I love traveling to Israel, but there are certainly some pain points besides the long flight.
One is Kashrus. I’ve been to Israel 6 times and will soon go for a 7th time, but I still have no idea how the myriad of hechshers and politics behind each one compare to the fairly straightforward situation when eating out in the US. No need to rehash this here, I wrote about it at length here.
Another major pain point is the awful car rental situation at TLV.
Now many people don’t rent cars in Israel, but I prefer having the freedom to drive to anywhere on a whim.
But the situation in Israel is just horrible. Something goes wrong just about every time. The major rental car companies don’t actually own the locations, they franchise them to local operators.
Not long ago, most credit cards excluded CDW insurance coverage in Israel because of the games the rental agencies play there. Now AMEX and Chase cover car rentals in Israel, but rental agencies require a letter stating that your card covers you in Israel or else they won’t accept it. I’ve never experienced that anywhere besides Israel.
You can use a card like Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve to earn 2 or 3 points per dollar, pay no foreign transaction fees, and get primary CDW rental coverage. Even if you buy the CDW from the car rental agency you’ll still have to pay for scratches as they have a high deductible on their own CDW coverage. Be sure to decline the car rental agency’s CDW coverage and you’ll have zero deductible from your credit card. If you do not decline the car rental’s CDW coverage then your credit card will not cover your rental.
Foy Feierman posts on DDFB that he was billed $1,470 from Budget for damages. However when he returned the car there was no damage and the checkin agent told her that the car was fine. He asked for advice on what to do about the bill.
On my first trip as an adult to Israel some 12 years ago I rented a car from Budget using Orbitz. When I got there I was told that the advertised all-in rate excluded mandatory liability insurance and airport taxes, which significantly increased my rate. After I returned the car I also got a bill alleging a scratch on the car.
I filed for my Chase credit card insurance to cover it, but Budget refused to provide the requested documents to the insurer. That’s likely because they never bothered to fix the scratch. If they fixed the scratch they wouldn’t be able to keep charging everyone for the same scratch as they are notorious for doing. In the end I disputed the charge on the basis of their non-cooperation with the insurance company and I won the dispute. Case closed.
The next time I tried Avis, except this time I rented through an agency that provides a clear all-in price including mandatory liability insurance so that there were no surprises. DansDeals advertisers such as Rechev Rentals do a great job with all-in rates and good customer service. They also provide discounts on rental that include Shabbos and Yom Tov. You won’t get that kind of service or accurate pricing from online travel agencies like Orbitz.
On this trip, the off-site car rental facility opened, making it a real shlep to get back to the terminal. Plus Avis pointed out a tiny little mark and said they would have to charge me $250 for it. Once again I filed for credit card insurance, Avis couldn’t prove they ever fixed it so they didn’t complete the claim, and I won a dispute for the charges.
I heard from many people who just paid and didn’t even try disputing the charge, which is likely how the rental car companies can keep getting away with it.
After that I became vigilant in taking pictures and getting agents to mark every scratch before I took the car off the lot. It’s often hard to get an agent to do a proper walk-around and mark off every scratch, but it’s worth saving the headache. The agent will claim that some scratches are too small to matter, but when you return it another agent will disagree, so you’ll want lots of photo evidence.
I switched to Hertz as they allow returns directly to Terminal 3 and they seem to be much better than the other companies. But I still arm myself with evidence of every existing scratch.
Nonetheless they still manage to overcharge me every time, sometimes because I returned the car an hour early, other times because they charged me for a free upgrade. Luckily when you rent through local agencies like Rechev Rentals they will have your back and sort out any overcharges.
It’s a shame that the first and last experience in Israel for many tourists is dealing with the awful rental car companies there. I’ve seen too many tourists break down into tears when returning their cars.
It doesn’t have to be this way and hopefully one day someone will clean up the mess there.
But until then:
- Go prepared with a letter of insurance coverage from your credit card for your travel dates.
- Take lots of pictures of any scratches and dents on the car as well as the odometer to show the pictures were taken before using the car.
- Take video of scratches, the car odometer, and the car rental lot space number.
- Get the agent to mark every scratch.
- Have the agent look up damage charges made to previous renters before agreeing to sign a damage report.
- Allow plenty of time before your flight to return your car in case of shenanigans.
- Be prepared for a fight getting the credit card insurance to coordinate with the rental car agency.
- Make sure that you keep all documentation, including the initial contract, final invoice, receipt, and an incident report if damage is claimed to be found at the return.
- You can file a claim with AMEX here and with Chase here.
- Be ready to dispute the charges within 60 days of the statement close date.
If you do all that then at least then you won’t be a victim.
Share your Israel car rental experiences in the comments!