It all started out well
We used to rent our Dodge Viper out on a popular phone application you probably see advertised pretty often – but I’m not here to name names. We rented it out for a little over a year and overall, it was a pretty enjoyable and stressless opportunity. My fiance bought the car when he was still in Afghanistan and never had the intention of selling it so we decided we didn’t care how many miles we, or anyone else, put on the car. Throughout the time we rented it out we met some pretty interesting people and the car got to be a big part of other people’s car stories. We had a bride and groom use it for their wedding as the car to drive away in – it was returned to us covered in glitter – gross. Some people just wanted to drive the car for a few days because they were interested in buying one and wanted more than a dealership test drive. Some were just businessmen in town that wanted a fun car on the company dime.
A lot of the business we did was in Orlando and usually centered around the Orlando International Airport. It wasn’t unusual for us to meet people who were flying in so they could pick the car up right there and go on their way. Since we are an hour from Orlando this also worked to our benefit because the renters could leave the car checked at the parking garage and we would go to inspect it and pick it up at our own convenience. My fiance and I were still in college and working at the time so we wanted to make everything as convenient for the renters as possible.
Again, being an hour away and having class and work, getting to Orlando meant having good time management and hopefully not hitting traffic, an accident or the ever-going construction along 528. It was nearly impossible to plan out perfectly with our schedules. It happened on occasion we would run a few minutes late. In these cases, we would waive small fees like Sunpass (like an E-pass for Florida Tolls) or parking garage fees, whatever it may be, just as a show of faith and as an apology for the tardiness.
Introducing the villain of the story
We had one businessman whom I had concerns about from the very first time we interacted with him. We were about 15 minutes late to the airport, waived all of his Sunpass and Parking fees but he was still livid. He sped off in the Viper, grinding through gears and we knew immediately that this was a mistake. Several days go by and we hear very little from the renter. He wasn’t very responsive but he is still within our agreed rental time so there wasn’t much we could do.
The end of the rental period finally comes and we go to retrieve the car. It had been 3 days at this point. The rotors are completely caked in a thick layer of brake dust. This was a major concern considering we methodically detailed the car before every rental. We check the car out and after our typical inspection we set off for home. Mindfully, the Viper has an 8.3L V10 motor and that makes an ungodly amount of noise even with a stock exhaust.
From Bad to Worse
About fifteen minutes into our hour-long drive home I get a text (after all, you can’t really call when the car is that loud) that the motor had started knocking. Everything you want to hear after renting out your supercar. We try to get the car home to do a more thorough inspection. I will give my fiance the benefit of the doubt here: it is a Dodge, so the car is naturally knocky, creaky, and otherwise makes horrendous noises. The knock was getting way worse and by the time we pull into the driveway the motor had completely imploded.
We contacted the renter to try and figure out what had happened, assuming he had made a trip to the Orlando Speed Way and just recklessly shifted the motor like it was a Honda Civic. We had rental insurance through the rental app and our insurance company but they both told us there was nothing they could do. Our insurance through the app covered absolutely nothing, the renter was left without fault and our insurance offered little to no help. With no real way to contact the renter outside of the app, we were left with few options.
We can guess until we are blue in the face exactly what caused all of the damage, but in the end, we will never really know. Cylinder 10 was empty and scarred, and the bottom of the motor was full of remnants and sad metallic shreds of what used to be.
While it was a sad day for us, I can at least say I wasn’t the one who blew up the Dodge Viper.
If you want to read more about what it’s like to rent an exotic car, check out: