Traveling and exploring has always been a way of life for Victor Vance.
"There’s pretty much nothing I don’t want to see, nothing I don’t want to experience," Vance says.
That’s why the flight attendant, his partner and a colleague – Teresa Flores – decided to visit South Africa for the trip of a lifetime.
"Just to spend time there and feel the energy and walk around and see the animals was fantastic," Flores said.
They needed a car to get around, so Vance rented from Hertz.
"I went with their name, actually, for the fact that it was Hertz and I thought I could trust in the fact that no matter where you are, it’s a US corporation and you should be safe," Vance says.
And Vance paid for the maximum coverage he could buy, accepting Hertz’ collision damage, theft and super waivers.
Halfway into their trip, as the trio was making its way back to Johannesburg Airport on a two lane highway, the unthinkable happened. Vance says he saw a vehicle in their lane – trying to pass a line of 7 cars – and coming straight at them.
"Victor tries his best to go off the side of the road, but the tires catch on the gravel," Flores says.
"I got back on the road, but then I started fishtailing and we almost went onto oncoming traffic," Vance says.
Vance was able to steer the car off the road – away from traffic – and into a drainage ditch. Flores – who was sitting in the back seat – was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Vance stayed behind with the damaged car.
"We did everything we were supposed to," says Vance. "I immediately started calling Hertz to alert them of [the accident]."
When a tow truck showed up at the scene, Vance says he asked if they were from Hertz and when they said ‘yes’, he signed over the car to them. He then headed to the hospital to meet up with Flores. Vance says he kept calling Hertz to ask for another vehicle.
"When we finally just got somebody on the phone, we said we need a car, what are you going to be doing for us? And the gentleman just said, ‘we’re not providing one’," says Vance.
They found another way to get around and continue on the trip. But when he returned home, Vance noticed a series of unexplained charges – for varying amounts – on his credit card. All of the charges came from Hertz.
"I can’t get any answers," Vance said.
That’s why he called NBC 6 Responds. Hertz US told us the charges are related to the accident. It turns out, the towing company that showed up at the scene was not authorized by Hertz to take the car.
"How am I supposed to know – in a foreign country – what I’m supposed to be looking for if you won’t give me any answers, any direction?" Vance said.
And even though he paid for all of those waivers, Hertz says they don’t cover damages in accidents "where no other vehicle, animal, object or person" is involved.
We sent them the police report Vance filed with authorities in South Africa, showing there was another vehicle involved. Hertz responded that "there must be physical contact" in order for the waivers to cover damage. The company goes on to say, "Hertz prides itself on delivering premium customer service at our locations across the globe, and we regret that Mr. Vance’s experience was not up to that standard."
Hertz South Africa issued a credit for $1,000 – for the towing fees and the additional days Vance was charged while the vehicle was in storage. That credit was applied to the money Vance still owes, reducing his balance to $900.
If you’re signing up for damage waivers, make sure you read the fine print. You should also look at what kind of coverage you may get through your credit card, if you’re considering a car rental outside of the U.S.