Q: I recently rented a car from Turo in Baltimore. My family met our host at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport and he gave us the keys to the vehicle. Everything was going well and we were enjoying our trip until a few days later when we couldn’t find our rental in our hotel parking lot.
We called all the surrounding hotels to see if it had been parked wrong and towed. I texted the car host and asked if he had picked up the car. The host did not know the location of the car. I then called Turo and a rep told me to report it stolen. So, I called the police. An officer asked for the owner’s address and then informed me that the car was not stolen, but repossessed by the lien holder.
I called Turo to report this and they again advised me to report the car stolen. I called the police officer again. She told me that if I said the vehicle was stolen, that would be considered fraud.
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I called Turo for days and days asking for help. They gave me absolutely no support. I wasted the last two days of vacation trying to find our rental car to get our stuff out of. The biggest problem was that my son had left his epilepsy medication in the vehicle. I don’t understand how Turo takes no responsibility. They know their hosts are breaking the rules with their finance companies and leaving the customer to suffer when things go wrong.
Things went very wrong in Baltimore and Turo has done nothing to help me. They refunded the last day of our rental – that was their only offer. I want my son’s medicine, other things and our rental fees back. Can you help me? – Michelle Marshall, Franklin, North Carolina
A: Turo bears some responsibility for your rental mishap. But the question is, how much? Technically, Turo is not a car rental company. It connects users with hosts who have vehicles they want to rent out. Think of it as Airbnb for cars. The lease agreement between you and Turo makes it clear that it is merely a middleman, which is why it initially offered a small refund and did not cover the $850 worth of epilepsy medication left in the vehicle. Turo’s terms of service contain a limitation of liability clause that allows it for such losses.
But let’s talk about it. I’m sure you already know that leaving valuables in your car is not the best idea. And, if it’s someone else’s car, parked near a hotel hundreds of miles from home, you definitely don’t want to leave valuables, including prescription drugs, in the vehicle.
Ultimately, your host was responsible for maintaining their car payments and following the rules set by Turo. You could have relied on him, but I doubt he would have paid for your son’s medication. The next step would be to contact someone higher up at Turo. You can easily find their names and emails online.
Even though you were not entitled to reimbursement for your son’s medication or, for that matter, your rent, I think it was the right thing to do. I contacted Turo on your behalf, and Turo spokeswoman Catherine Mejia told me: “Since the incident, we have been working on a resolution with this guest, including a refund for travel and providing a refund for lost items.” Turo offered to reimburse you for your son’s medication and your lost belongings.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read
more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him