Last week end, I rented a car, fairly new car (probably 1 year old).

On the way to give it back, 20 minutes before arriving, the gearbox just broke. I couldn't accelerate etc.

During the week end, I did maybe 300 km, and although my driving is not the best, I highly doubt I'm the only responsible for that gearbox issue.

The garage told the company that it was negligence so I have to fully pay the repair, which is damn expensive.

I'm not really sure on what to do to be honest.

I asked the company and they told me it was likely that the car was checked 2000 miles before I took it.

This question has probably more a legal perspective but:

1) Is it possible to destroy a gearbox by driving 300 Km, without any completely fancy uses? The guy from the company told me that it was because I wasn't doing the right thing during traffic...

2) Do you know of any way to prevent me from paying the full price for it? I mean, I doubt I'm responsible.

Edit: It is a manual gearbox.

The issue is that the clutch burnt.

  • It may help to know the year, make and model to see if there are known issues. That said, most new vehicles these days come with warranties that cover the things like engine and transmission, so it is strange that the rental company isn't following up with their local dealership and deciding to pin the blame on you.
    – Zaid
    Feb 13, 2015 at 12:12
  • it's a manual gearbox. I was in the traffic, and suddenly I couldn't pass the gears anymore. So I stopped and waited for someone to come and help. The guy managed to make it work for a bit then it became impossible to accelerate.
    – dyesdyes
    Feb 13, 2015 at 12:41
  • 1
    Yeah, well, now that you stipulated that it wasn't the transmission, but in actual fact the clutch, the whole thing changes. Feb 13, 2015 at 13:38
  • Here are some relevant issues: 1) In which country did you rent the car? laws and regulations vary. 2) What does the contract you signed say about this issue? 3) Did you use a credit card for this transaction, and does the issuer provide any form of insurance for this? If so, contact them.
    – sdenham
    Feb 14, 2015 at 14:57

2 Answers 2


As far as I know rental companies have insurance that covers this sort of thing. This may be a good time to contact a lawyer.

You can't break a gearbox by doing the wrong thing in traffic. You would destroy the clutch first. The only ways to destroy a gearbox is by running it without oil (not your responsibility because it's a rental) or popping the clutch and making the wheels spin (especially if it's a 4WD).

Again, get a lawyer. And be honest with him. He's on your side.

UPDATE: Since you now indicate the clutch had burnt, it is your fault. A clutch will burn if you don't release the pedal completely or you use it in lieu of the parking brake while waiting on an incline. You may still be lucky and find that the rental company is covered for such things.

  • 3
    While burning a clutch is indeed a common error, is it definitely the last driver's fault? Maybe it was already damaged (overheated?) by previous driver(s), and the last one simply put the last straw on the camel's back. I'm not a car mechanic, though, and don't know whether this can be proved one way or another.
    – IMil
    Feb 13, 2015 at 15:49
  • @iMil : The damage could have been done by any of the drivers of the car, and it is very hard to tell until it finally fails. Unless the company can show the clutch was in good condition before he took it, or can show from the car's electronic log that he abused it (and I don't know if any car logs the requisite info), then they have no case. My guess is that the company is either just hoping he will pay (there's no cost to them in trying) or got him to sign a very bad contract (which might not hold up in court, depending on the country.)
    – sdenham
    Feb 14, 2015 at 15:09
  • @iMil This is my point. I asked them how it can be only my fault. They seem to do check up every now and then, the guy didn't give me any specific data.
    – dyesdyes
    Feb 14, 2015 at 18:05
  • What car was it? Feb 16, 2015 at 8:04
  • 1
    @sdenham Except for a road test, their isn't any way to check the condition of a clutch without removing it from the engine - which is a major job, and probably a bill of $500 to $1,000 for the labor, even if there was nothing wrong with it.
    – alephzero
    Apr 8, 2017 at 15:51

Not knowing what type of car it is, how many miles were on the car, or even whether it's a manual or automatic (assuming automatic), this is all I have for you ...

To easy your mind a little, any single 300km stint is not going to cause a transmission to go bad. The problem is, the transmission chose your 300km stint to break. This, in essence, leaves you holding the bag, as they say. It happened on your watch, so they are wanting to make you pay for it.

Something to think about here is who is saying you're liable? Is it the owner of the rental car and nobody else? This would sound suspect to me. There is no way he could prove you were negligent in your driving, which caused the issue. He is assuming you are at fault because it happened while you were renting the vehicle. The easiest and cheapest thing to do is to place the blame completely on your shoulders. He's wanting you to bight on this and you to pay all of the repair costs. It's the easiest way for him to go about it and the easiest way to recoup the funds.

There are some approaches you could use to mitigate some, if not all, of the cost, though.

First off, reread your rental agreement. It may be plainly obvious in the agreement who is responsible for vehicle breakdown. This is quite different than damage to the vehicle. Damage is intentional. The owner needs to prove you are the cause of the breakdown for it to become intentional damage.

Second off, as @JuannStrauss has stated ... GET A LAWYER (barrister, attorney, whatever you want to call it where you are at.) Sometimes just getting a lawyer to drop the company a letter stating they are on the job is enough to get a company to cease and desist.

Depending on the make/model/year/mileage of the vehicle, it could very possibly still be under warranty from the vehicle manufacturer. If so, the manufacturer could replace it under that warranty, letting you off the hook.

Get a second opinion. Have your mechanic take a look at the transmission and see what's going on. Things like burnt transmission fluid, lack of transmission fluid, leaks, etc., would tell a mechanic that this has been an ongoing problem ... something the owner should have been taking care of in the first place. If your mechanic can tell you that, I would sue the owner of the car for leaving you stranded and for lost time due to negligence. (This may be an approach you would want to take anyway ... ask the lawyer. I t would depend on the rental agreement.)

If all else fails, get a bat and break the dudes knee caps. While this will ultimately end you in jail, it will most likely make you feel better and the guy will think twice about doing something like this again.

Obviously, the last suggesting is a joke ... please don't land yourself in jail. All-in-all, I doubt you are responsible either. It is my approximation you are not to blame. I think there are ways around this quite easily ... but first of all, get the lawyer. He'll help immensely.

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