In June 2014 we decided to rent a car from Tony’s Car Hire in Kempton Park, South Africa, a suburb of Jo'burg. Before arriving in Johannesburg we communicated with this business via e-mail which did not always flow smoothly but we persevered. When we picked up the car the employee with whom we dealt was not able to confirm that our credit card company had approved the necessary payment. As a consequence before we could leave with the car, Tony’s employee insisted that we leave a security deposit of $1000 with them. This was arranged without too much trouble. When we called our credit card company the next day they informed us that they had indeed approved the charge the day before. But that assurance came too late since Tony’s already had our $1000.
Upon returning the car two weeks later we were told that the walk around inspection done by several employees and Tony himself revealed only “normal wear and tear”. The implication was that there would be no additional charges since there was no damage to the vehicle. We were reassured that they would promptly return the $1000 deposit to our bank in the US.
Imagine our unhappy surprise when 7 weeks later, after numerous requests from us, the amount of the deposit that was finally returned to us was only $750. When we asked why all our deposit was not returned we were informed that they had had to repair damage to the car’s left front fender and wheel. We were doubly surprised because this damage was not “discovered” until after we had already relinquished possession of the vehicle to the employees of this business. We will always be left with the suspicion that this damage was caused by those employees after we left the car with them. We have communicated our dismay to Tony but have received no reply nor the remainder of our deposit.
What mistakes did we make? The biggest ones were trusting this business with $1000 of our money. And we should have asked for a document verifying that we had returned the car in good condition before we relinquished possession of it. If we had rented the car with a credit card as a security deposit we then could have used the document verifying the good condition of the returned car to contest any charges made for damage after we left the car with them.
I would caution other travelers not to rent cars from Tony’s Car Hire. Our transactions with this business were the worst experience we have had in 10 weeks of travel in sub-Saharan Africa. And do not rent a car with any security deposit other than your credit card. Under no circumstances let your impatience or trust in your fellow human beings or clouded judgement due to jet lag cause you to leave a deposit in cash. Finally, always get a document that verifies the condition of the vehicle you have returned.