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Rental Car Abuse

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"Yes, I would [like extra insurance for my rental car]. 'Cause you've got a Ford Fiesta that's about to see more airtime than a skateboard at the X-Games."
Jeff Foxworthy, Have Your Loved Ones Spayed and Neutered

When renting a car, a character will often adopt an attitude of "It's not my car so damage isn't my problem" and proceed to drive like a maniac. By the end of their vacation, the rental car will undoubtedly become The Alleged Car.

Less often is the accidental variant, where someone is naturally a Directionless Driver, Drives Like Crazy or is simply hopeless at Driving Stick and unintentionally destroys a rental car.

Don't Try This at Home, obviously. Note that in real life abusing the rental car may cost you — rental cars often have large insurance excesses unless you pay for the waiver and wheels/tyre/overhead damage are almost always excluded. In some well publicised cases rental companies have attempted to impose fines by using vehicle trackers to see if any speed limits have been exceeded and burying a fine per infringement in the small print — the first the renter knew is when several hundred dollars were debited from their credit card.


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  • In Jeff Foxworthy's Comedy Central special Have Your Loved Ones Spayed and Neutered (reused in the Blue Collar Comedy Tour) he goes into a monologue at one point about how the economy's gotten so bad that rental car agencies are starting to sell off their old cars. Foxworthy compares going to a rental car agency to buy a car to "going to a house of ill-repute looking for a wife."
    "Anything that's been driven that hard by that many people, you really don't want to put your key in it!"

    Fan Works 
  • Subverted in Ranger Rendevous, a G.I. Joe fic. In the first chapter, Badass Driver Covergirl is in charge of getting the rental car and picks out a red Mustang convertible. "Don't worry, I got full insurance coverage, the guy said I only have to return the key and whatever pieces are left." The car survives the fic in perfect condition.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Clark Griswold is the accidental version in National Lampoon's European Vacation, being generally questionable driver to begin with, drives his rented Citro├źn DS into a too small gap and getting it stuck.
  • At the beginning of Meet the Parents, Greg rents a car but does not purchase the insurance after he gets the agent to admit the insurance is just a profit grab. Then his father-in-law convinces him to throw a cinderblock at the bulletproof glass on his custom RV, which then bounces off and smashes the rental car's windshield.
  • Shortly after arresting the evil Acme Chairman in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, superspy Damian Drake and everyone else in the Acme boardroom must flee a spaceship that comes crashing into the room. Once the craft comes to a stop, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck casually emerge.
    Bugs Bunny: I think you scratched it.
    Daffy Duck: Don't worry; it's a rental.
  • In Mischief: Invasion, Dustin and Dado enter the Cannonball Run Europe with Dado's BMW M3. Unfortunately, the BMW fails to clear customs in time and they're forced to enter with a rented Ford Mondeo. Among the abuse inflicted is Dado jumping up and down on the hood and roof when his sleep is interrupted. They later play bumper tag with another team (who also rented a car), run the car hard against the other performance cars, and run over a set of traffic cones. Is it any wonder that the car's oil pan gives out?
  • The first Jackass movie has the "Rent-a-car Crash Up Derby" segment in which Johnny Knoxville uses a rental car in a destruction derby. And tries to slap the damage bill on the rental store afterwards.
  • Played with in Tomorrow Never Dies. The car is technically 007's, but Q is disguised as an Avis rental clerk, and sarcastically offers Bond all the requisite insurance requirements. Bond returns the car by piloting it off of the highest floor of a parking garage and into the window of the local Avis office.
  • In Days of Thunder, when rival drivers Cole Trickle and Rowdy Burns are forced to ride together to a dinner meeting, neither man is willing to relinquish the car keys to the other. Their solution? Rent a second car... and engage in full contact street racing all the way to the valet stand that leaves both vehicles smoking wrecks.

  • In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Raul Duke rents "The Red Shark", a red Impala convertible for the first trip, which he drives off a two foot concrete slab at the rental office in LA and generally drives like a maniac. It gets off easy compared to "The White Whale", an El Dorado convertible rented for the second trip, which is driven into Lake Mead, has its tires over-inflated to 75 PSI as "an experiment", vandalised by Duke and Gonzo in a stupor, is jumped over a highway median, through a fence and down a runway at 100 MPH, among other misadventures which leave it completely destroyed by the book's end.
    "I tried to put the top up, for privacy, but something was wrong with the motor. The generator light had been on, fiery red, ever since I'd driven the thing into Lake Mead on a water test. A quick run along the the dashboard disclosed that every circuit in the car was totally fucked. Nothing worked. Not even the headlights—and when I hit the air conditioner button I heard a nasty explosion under the hood."
  • Subverted in William Boyd's Stars and Bars. Lead character Henderson has the rental car he has to a business trip to Atlanta de-wheeled, a tire each day by the conniving son of his host and would-be business partner.

    Live-Action Television 
  • On Top Gear (UK), in their race around the northern part of New Zealand in series 20, Jeremy insists his (blue) Toyota Corolla the fastest car in the world because he rented it. He also took six collision report forms. He crashes it several times and by the end of the race he has had to replace it with a red Corolla.
    • Another episode has an accidental example. The guys are commissioned to make automotive themed art pieces and they decide to cut up a car with plasma cutters. While Richard and James do the cutting, Jeremy checks the invoice and discovers the car is a rental.
  • On Seinfeld, Jerry's car is stolen and he must temporarily rent a replacement, but finds his reservation is not held by the rental company and he's forced to take a smaller car.
    Rental Car Agent: Would you like to purchase the renter's insurance?
    Jerry: Yeah, you better give me the insurance because I'm going to beat the HELL out of this thing.
  • One episode of Star Trek: Voyager sees Voyager being sent back in time to 1996 in Los Angeles. Tom and Tuvok decide to test drive a truck in order to further their investigations to get back to their time. Trouble starts at the observatory they drove to, and the rental truck gets vaporized by a mook who managed to get his hands on a phaser.
  • Deconstructed on Kitchen Nightmares when Ramsey discovers that part of the reason for the restaurant's financial woes is that the owners have used their savings to prop up their son's failing car rental business. The son is a lousy businessman and he did not budget for the significant damage his cars would sustain. With his cars in various states of disrepair, no one would rent them and the business entered a death spiral. Out of desperation the guy resorted to sewing damaged bumpers back onto the cars.
  • In the pilot episode of Haven, FBI agent Audrey Parker swerves in her rental to avoid a crack in the ground and ends up dangling over the edge of a cliff. She's saved by Haven Police Officer Nathan Wuornos, and they watch as the car tumbles to the ocean below. Far below.
    Audrey: Eh, it was a rental.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Archer episode "Edie's Wedding", Archer rents a Lincoln Continental and drives through a wooden gate screaming "RENTAL CAR"... then complains when it becomes damaged and drives poorly.
  • Toonsylvania featured this kind of joke in the Night of the Living Fred segment "Voodoo Vacation". While on vacation with his family, Dedgar Deadman drives their car off a cliff. As if to justify it when his wife Stiffany expresses her concern for her husband's recklessness, Dedgar gleefully yells "It's a rentaaaaaaaaaal!" as they go over the edge.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Bart on the Road", Bart, Nelson, Milhouse and Martin all decide to secretly hire a car and drive to Knoxville, Tennessee for spring break, since Bart has a fake driver's license and Martin has $600 he earned in his day of work experience. Bart mistakes "cruise control" for "keeps you on the road even if you need to turn", driving through a corn field. Later, they end up crushing their rental car and stuck without a way to get home. In The Stinger, Marge gets calls from Tennessee State Police asking whether her son's car was crashed in Knoxville.
    • "Gone Boy" has Homer buy a rental car and encourage the rest of the family to be as careless with the car as possible, to the point that he even asks Bart to pee in it when Bart tells him he has to go.
  • Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths and Legends: In the second half of the pilot, after Sh'lainn is taken to the Alliance base, Nick rents the biggest sport utility available, insured to the hilt. He then proceeds to drive it straight into the Alliance's fortified front door. The resulting explosion blows it open.
  • In the T.U.F.F. Puppy episode "Pup Daddy", Dudley complained about how the team was acting when they were accidentally turned into babies by him. One of those incidents involved trashing the Tuffmobile, which Dudley lamented was a rental.

    Real Life 
  • In the late 1500's Thomas Hobson had a business renting out horses. Many of his clients rode the horses too hard, exhausting them. In order to maintain the health of his horses he established a rule that after a horse was returned it would be put in the back of a queue, and only the horse at the front of the queue, being the most well-rested, could be rented out. This gave rise to the phrase "Hobson's choice", meaning no choice at all.
  • At a couple points in the company's history, Hertz had a number of specially equipped Ford Mustangs as part of its rental fleet. These vehicles quickly gained notoriety for being returned with balding tires and other signs of having been taken to a race track.
  • In his autobiography, former Delta Force member Eric Haney noted that prior to the unit acquiring its own vehicle fleet, trainee operators were instructed to rent cars from nearby shops for use in learning combat driving techniques. While some care was taken not to wreck the vehicles, they would inevitably have to replace worn out tires before returning them. Haney even recounted an incident in which he had to restrain an overly helpful tire salesman from filing a complaint with the rental company for their vehicle's "faulty" tires.