A Pasco County woman is sharing her cautionary tale of how a day at the beach cost her hundreds of dollars in rental car cleaning fees in an effort to warn other customers about unexpected charges.
Claudia Maines told Taking Action Reporter Jackie Callaway she spent a few hours on the beach the day before she turned in her rented SUV to the Budget office in New Port Richey.
Maines, who said she’s rented dozens of cars for past trips, told ABC Action News Budget later charged her credit card for a $250 cleaning fee, saying she left sand on the seats and floorboards.
“They are saying I had excessive dirt in the car,” said Maines.
Budget’s rental contract warns of cleaning charges for vehicle returned in an “excessively dirty condition,” but Maines argues Budget’s own photos prove the amount of sand in the vehicle required nothing more than a quick vacuum.
Maines said she had to catch a flight after returning the car, so she said she offered to have her boyfriend vacuum the vehicle, but the manager refused. That’s when she said she contacted Budget’s customer service.
In an email the company responded, “Charges for cleaning vehicles that are returned in such poor condition that the vehicle must be sent out for detailing, will be charged in proportion to the level of cleaning that is needed.”
The manager at Budget’s office in New Port Richey declined to speak for this story.
To avoid incurring the same costs, renters should vacuum any excessive dirt before returning the car.
Consumers can also dispute any unexpected charges from a rental car company with their credit card company. Most rental contracts have a mediation clause, but if that does not work, consumers can also take complaints to small claims court.