It is unfortunately part of a car rental company's job to inspect a car once it has been brought back so that they may keep their vehicles running smoothly.
And unfortunately, some people are just...gross. Or worse.
Rental cars get turned in in such bad shape that people are speechless. But now they are coming forward to share their horror stories.
Here were some of those stories.
But Why The Seafood ThoughGiphy
I worked at a car dealer that uses the same guidelines as a dealers like CarMax. 1 owner low mileage cars from rental companies and off lease cars. 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 non grand Jeep Cherokee was in for service. This is 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 a bed of a landscaper's truck. Dirt and mud everywhere. Detailing took days to clean it out. Best part? The left over seafood containers left under the front seats. The car sat for a week after being returned bc 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 un-refrigerated environments for 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.
Not Clear If I'm Gonna Die Today
I worked at a rental agency shortly after college, and while this isn't gross, this particular story stuck to me. So, very occasionally people will rent cars and then just like...not give them back. You can call them over and over and leave messages, and you can try to hit their card on file as the costs mount but as you can imagine, this type of person ends up having their card decline fairly quickly. Rental charges are mounting and the person is MIA, so the main concern of the branch becomes getting the car back.
So here's one of the more adventurous parts of the job: eventually, you have 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 drugs in the car. We had to call the police to report all of the items in the car (really, we called about the drugs, but when the officer came the manager showed them everything)
Around a month later...the renter came to the branch to ask if we'd taken the car and if his personal items could be returned. The manager took him into the office and nothing ended up happening (he just informed him they turned the items in to the police because it was policy, not mentioning the drugs or obviously-stolen and counterfeited items). While it all turned out ok, the rest of us in the branch were sh*tting bricks 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.
Sometimes People Just Lose It
Not a car rental staff but hanging out with a friend who's about to leave on a long as road trip. We hear some racket outside and there's some random chick going all /r/publicfreakout on some dude car with a baseball bat. Busted off the mirrors, broke out all the windows, taillights and headlights, dents, the works.
Fast forward about three hours and I'm driving my friend to the rental place so she can pick up a rental for her road trip and guess which car is also in the lot?
Turns out, the guy who's car got all f*cked up had just rented it to break up with his girl because he knew it wasn't going to go well and didn't want her to f*ck up his car. He got all the insurance and she got a felony vandalism charge.
Casual Ant Colony
Oh man.. not a staff member, but this just happened to my wife and I.
So we went to Hawaii for our fifth anniversary. 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.. we upgraded you to this convertible.. I asked them for the type of car I reserved, as the convertible had minimal luggage space.. they kind of shrugged and went "But it's an upgrade" my wife was giving me the "Just f*cking get the keys" look, so I said great and signed for it.
We drive around for a little bit and hit the beach and see some ants in the car.. figured maybe we picked up or parked on some ants.. it's late so we head back to the room and sleep off the 8 hours of travel and layover.
The next morning, I see more ants.. then I turn on the air...
LITERALLY HUNDREDS OF ANTS come 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."
He Drove It Through An Action Movie
The strangest incident was a gray SUV that was returned with several bullet holes on the driver's side fender and door. The vehicle was driven in a slightly bad part of New York City when the incident occurred. I don't know what happened to the driver, but we totaled the rental.
I also came across a lot of weed, phones sunglasses and in one case, a Glock pistol.
It Gets Ricey In There
Old roommate worked for Uhaul in the late 90's. He had a few stories but my favorite. Guy rented a 16' truck and went to business Costco. Apparently guy owned a restaurant or two and loaded up on 5 gallon buckets of soy sauce and 50 pound bags of rice. Well he made it through the parking lot but when he turned onto the street his rear wheel went up on the sidewalk and when it came down the rear axle broke. He must have been going reasonably fast and forgot to secure any of his load. A lot of the buckets of soy sauce which were stacked four tall tipped over and flooded the back of the truck and street. The rice slowly expanded due to being covered in soy sauce and the fire department had to cut the back door open as it was wedged shut.
I worked for Enterprise back in 08-09 in Madison, WI. Constantly had people wanting to rent "maf*ckin 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 with cash if we could get a $500 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 gun and shoot us all. We called the cops and the guy never returned.
Worked the airport location for a few months, and I had an absolute bitch of 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. Just hoped that other cars would return and I'd be good. 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 use to rent cars to Craig Culver, 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.
Also, just watch this video. It is a very realistic portrayal of daily conversations with customers.
Loved my coworkers, hated the job. I have plenty of other sh*tty stories about that place.
People Hide Their Vomit So Creatively
On a 2 week work trip some years ago my buddy and I are driving around southern California on the weekend. As the sun starts to really bake into the car we get this weird smell. At first we each though the other had bad BO but pretty soon we've got the windows down even though its 100F outside. I pull over and we search around. The car has rear seats that flip forward, under one of them is this pile of vomit. Its not huge so I think they had a kid in the car with one seat flipped forward and the kid barfed to the side...
We headed STRAIGHT back to the airport with the windows wide open. The checkin area was deserted with only one guy working, we jump out (the smell!) "You gotta give me a different car!" Guy leans in and sniffs "Yessir! Lets get you an upgrade!"
Left in a brand new (like 3 miles on it) Mustang Convertible...
Cars Are Places For Wild Things To Happen
I worked for a rental agency between 2010 and 2014.
One time I had a tweaked out customer back his rental into the river. We had it towed out and when it was being detailed they found so much trash including piles of empty bath salts packaging.
Another customer had Parkinson's and probably shouldn't have been driving to begin with. Within 10 seconds of pulling out of our lot he caused a three car accident. Yes he had the damage waiver, but he declined additional liability. Everyone was okay, but you could say they were shaken up.
Last story for now. I had a guy return a car laughing because he hit a raccoon in his Yaris. He declined the damage waiver and had a $1000 deductible. He proceeded to r/publicfreakout when I insisted I collect his deductible right then, which he did pay. The car ended up being totaled.
I have a lot more stories about rental cars involving drive bys, drugs, bank robberies, and even repossessing a rental car during a cook house bust.
Remember The Alamo
Customer renting from Alamo in Vegas. Kia Optimas were the hot new car of the day. I remember almost taking the only one in the mid-size category. Got in the car to drive away, and noticed the entire car smelled strongly of feet, like haven't-changed-your-socks-in-two-weeks feet. I really don't know how a car ends up smelling like that, but when we returned our Camry a week later, the fresh new dirty shoe Optima was still on the lot.