By on February 14, 2022

Hertz customers have issued complaints that the company falsely accused them of stealing rental cars. Numerous renters have made claims that they were stopped by police to be informed that the vehicle they had paid to borrow was reported stolen. Complaints became so prevalent that CBS News launched an investigative report last November to uncover whether individuals were simply lying about their innocence to avoid prosecution or if Hertz was habitually screwing things up.

By December, 191 claims had been filed in federal bankruptcy court on behalf of the people who said they were falsely arrested. But it took another two months for a Delaware bankruptcy court judge to issue a ruling that will require Hertz to make the number of renters it accuses of stealing its cars every year publicly available. 

There are now 230 formal claims against the rental agency. However, it has contended that only a small portion of its fleet is ever involved in theft reports.

“Of the more than 25 million rental transactions by Hertz in the United States per year, 0.014 [percent] fall into the rare situation where vehicles are reported to the authorities after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer,” Hertz said in a statement following the ruling.

That would represent roughly 3,500 police reports annually, with around a tenth being false if the harrowing CBS reports are to be believed. The documentation required by the Delaware court should shed some light on how many of those were deemed erroneous by the company and the circumstances surrounding the relevant reports.

From CBS:

“The vast majority of these cases involve renters who were many weeks or even months overdue returning vehicles and who stopped communicating with us well beyond the scheduled due date. Situations where vehicles are reported to the authorities are very rare and happen only after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer,” the company said in a statement.

Those figures — including how many lawsuits have been filed — are expected to be unsealed soon.

There are dozens of first-hand accounts in numerous CBS articles relating to the story. Many involve traffic stops where police were operating under the assumption the car had recently been stolen and approached with guns drawn. Others have customers being visited at home about vehicles that were no longer in their possession. Claimants even reported having to spend an evening in jail before being formally charged with felony car theft, with a few spending several weeks behind bars.

Is this the result of some systemic evil lurking within Hertz?

Based on my experience with Hertz after its financial mishap, I’m inclined to believe that the company is just terribly mismanaged. As someone who rents cars fairly often, my last few interactions with the brand have left a lot to be desired. While practically every rental agency has seen a noteworthy decline in quality automobiles and competent staff (despite universal pricing increases), Hertz really seemed to be in rough shape after it declared bankruptcy in 2020.

Almost half of the Hertz locations I’ve visited within the last two years were temporary storefronts, stocked with whatever automotive detritus was leftover. They were tragically understaffed, with one example having a singular employee on the clock. When I asked her if that was normal, she told me that there was supposed to be another person present and handed me the keys to a filthy (albeit mostly functional) Nissan Sentra SV. She then apologized and said it was her first week on the job as she disappeared into the back room.

After throwing 800 miles onto the odometer, I returned it to a busy Manhattan parking garage only to find the embedded Hertz office filled to the brim with angry renters. There was nobody there to take my Sentra and the women at the desk became enraged when I asked what should be done. Rather than attempt further discussion, I went back to relax by the designated drop-off zone.

With parking attendants nowhere to be found, I waited thirty minutes as several parties marched out disgruntled and carless. Becoming similarly fed up, I looked around for security cameras that might have caught me driving in, made note of the time, and photographed the car myself for good measure. Then I filled out a Hertz return sheet that was left hanging and had not been updated for several hours.

Save for the Mitsubishi Mirage I was issued in hilly San Francisco by Avis years earlier, it was one of the most interesting car-rental experiences I’ve ever had. But I’m not so sure it should be viewed as a direct condemnation of Hertz so much as an example of how lousy rental firms have gotten across the board. I normally wouldn’t complain about a lackluster experience because I typically get my money’s worth. But what’s been going on with pricing and staffing at most agencies since the pandemic is just sad. There’s been a noteworthy decline in quality and I would wager the larger situation is not helping Hertz keep track of when and if vehicles are actually being stolen.

False claims of theft are also not wholly unique. South Carolina attorney Fritz Jekel launched a similar case in 2019, asking Hertz whether there were any other lawsuits for false arrests and similar claims.

“They produced in less than a week, a dataset, compiled by three third-party administrators that precoded to be information on false arrests and theft or conversion claims made by renters against Hertz from 2008 through 2016,” Jekel told the Delaware News Journal, adding that he is bound by a protective order from sharing the data.

Attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy and the present-day plaintiffs used his case as the basis for why they should be allowed similar access to Hertz’s internal database and proof that one exists.

“People think that they’re an isolated incident and they don’t realize that this is a systemic issue that’s happening across the nation,” Malofiy stated.

Hertz believes it has become the target of a frivolous lawsuit, however. In an earlier statement (dated Nov. 2, 2021) the company suggested that “the attorneys have a track record of making baseless claims that blatantly misrepresent the facts.”

[Image: Hertz]

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23 Comments on “Hertz Ordered to Release Records on Alleged Rental-Car Thefts...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    That’s crazy. I can’t imagine anyone being smart enough to rent a car, but simultaneously dumb enough to think they’ll get away with stealing it.

    As for the worker shortage, Hertz is now competing with $17/hr McDonald’s jobs. Then again, McDonald’s is competing against $20/hr nursing assistant jobs, and so on up the labor chain.

    Everybody is short-staffed, and I can’t figure out where all the workers went in the last two years. They didn’t all retire, and they’re not all getting Trump/Biden Bucks.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I usually rent from National, but I recently had to rent a Pacifica from Hertz when National was out of cars in Durham, NC on the weekend of my cousin’s wedding. It went fine but after reading these stories I feel very lucky about that.

    The worst National has ever done was to try to charge me for a windshield crack in a W-body Impala that developed spontaneously overnight in cold wet Northwest winter weather. Then again, they looked the other way that time I hit a black cast-iron sink which was randomly in a Seattle-area roadway late at night and knocked the front fascia of a LaCrosse askew.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I recently had to rent a Chevy Equinox in Tucson which was the only rental agency with an available car. No problems and after reading this I feel fortunate. Hate to get arrested for stealing a car that I rented for a few days. Realize that these arrests were for vehicles for more than a few days but still the same I feel lucky.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m going to be in L.A. in a couple of weeks and need to rent a car for one day. Anyone used Turo?

  • avatar
    SnarkIsMyDefault

    Say! is TTAC’s dissing TELA with that image on this story?

    (heh!)

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    Didn’t Hertz get bitten by a few enterprising guys ( no pun ) who rented GT350s back in the day and swapped all the hot stuff out? Apparently there were a few bog-stock Mustangs running around with GT350 guts in them – and a few Hertz GT350 rentals running around with stock 289s.

  • avatar
    da-jonesy

    For a 4 month period in my life I was on assignment in DC, and was per-diemed a nice Altima from Enterprise. “Unlimited mileage.” I drove to Boston and back every weekend. When Iireturned it, the clerk was *sure* someone had misread the mileage when I first borrowed it… 20,000 miles, give or take.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    What’s missing is a comparison to reported theft rates for other rental car companies. Then again given the understaffing and reported lack of attention to detail at Hertz, it’s quite possible that their returns system is just inept nad not properly recording when rentals come back.
    Given the lack over travel over the past two years, I can’t speak for the experience now, but I always used to look to Hertz first for rentals. Mostly because my work was paying for them, and I could go to the airport, find my name on the screen, go get the car and leave. Plus management felt we owed them, after the branch manager’s staff failed to tell her what we needed an SUV for and she gave us her personal “don’t take it out of the province” vehicle. Then we proceeded to drive it to Florida and used it for daily trips between Kissimmee and Ft. Lauderdale. (Lucky for us nothing happened as insurance wouldn’t have covered it)

  • avatar
    3SpeedAutomatic

    When returning a car, the driver was provided with a paper receipt which I kept in a travel folder for a year in case of any disputes.
    Now, the attendant just says “OK, you’re done” and a e-mail receipt is “supposedly” sent. To force the issue, I ask the attendant “Well, how much was the total charge?”. This makes the attendant feel awkward and to assure an e-mail receipt is issued which I can verify on my e-mail phone app before leaving the garage.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    There was a serious rental car shortage in Phoenix last year which I used Turo to get around. Today on the ground in Las Vegas, I’m not seeing rental car shortages though there were 30 people waiting in the rideshare area to the point I opted for a black car to get to my rental car location (the car of which I was assigned is hilariously beat). I suspect the market will find a way around Hertz permanently if they don’t get it toegether.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    This article attempts to explain the myriad reasons for the labor shortage and I will add the alleged growth in side hustles giving more workers a small financial cushion to delay returning to career paths they don’t necessarily like.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/10/how-do-you-make-7-million-workers-disappear/620475/

    I hope I’m wrong but expect skyrocketing unemployment by mid-2023 once all the sideliners decide to return to the labor market. Many will learn employers have largely adjusted to lower staffing and service levels and are unwilling to return to pre-pandemic staffing levels with higher wages/labor costs.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Stealing is wrong – which is why it should only be done by big companies.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    My last experience with Hertz was three years ago, right after a new guy took over. I wasn’t arrested for theft, but my charges were substantially higher than quoted when I made the reservation.

    I’ve never had that happen with National, Enterprise, or Alamo (all owned by Enterprise, a privatee holding company), or Avis (a publicly traded company which also owns Budget and zipcar.) Hertz is also publicly traded and owns Thrifty and Dollar. Hertz and Avis also own small local car rental agencies in several markets.

    It may seem like you have many choices, but you’re really dealing with one of three behemoths. Only National, Enterprise, snd Alamo are privately held by Enterprise Holdings, still managed by the family of the founder (who named it Enterprise after the original aircraft carrier, CV-6, that he served on in WW2).

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