.
After about thirty seconds of staring at it, a guy woke up in the bed of a Chevy Silverado, got out, and walked away never to be seen again.
The branch manager and I went through the tapes from the night before and saw him stumble into the bay, knock our vacuum over, take a dump in the middle then climb into the Chevy to go to sleep.”