The following post is from a sad but informative story we received from a member many years ago. However, because we have been receiving many complaints lately about RV rentals, we thought we would repost it - the information is timeless.
When we left on our trip my grandma was 89 years old and healthy. Her doctor had consented to the trip after verifying that the amenities in our motor home would provide her with a safe and healthy journey.
We arrived to pick up our 30-foot motor home and were given a ten-minute tour and minimal operating instructions. We were not given the trouble-shooting guide as indicated by our contract. We were not told that we needed special paper and chemicals for the toilet. We were not told that we needed levelers and stairs. We were not told that the sewage tank had not been emptied after the last rental.
Our first day on the road, sewage overflowed from the toilet; this was after only one person used it. We cleaned up the mess and noticed that the tank indicated it was ¾ full. Because there was no stair or step, my poor grandma had to be lifted in and out of the motorhome several times during the day and night to use the outside facilities.
The next day we pulled into a park to dump the tank and my son was sprayed with sewage because the tank hose had holes in it. The refrigerator quit working and spoiled over $200 of food that we had bought especially for the trip because of our dietary requirements.
For the next 16 days we experienced nothing but plumbing problems, an inoperative generator, refrigerator, and stove. My grandma became very ill due to the terrible smell from the sewage problem which persisted in spite of much cleaning.
We made an appointment at a repair center nine hours away to have some of these problems corrected. We called the dealer at the drop off point to request extra days at no charge on our rental to get the repairs done. They said that we would have to get approval from the rental agency. We tried calling the agency all afternoon without success. We called the dealer back and they told us that if we didn't have it back in four days that they would report it stolen and have us arrested.
The trip was so traumatizing to grandma that she had to be hospitalized the day after we reached the East Coast. She never regained her health and died a year later.
We initiated a lawsuit against the agency for liability and negligence. We ended up in a binding arbitration hearing. Even though our case was well documented, we lost. Why? We had not read the rental contract thoroughly enough. In fine print it stated that the agency has no responsibility for anything concerning their vehicle. It also states that the agency cannot be held negligent or liable. In effect, we paid $3300 for a key and a shell.
When you sign a contract with the agency, you agree to have no rights of redress of any nature. Signing the contract means you agree that you will not claim injury or negligence. How can this be legal? You also agree to submit to binding arbitration if a dispute arises. Did you know that this process can easily cost $10,000 or more for a three-day hearing and that the full amount must be paid prior to attending a hearing?
This is a warning to consumers. Please take your contract from any RV agency to an attorney prior to signing it. This particular agency makes you pay them in advance with cash or a credit card and yet all you seem to end up with is a key and a lot of potential liability.
Cheri Smith, California
The motto to this story needs to be: Read the fine print before you sign any contracts and, if need be, have an attorney check it. Also insist that the rental agency or dealership walk you through a full inspection process. With easy access to cell videos these days, we recommend you videotape the entire inspection process.