Federal law currently prevents car dealers from selling vehicles that have been recalled by their manufacturers. Current federal law does not require that rented vehicles under recall are repaired before being rented out, but that is set to change.
The recall rental problem
The problem with rental car recalls is that legally, rental car companies are not required to repair vehicles that are under recall before they are rented out. In 2010, two daughters died in a vehicle accident while their mother was driving a rented car that was under recall. The mother sued, and that lawsuit was eventually settled for $15 million after Enterprise admitted negligence in allowing that recalled vehicle to be rented out. After that lawsuit, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into the recall repair practices of rental car companies. The American Car Rental Association claims that most of its members maintain careful maintenance records of its vehicles and generally repair rentals that are under recall before renting them out.
Following the launch of this investigation, several rental car companies took the very unusual step of requesting federal oversight. Hertz and Enterprise have agreed to the public oversight, though Avis, the third-largest rental car company, has not yet agreed to the federal oversight. Enterprise released a statement to the press stating:
“In the past we believed that this step was unnecessary,” said Laura Bryant, a spokeswoman for Enterprise Holdings, “but a growing number of people, including our customers and business partners, clearly want more assurance on this critical issue. We hear them – and what we’ve heard has caused us to rethink our stance.”
Ensuring your own safety
When renting vehicles, there is an easy way to see if the vehicle you are renting is a part of an open recall. Check the vehicle’s VIN number against the database at Carfax or another similar service. You should also ask the rental agent directly if the car you are about to rent is a part of an open recall. If the agent cannot answer your question, you should run your own check. The U.S. government also provides an app that checks to see if a vehicle or product is a part of a recall. It may take extra time at the rental checkout counter, but a little bit of extra time and hassle could save your life.