As summer vacation approaches, you might be thinking about renting a car for a road trip or a weekend getaway. But before you sign the contract for your next rental car, consider this: the car you’re about to rent might have been recalled by its manufacturer. Shockingly, rental car companies may lawfully rent out cars that have been recalled without having first fixed the defective part.
This may soon change, however. Congress recently held a hearing on a bill that would prevent rental companies from renting a recalled vehicle until it has fixed the safety problem. If made into law, this act would put rental car companies on par with car dealerships, which are prohibited from selling vehicles with an outstanding recall.
Like so many safety-related bills, this one – called the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 – has a tragic story behind it. In 2004, the Houck sisters were killed in a fiery crash while driving a rental car that had been recalled for a power hose defect. The car caught fire because of the defect and the sisters crashed head-on into a semi-trailer truck. The rental company had been informed of the defect a month earlier, yet had not repaired it.
Most major car rental companies and consumer groups are in support of the bill but some smaller companies are fighting back, arguing that the act could seriously harm their business.
It’s disgraceful that some companies would place the profitability of their business over the well-being and safety of their customers, but that’s the world we live in. At the very least, car rental companies should warn renters of the recall and give them the choice of renting that car or another one.
What can you do to remain safe when renting a car?
Don’t take any chances: research the safety of your rental car in advance.
When possible, find out the model of your car before renting it and find out whether it or its parts are under recall. The best places to check are with the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety or Safercar.gov.
If you cannot find out the make of your car in advance, ask the rental agent whether the car has a recall on it or do a quick research on your smartphone, if possible. If there is a problem with the car, refuse it and ask for another.
You should also choose a car that has stability control, anti-lock brakes, and side airbags and other features that enhance the car’s safety. It might cost a bit more, but it may be worth it in the long run.