How One Rental Company Uses a New Digital Tool to Detect Vehicle Damage
July 25, 2023 • By Amy Hercher •
To compete in the ever-changing rental car world, technology tools can help create more efficiency during the rental process. An example of a helpful tool is Damage iD (DID), a technology solution that flags vehicle damage.
Canadian-based Bristol Car and Truck Rentals was one of the first rental companies to start implementing Damage iD into its check-in and checkout processes. The company still uses Damage iD at its 14 rental locations.
“We’ve been able to save thousands of dollars using Damage iD,” said Jesse Carter, Bristol’s operations manager. “I don’t think that we can even put a number on it in terms of how it has benefited our company, from eliminating conflicts with customers over vehicle damage to keeping track of fuel and mileage to helping keep up on vehicle maintenance.”
How the Cameras and Technology Work
A team from VERC Car Rental had an idea to use cameras and web technology to help recover money in vehicle damage costs.
Jack Vercollone, owner of Massachusetts-based VERC Car Rental, partnered with iQtransit, an IT consulting firm with experience in Web and mobile software development, to help make this idea come to life.
Using a mobile device during the checkout process, a rental agent can take pictures of the vehicle’s exterior from six different angles to record any damage. When the vehicle is returned, photos and video will be taken from the same angles to document any new damage.
If new damage is detected, agents can take additional close-up photos. With the app, they can compare before and after pictures side by side. The photos are uploaded to a cloud server that creates a catalog of the vehicle’s damage history.
In 2014, VERC Car Rental unveiled the Damage iD product at the International Car Rental Show.
“The goal was to replace the paper and pencil method and create a digital vehicle inspection for rental companies,” said Paula Vercollone, Damage iD’s director of business development. “My husband Jack saw the need since there was a big problem of losing thousands of dollars in unclaimable damage.”
Since then, the company has continued to create new updates for the technology solution.
“The contactless customer inspection version is becoming popular,” Vercollone said. “It came out last year and has been popular with car rental companies that have overnight drop-offs when the store isn’t open. We are constantly working on our AI.”
Digital Images Boost Efficiency, Transparency
Using their personal mobile phones, Bristol’s rental agents take several photos of a vehicle’s exterior before it’s handed over to a renter.
Damage iD creates more transparency during the check-in and checkout vehicle process.
“Now we have the ability to email the customer the photos we took during the inspection,” Carter said. “They have the same copy we have. The photos provide a clear condition of the vehicle, which prevents any disputes regarding damage upon return.”
It helps with customer relationships. “We want to show the customers we have their best interest,” Carter said. “We want them to feel protected.”
It also streamlines the process. “It’s very efficient for the check-in and checkout process,” Carter said. “You’re not solely relying on a handwritten number of the fuel reading or handwritten notes for where there’s damage spots. It’s right there in the photos and clear cut.”
Photos Cut Confrontations and Add Legal Protection
With the photos, confrontation with customers can be reduced. The customer can clearly see the side-by-side comparison of before and after photos.
“The photos are dated, time-stamped, and geo-stamped,” Carter said. “We still get the customers who say, ‘I didn’t do it. It wasn’t me. It must have happened on your lot after hours.’ But the damage is shown in the photos. Here’s picture A and picture B. They don’t match.”
For Bristol, the Damage iD tool has helped with legal protection. “When we have to send a customer to collections or small claims court, we have the photos of the vehicle damage because of Damage iD,” Carter said. “We can say here’s your rental contract and here are the vehicle photos before and after. You were using your own insurance so you’re responsible for the vehicle damage.”
Preventative Maintenance for Long-Term Rentals
Damage iD also helps Bristol with its fleet maintenance. This is especially helpful for the company’s long-term renters who can take their rental vehicles for several months at a time, Carter said.
“When we need an inspection of the vehicle, we can send the customer a link where they can take photos of the vehicles and we can close off the vehicle at the right kilometers.”
Damage iD calls this “do it yourself” inspection the “customer contactless inspection” or “CCI”.
Bristol sends its customers a link to the mobile web version of Damage iD. The customer completes the inspection through the browser — never having to download the app, Carter said.
“Once the renter sends back the vehicle photos through the CCI version, we complete the paperwork and they can sign it electronically through our rental software,” he said.
If the maintenance system says the vehicle is due for an oil change, Bristol will send the renter to a nearby mechanic for an oil change and maintenance check. The bill will be sent directly to Bristol to take care of it.
“This way, oil changes will be done on time and tire treads can be checked at specific levels,” Carter said. “We want to make sure these inspections are being done on time and the renters are safe.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Former Senior Editor
Amy is a former senior editor with Bobit Business Media’s AutoGroup.