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Rental Car Roulette

Submitted by Brett A. Emison on November 14, 2012 – 4:08 pm One Comment

Though you might not be aware of it, rental car companies, such as Hertz, Enterprise, Avis, Budget, etc., can legally rent you a vehicle that has been recalled for a safety defect.

In fact, a2011   National HighwayTraffic Safety Authority (NHTSA) study showed that Avis and Budget repaired only 53% of recalled vehicles within 90 days. Hertz was even worse, with only 34% of recalled vehicles repaired within 90 days.

Rental car companies have been lobbying heavily in order to keep renting defective vehicles to their customers.

Hertz, however, was the first rental car company to reach an agreement with safety group Consumers for Auto Reliability, calling on Congress to grant NHTSA authority to prohibit rental car companies from renting, leasing or selling recalled vehicles until the vehicles are repaired.

After substantial public outcry and years of opposition, Enterprise said in February 2012 that it would formally support legislation “to oversee the way car rental companies manage the safety recall process for vehicles in their fleets.”

The agreement to support common sense regulations prohibits rental companies is a good start to enhance safety for unsuspecting customers. In 2011, these two rental car companies—Hertz and Enterprise— had nearly 184,000 vehicles recalled. In 2010, those same companies had 350,000 vehicles under recall (many of them subject toToyota’s sudden acceleration recall).

Part of the public’s outrage over this issue comes from a 2004 crash in California, in which Rachel and Jacquie Houck rented a defective PT Cruiser from Enterprise. The company knew about the defect, but chose to rent the vehicle without having it repaired first.

As they drove down Highway 101, the defective PT Cruiser caught fire in the engine compartment. The vehicle filled with smoke. The girls could not see. They could not steer the vehicle. The car swerved across the median strip and was hit by an on coming truck. Both girls were killed.

Enterprise refused to accept responsibility for the tragedy and instead attempted to blame the girls. In depositions, an Enterprise manager even admitted he never considered the possibility that the company should not rent defective vehicles to the public even after receiving recall notices.

Despite this tragedy and Hertz’s agreement with Consumers for Auto Reliability, the American Car Rental Association (representing 105 car rental companies, including Hertz) is still lobbying against this commonsense rule.

The car rental association doesn’t want NHTSA to say car rental companies cannot rent you a defective vehicle, so that the car rental companies can and will rent you defective vehicles if they want to.

As quoted in USA Today, Consumers for Auto Safety President Rosemary Shahan said, “The rental car companies have been playing rental car roulette with their customers’ lives.

When they run out of safe vehicles, they want to be able to rent ones that are unsafe.”

Until Congress stands behind this common-sense requirement, be sure you’re prepared. Ask your rental car company to verify that the vehicle they rent you is not subject to any recall.

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