It’s reasonable to expect you to carefully examine the exterior and interior of a car before you rent it, which is what you did. You noted all of the damage that was visible from the sidewalk.
But you shouldn’t have to crawl under the vehicle to assure yourself that your Mazda 2 is in one piece.
The Enterprise manager was just doing what she’s trained to do. If there’s damage to a car, it’s presumed to be the responsibility of the last renter, facts notwithstanding. You didn’t exactly help your case by being honest, although that was the right thing for you to do. But once the damage was on your record, you were responsible – end of story.
I wouldn’t have continued driving a damaged car. I would have asked Enterprise to fill out a damage claim and then requested another vehicle.
Also, since you had the vehicle for such a short time, I don’t think it would have been unreasonable to ask to see the previous renter’s records. It’s possible that something was noted on that form that exonerates you.
Also, the fact that part of the damage had been noted by you was in your favor. In reviewing Enterprise’s claim, it looked to me as if you were being charged for pre-existing damage.
If your appeal to Enterprise’s damage recovery unit is unsuccessful, you can always take your complaint to the top. I list the names and email addresses of the executives on my website at http://elliott.org/contacts/enterprise/.
I contacted Enterprise on your behalf, and it dropped the claim.