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Am I Liable For Faulty Hire Car?

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 2 Sep 2019 | comments*Discuss
 
Car Claim Clutch Repairs Hire Supply Of

Q.

I hired a car in November from a well known car rental firm for 1 week. As soon as I drove the car away I felt something was wrong. It felt sluggish and non reactive to my driving. It almost started to slow down and I got quite a fright as I was in the middle of busy lunchtime traffic. I managed to drive about 2-3 miles to the shopping centre where I was going in any case. I noticed an odd smell from the car but thought perhaps it was just a one off and it would be OK when I left.

I must have spent around 3 hours at the centre and my friend looked over the car, he thought it was a clutch problem. I drove again and this time it was much worse and I had to pull in sharply to a supermarket car park. I must have travelled between only 4 - 6 miles in these 2 very short trips. I called the rental firm immediately and they told me to call the AA who came and towed the vehicle telling me that it was more than likely a clutch burn out.

I went back to the rental firm and collected another car. At no point did they indicate that I could be liable for the breakdown. I explained everything that had happened and they sympathised and gave me the only other car available. I thought I might get some compensation and flagged it up with them.

A few weeks later I received a bill for over £600 for a burnt out clutch! Then followed a serious of phone calls between the firm and myself where I stated I would not be paying. I even called the AA and they told me that for me to have done this kind of damage I would have to have driven the car in first gear and revved it over and over consistently over a period of time. Given the time I had it (and the speedometer should prove this) it couldn't have been me who had damaged the car. The rental company are now threatening to pass information to a debt collector. I am so upset and feel that they are making me the fall guy for an existing problem.

Please can you advise?

(I.M, 18 February 2009)

A.

If the car was faulty when you picked it up, then in no way are you liable for the cost of the repairs to the car for the burned out clutch. Legally, under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, anyone who carries out a service (in this case, hiring a car to you) must do so with reasonable skill and care, and also using materials of a satisfactory quality.

You could argue that in the first instance, they failed on both counts because they failed to use reasonable skill and care in knowing that the car was faulty when they hired it out to you - arguably they should have known that there was a problem if the car was causing problems as soon as you took it away. They also failed because they didn't supply you with a car of satisfactory quality.

As you state that the car's speedometer will back up your claim that you only drove a few miles in the car before you had to call out the breakdown recovery service, and you know from your conversations with the AA that such a problem would have been the result of consistent revving in first gear over a long period, you have enough evidence on your side to defend any claim that they make.

They are trying to frighten you with the threat of debt collectors, and the chances are that if you make it clear that you are refusing to pay for the damage to the car, it won't go any further. If it does, all they can do is issue a claim through the small claims system, and you will be able to enter a defence to that, too. Legally, if they are claiming that you are responsible for the clutch damage in the car, the burden of proof is on them and they must prove that on the balance of probability, you caused the problem. If they do take you to court, an expert opinion from any qualified car mechanic to say that clutch burnout would be caused by consistent, long term driving of the car in first gear should suffice to prove you didn't cause it.

Write to the hire company and explain that you believed they were in breach of contract to you under the Supply of Goods and Services Act, and that you have reason to believe the car was damaged before you collected it. State that you will not be paying for their repairs. Good luck!

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Hello, I rented a car in Belfast. The car was faulty and had a bad pick up. Everytime I stopped it at a signal, it just wouldn't take off again in one go. I continued driving and after about 40 miles, there was a steep hill. I just about started climbing the hill when the car stopped. I pulled over immediately and called the company to arrange a pick up. I went back to the agency and they said it's a burnt clutch and immediately deducted 1000 pounds from my card. I receive a letter a week later, saying a full invoice will be generated soon and I'll to have pay for a whole lot of things...their loss if income , etc. What can be done about this?
Moodle - 2-Sep-19 @ 5:50 PM
The same thing has happened to my son (an experienced manual car driver) on holiday in Europe, money taken from his bank account for a supposed burnt out clutch without warning. There was no money in his account so he has been put into an unauthorised overdraft paying fees and warned that his credit score will be affected. No response from the hire company, bank seems more concerned with getting the money than supporting their client. He has some mental health issues and this is affecting his ability to go to work. we are all very low as this is constantly on our minds
Plink - 29-Aug-19 @ 2:15 PM
Summary We hired a car from Sixt car rental and only did 27 miles before the clutch failed. They’ve put a £4800 fee on my credit card Details My wife, three children and my elderly parents recently took out a car with Sixt car-hire in Copenhagen. I’d only driven it a short distance (27 miles) on the motorway (E47) when the clutch failed. The Sixt office was shut (even though we called inside their office hours). I called for roadside assistance which confirmed a failed clutch. We got collected by an elderly relative and made the rest of the journey ourselves. We did get a replacement vehicle the next day (although it took a lot of persuading) and I’ve come home to find the entire expenses (nearly £5000) added to my credit card. I’m currently querying the amount with the Credit Card company (Barclays). Since a clutch in an internal part of the vehicle it’s not possible to inspect it before leaving. In addition it’s a wearing part which should be maintained by the car-hire company (Sixt). As such it is their responsibility to provide vehicles fit for hire - I hope
Avoid_Sixt - 19-Jun-18 @ 9:28 AM
Been charged by Hertz linate Milan for a burnt clutch 1600 euros which has left me traumatised as this was no fault of ours we had driver a round trip 176km to lake common then to the hotel,then later that evening we drove less than 2 km from the hotel burning smell coming from under the Bonet and the car suddenly stop moving we left the car abandoned on a safe grass verge and next day we phoned the recovery service after 6 hours came to collect the car and were told by the recovery control centre that we would get dropped of at the airport the driver of the recovery refused and got rather abusive and threatening and left us abandoned in the middle of no where believe it or not there were no taxi conpany in this village other than getting one from linate airport which was 28km away at a cost of 80 euros we had no choice but to go for that option we got to the airport explained everything to the Hertz manager and there recovery company issues with us and the clutch problem with the Astra SE car that we hired they said it would have to be independently investigated to see who was at fault now I have had 1600 euros taken out of my credit card for something that I am not at fault with I need help, can anyone give me advice how can the consumer be protected?
Dan - 29-Oct-16 @ 3:25 PM
Been charged by Hertz linate Milan for a burnt clutch 1600 euros which has left me traumatised as this was no fault of ours we had driver a round trip 176km to lake common then to the hotel,then later that evening we drove less than 2 km from the hotel burning smell coming from under the Bonet and the car suddenly stop moving we left the car abandoned on a safe grass verge and next day we phoned the recovery service after 6 hours came to collect the car and were told by the recovery control centre that we would get dropped of at the airport the driver of the recovery refused and got rather abusive and threatening and left us abandoned in the middle of no where believe it or not there were no taxi conpany in this village other than getting one from linate airport which was 28km away at a cost of 80 euros we had no choice but to go for that option we got to the airport explained everything to the Hertz manager and there recovery company issues with us and the clutch problem with the Astra SE car that we hired they said it would have to be independently investigated to see who was at fault now I have had 1600 euros taken out of my credit card for something that I am not at fault with I need help, can anyone give me advice how can the consumer be protected?
Dan - 29-Oct-16 @ 3:24 PM
@Ighandi. This is a similar problem to the one in the article. Follow the same advice and let us know how you get on.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 16-Feb-15 @ 10:24 AM
I am having nightmare dealing with AVIS - Inverness airport. I picked-up a car on 10.20PM and called them back to repot a clutch problem on 10.40PM. I am an experienced driver and drove manual car for more than 10 years and would not ride the clutch. They towed the car back. Few days later, end up getting charged £1912 on my credit car without any intimation. Some existing problem elevated or it could be just aging of the clutch for which I ended up to pay. Would not listen.... Totally unreasonable.
jgandhi - 12-Feb-15 @ 6:15 PM
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