My family traveled to Costa Rica in December 2006 to visit my wife's family. Prior to our trip, we made a reservation with Economy Rent a Car (Advantage Rent a Car affiliate) for a 12-passenger van. On Dec. 25th, we picked up a KIA Pregio van from their Alajuela office that we later drove to the city of Samara. An Economy employee walked my brother-in-law around the van to observe cosmetic damage to the vehicle prior to our trip while I signed the paperwork.
My family (pregnant wife and three children) and my wife's relatives (five adults and two children) drove up to Samara on Dec. 26th. On Dec. 27th, after spending the morning at the Samara beach, we decided that we wanted to see some of the other nearby beaches. We drove about 35 minutes south to another nearby beach and came to a water crossing on the road. I walked out into the water and found that it was about a foot deep so we felt that we could safely traverse it in order to get to our destination as other cars were already doing so. We made it across without any problems and spent 2.5 hours at the beach.
Around 5:30pm, we decided to head back to our hotel in Samara. When we got to the water crossing, I decided to film us crossing it. The water was the same height (1 ft. deep) and only reached the middle of the tire and the undercarriage of the van. The van almost reached the other side before its engine seized and we had to tow the van out of the water.
After failing to re-start the van, we examined the van more closely. The air intake was situated about waist-level on the front of the vehicle under its hood. The water had been no higher than the middle of the tires so we knew the water didn't enter through the air intake. We followed the hosing from the air intake down below the vehicle where the hose enters the engine and discovered the source of our problems. The air hose was in total disrepair and appeared to have been jury-rigged in various ways (I have pictures and video). It had a bicycle tire inner tube wrapped around what appeared to be the hose. There were gaping holes in the hose, and evidence of what appeared to be various tape jobs. I am not certain whether or not there was even a hose in place maybe just the remnants.
I am a business traveler and frequently use rental cars from various North American rental car companies (e.g., H, E,(((REDACTED))) etc.). I have never had to inspect a rental car's mechanical soundness by climbing under a car or opening its hood prior to its rental. It is expected that the rental vehicles are safe, well-maintained, and operational when they are rented by customers.
I do not feel the vehicle was roadworthy when we left Economy's Alajuela office. Either it had not been properly inspected prior to being rented to us or Economy has been performing makeshift repairs on its vehicles and simply doesn't care about the safety of its customers.
When we called to report the problem, the company immediately blamed us for the damages rather than trying to help us with our predicament. They promptly picked up the damaged vehicle but couldn't commit to when they would be able to transport our family back to San Jose. We lost faith in Economy and eventually found our own way back to San Jose. Economy Rent a Car let us down in two areas: by renting out an unsafe and poorly maintained vehicle and by having complete disregard for reasonable customer service.
When I disputed the $2,400 charge to my credit card, Economy Rent a Car showed the credit card company a contract showing that I agreed to be liable for damages occurring from crossing a water body something they force all clients to sign before renting a vehicle without any knowledge of the mechanical condition of the vehicle they are renting. If the vehicle had been in good condition, we would not have had any problems and could easily have made the water crossing. It is clear that Economy Rent a Car was negligent in its vehicle repairs and maintenance.
I can honestly say that our rental experience with Economy ruined our family vacation. I would not want other foreign visitors to go through what we went through, and I hope that our unfortunate story will prevent future tourists to Costa Rica from using Economy Rent a Car. These guys are crooks.
American Fork, Utah