A Rental Car Adventure

We sometimes rent a minivan while on vacation.  Most of the time, it’s uneventful.  Rent.  Drive.  Return.  No problems, no hassles.  A year ago, we flew to Sarasota for beach time at our favorite vacation destination on Anna Maria Island.  We got a good deal through Costco from a popular rental car enterprise.  But last year, it went differently.  Rent.  Drive. Return.  Hassle.  Hassle. Hassle.  Hassle. Hassle.  Hassle. Hassle.  Hassle. Hassle.  Hassle. Hassle.  Hassle.  12 months of Hassle.

It’s a very, very long story, but I’ll try to make it just plain long.  When we returned the van, an agent with amazing eyesight spotted a small paint scrape under the coating of dirt.  It was literally less than the size of a dime on the front bumper, likely from someone getting too close in a parking lot.  He deemed it to be over $250 to repair, therefore they would need me to go to the counter for an hour to fill out forms in triplicate and pay the deposit.

The next few months spawned an epic in incompetence by the rental car agency’s “Damage Recovery Unit”.  I was eventually assigned a case manager, “Jeff”.  His job was apparently a pretty easy one: to ignore almost all correspondence completely.  I imagine the case manager at my credit card company had the same issue, as they’d often tell me I needed to make sure the rental car agency had received their information and payments because they could not get any response.

The best part was when the all powerful DRU sent photos to my credit card company.  It was obviously an entirely different vehicle, as the damage was extensive all the way down to the lower ground effects on the front end.   Since I had no proof, I opted not to make an issue of it and hope the credit card insurance would handle it.  They did.  Ultimately, they paid $800 to the rental car agency, presumably negotiated down from the requested amount.  I thought it was over.

Months later,  I received a check for $250 from the rental car agency.  I had no idea what it was for.  I emailed a few times, but no response from the case manager, as usual.  A couple months later, I cash the check.  A couple months after that, I finally hear from my case manager at the DRU.  He demanded $250 from me, claiming I owed a return of the deposit refund check I had been sent.  He says the credit card agency had contested the original deposit and never paid it.  I wondered why they even sent the check so many months later if they knew this.  So, I asked for any proof of the charge and reversal, along with an invoice that indicated the claim would be paid in full and closed upon my payment.  You guessed it.  No response.  I emailed again a couple weeks later, no response.  Then again, this time, with “Urgent Status” and “Return Receipt”.  I did get the receipt, but never a response.  And again a few weeks ago for the last time.

I didn’t want to get on the rental car black list (Google it), so the last email was copied to the “claimfeedback” email included in their auto-responses.  I was quite surprised that I quickly received an apologetic email and a phone call.  This agent was friendly and responsive and within an hour had confirmed I owed them no money and emailed me a letter indicating the claim was paid in full.  She apologized for the obvious lack of communication from the other agent.

caravanSo, yeah.  Told you it would be long.   But at least I did learn something.  Even if you have primary credit card insurance that pays before your own personal auto insurance, don’t dismiss the rental car agency’s damage waiver if it isn’t too expensive.  It’s widely regarded as a waste of money, and I’m sure that is usually true, but $10 a day for a few days could save you a huge amount of time and hassle.  Which, of course, is what they want.  Second, take good quality photos of your rental car, when you pick it up AND when you drop it off.  If the rental car company decides to lie and charge you for damage that wasn’t there, you’ll have what I didn’t have: proof!  And don’t worry that it might inconvenience the agent at pickup or dropoff for a few minutes if you want a video, too.  Because if you have any damage, I assure you the DRU will have no problem making it an inconvenience for you!

If it’s any consolation, apparently I’m not alone.

This year we rented from another company that my wife uses for work.  They barely even glanced at the van when we returned it.  I did take photo and video, though, but never needed them, thankfully.  I didn’t buy the damage waiver.  At $40 per day for 7 days, it was just too expensive.


More on New Britax Advocate, Marathon and Boulevard ClickTight: Sneak Peek Review

PrintWith the announcement of the ClickTight Installation System in the 2015 models of the Marathon, Boulevard, and Advocate convertible carseats, Britax has indeed introduced a Game Changer into the convertible carseat market. Gone are the days of huffing and puffing and yanking on seat belts and LATCH straps to get carseats installed tightly. As technicians in the field, we know a loose install is one of the top 2 mistakes we’re going to see in a vehicle when it comes to a checkup event.  ClickTight was a big deal with the Frontier 90 and is just as big of a deal for any carseat rated above 40 pounds or so, due to new federal standards limiting the use of the LATCH system.

Britax ClickTight convertibles

Do these convertibles hold the cure for all possible misuse? Of course not. There may be some incompatibilities and the price may put it out of reach for many families but we can’t make advances in child passenger safety without advances in technology and those advances often come with a hefty price tag – at least initially.  For that price tag, you also get increased height limits and a 10-year expiration date, so there is some value added!

Kecia, our lucky reporter in the field, got to touch and feel and see these cool new seats.  We will have a full review coming in September.  For now, she took a ton of pictures for us and a video and reports that baby Jack fits beautifully in the new Marathon without the lower body insert (see pics). With the lower body insert, the bottom harness slot measures about 6.5″.


20" doll in Marathon CT - no lower insert needed  20" doll in Marathon CT - no lower insert needed  Marathon CT lowest harness ht measurement - with lower body insert

These pics below show the preemie doll using the lower body insert. The Britax convertibles are rated from 5 lbs. to 40 lbs. rear-facing, so our 4 lb. Huggable Images preemie doll is too small to fit in any of them, but Kecia wanted to get an idea of harness slot fit.

CTMApreemiefront  CTMApreemieside




The Marathon CT is going to be a smaller seat for Britax while the Boulevard CT and Advocate CT have a growth spurt (see photos below).

Britax Marathon, Boulevard & Advocate ClickTight Preview: Game Changers for Installation, and Rear-Facing Too?


Britax Marathon CT

Amazon.com spilled the beans earlier this week, so you may have already heard the news.  Britax is introducing a new line of convertible carseats with their patented, ultra-simple seatbelt installation system.  These models with ClickTight are new designs from the ground up and have some important other differences too.  The current “G4″ Convertible lineup will continue to be sold at present price points alongside the somewhat more expensive ClickTight models.  That is great news because the Britax G4 convertible models have a great LATCH installation system and fit into small spaces very well.  Check out our review of the Britax Advocate G4 and stay tuned for our full review of the Britax Boulevard ClickTight next month.

So, you know about ClickTight, but here’s what a lot of advocates and parents really want to know.  First, when can you get one?  Britax plans to begin shipping to stores in the first week of September, with product appearing on many virtual and brick&mortar shelves by mid-to-late September.  And second, what are the height limits?!  Are they a “gamechanger” or a dud?

The new Britax Marathon ClickTight is only modestly taller than the current Marathon G4.  The top harness slot height increases from 17.5″ to 17.7″ and the top seated shoulder height from 16.75″ to 16.95″.  The overall standing height limit increases from 49″ to 50″ tall.   The rear-facing height limit will also increase slightly, to over 25″ tall to a point 1″ from the top of the shell.  Basically, pretty similar (but slightly larger) than the Marathon G4 overall, with the main addition of the great ClickTight installation system.

Now the BIG news: The Britax Boulevard ClickTight and Advocate ClickTight get a significant height increase!  The top harness slot height increases from 17.5″ to 19.5″, among the highest for current convertibles.  The seated shoulder height increases from 16.75″ to 18.65″ tall in the top adjustment.  The standing height limit is raised from 49″ to 54″ tall.

Britax Advocate ClickTight

Click To Enlarge

Perhaps the biggest news of the day, these two models will no longer use the top of the outer shell as their reference level for rear-facing height limits!  That limit will now reference 1″ from the top of the inner head restraint “shell” instead.  That point is defined as roughly 1″ below the red adjustment lever for the harness height adjustment. Please keep in mind that these are approximate measurements from a final prototype, but the estimated usable rear-facing height limit should be almost 28″ tall for the Boulevard and Advocate with the head restraint in the highest position.  Bam!  (Editors note: this limit appears to be closer to 27″ tall with our measurements).

Other notable changes?  They all have an new 7-position recline system with an automatic level indicator.   The Marathon gets a 12-position harness height adjustment, while the Boulevard/Advocate have a 14-position adjustment.  All have two crotch strap positions, similar to current G4 models.  The Pavilion G4 model is being phased out, and the Click & Safe harness tension adjustment system will now be standard on all Boulevard models.  These new ClickTight convertibles are a lot heavier than the G4 models, due to the ClickTight system and steel reinforced shell.  They are a little bigger as well, so they won’t be as handy for travel than the non-ClickTight G4 models.  And, of course, there new fashions! Stay tuned for video and more photos later today.

Ride Safer Travel Vest 2 Giveaway

rstv2aIt’s week 7 of our Blogiversary Celebration! We’re thanking our loyal readers and followers for supporting us throughout the last six years. And we know the best way to say “thanks” is with yet another giveaway.  Our friends at SafeRide4Kids are giving away one updated Ride Safer Travel Vest 2 (RSTV2) in choice of size and available colors!  It’s an updated version of a lightweight restraint system that is handy for travel and may work well in difficult 3-across situations, too!

The RideSafer® Travel Vest is a revolutionary, wearable booster seat alternative!

  • Version 2 can be used with lap-shoulder belt or lap belt & tether (a single tether IS included)
  • Crash tested – meets or exceeds all Federal standards (FMVSS 213)
  • Lightweight, easy to carry and fits in your child’s backpack
  • Easy to use for traveling with children
  • Small for children at least 3 years & 30-60 lbs.
    Large for children 50-80 lbs. (size chart)

There are some changes with the new model currently available from Safe Ride 4 Kids only:

  1. 3 New Colors in cooler air mesh fabric, still have pink and blue in velour fabric
  2. Built-in FAA accessory compatibility (with loops through back straps to allow for FAA accessory once approved and available)
  3. Elastic built into waist of vest for better fit
  4. Extended lap flap for better fit
  5. More padding at the shoulder clip area
  6. “Velcro” on lap flap


rstv2b rstv2c


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Winner must have a U.S. shipping address.

Now for the fine print (these may be in addition to the rules listed in the Rafflecopter terms)