Should Rental Car Companies Be Allowed To Rent Out Recalled Vehicles?

Every year, several million cars are recalled for repairs that cover everything from the most minor safety concerns to potential death traps. But some rental companies continue to hire out vehicles that haven’t been repaired, even months or years after the recall announcement.

USA Today recently reviewed documents submitted by Chrysler and General Motors to NHTSA and found out some interesting info regarding the lack of priority given to getting recalled vehicles repaired:

The documents show that no major auto-rental company fixed all its recalled vehicles within a year. GM documents, for example, show that a year after getting a recall notice about a shift lever indicator problem in 2009 Buick Enclaves, Chevrolet Cobalts and seven other types of vehicles in their fleets, Avis Budget had fixed 35% of them. The documents show that Enterprise fixed 34% of these types of vehicles in their fleets within 30 days after the recall, 52% within 60 days, 62% within 120 days and 74% within a year.

In 2011, the Government Accountability Office issued a report saying that all rental companies decide on either a “hard hold,” in which cars are grounded until repaired, or a “soft hold,” where the vehicles are allowed to be rented.

However, Avis, Budget, Enterprise and Hertz all tell USA Today that they ground recalled vehicles until repairs are finished. But an Enterprise rep says that sometimes they can remedy a recall without having to actually take a car to the dealership.

For instance, Enterprise said it was able to immediately resolve the Toyota recall for improperly secured floormats by simply removing all the mats from affected vehicles.

But some safety advocates think that, considering how many cars are purchased and sold by rental companies, more oversight is needed.

“The rental car industry is the single largest purchaser of new cars, and the single largest source of used cars in North America, yet they have escaped all regulation and oversight from (NHTSA),” says Cally Houck, whose daughters died in a 2004 incident involving an Enterprise vehicle that had been recalled but not repaired.

Houck has started a petition on asking Enterprise to stop its reported opposition to legislation that would prohibit rental companies from lending out recalled cars.

Safety advocates: Rental car recalls should be regulated [USA Today]


Edit Your Comment

  1. j2.718ff says:

    “continue to hire out vehicles”

    Am I the only one who thinks this sounds incredibly British?

  2. Otto44 says:

    Why not? The free market knows best. If you get in a wreck, then it’s your fault. You should’ve taken individual responsibility to research all the cars in the company’s fleet before you rented from them. You’re on you own son.

    • shepd says:

      Fortunately, the free market lets you sue the rental car company. They have a lot of rental cars, you can expect either you (if you are alive) or your family will own every single one in short order. And you get to get a bunch of stuff fixed on them for free too, since they never got their recall done.

      Everyone trying to say libertarianism is wrong always seems to skip this step. The lower legal bar set after repairing the broken legal system we have would make places renting cars scared shitless that they don’t have their cars fully functional. Or they can have everyone sign an obvious waiver that they know the car is in an undriveable state, in which case, yeah, why the hell would you be so stupid as to do that?

      • KyBash says:

        “They have a lot of rental cars, you can expect either you (if you are alive) or your family will own every single one in short order.”

        Um . . . no. Even the most generous award in a wrongful death suit is less than 4% of what the CEOs make.

        • shepd says:

          So all those news stories about people getting millions for far more minor stuff, like spilling hot coffee on themselves are bunk then?

          • Thorzdad says:

            Do some research. Those awards are typically greatly reduced upon appeal, even the hot coffee award that conservatives love to trot out.

      • Otto44 says:

        Two words: Tort reform. Music to a Conservative’s and Libertarian’s ears.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      On another note, you could look specifically for the recalled vehicles that are unlikely to cause death if the malfunction occurs but still will cause injury and sue if the malfunction happens…

  3. smhatter says:

    I’m not sure how much money these guys make by keeping cars running, but it seems like it probably wouldn’t be more than they would lose in a wrongful death suit. Just seems like bad practice all around.

  4. StarKillerX says:

    It depends on the recall, since many recalls are for minor issues but I would say yes for major, and/or issues related to safe operation of the vehicle.

    • Don't Bother says:

      Agreed. I think that information should also be available to the renter, and perhaps be something people can “downgrade” to if they want.

    • Remarkable Melba Kramer says:

      I agree, it depends on the type of recall. I had a Cavalier once that had a recall on the warning sticker on the sunvisor because the print was too small. Seriously!

  5. nbs2 says:

    Just to confirm, I can go to Federal PMITA prison (or receive some fine-based equivalent) for selling a recalled toy at a yard sale, but a rental company can put a recalled vehicle on the road? And, “yeah, I made up my own fix,” is an acceptable excuse?

    I’m not sure why Hertz supports this (I saw this news in my elevator news thing on the way in to work this morning), but I have to admit it looks better than National/Enterprise’s opposition.

    • SomeWhiteGuy says:

      The problem for Yard-Sales is enforcement. From WSJ “The product-safety agency acknowledges that it doesn‚Äôt have the resources to actually police yard sales, stoop sales and the like; its focus is on making sure that larger retailers and manufacturers comply with the new rules.”
      Since the rental places aren’t selling the cars, there is no current oversight. Putting out a new law that removes all recalls from being sold and from rental no matter if they have been fixed or not seems like using a shotgun to kill a gnat.

      • nbs2 says:

        Why is this a shotgun/gnat issue?

        If there is a recall, that suggests there is some sort of issue that could affect the function of the vehicle, putting either the customer’s safety or wallet at risk. If I get into an accident because of a safety recall, is Enterprise going ot accept responsibility or will I, as operator, have to do so? If there is a leak in the sunroof, is Enterprise going to waive the damage fees, or are they going to charge me?

        To rent a vehicle without sufficient notice to the consumer is unacceptable. I could handle a notice, but telling me when I go pick up my vehicle that “it has been subject to a recall” wouldn’t help me since I would have no alternative. If the company was required to provide me notice that I may be subject to recieving a recalled vehicle when I make the reservation, I would be ok with that. But, I’m talking about cigarettes in Canada/Europe level notices.

  6. SomeWhiteGuy says:

    What would really help is if I had the option of getting a Carfax on the vehicle I’m “hiring out” before I pull off the lot. I’d pay an extra $25-30 for that kind of service.

  7. Tim says:

    Are dealers allowed to sell recalled vehicles? What if they’re used?

    Seriously, I don’t know the answer this … it’s not a rhetorical question or anything. I think if you’re not allowed to sell them, you shouldn’t be allowed to rent them.

  8. Orysseum says:

    I just recently quit working for Avis/Budget

    If the vehicle was recalled, it was placed on a hard hold in the computer system and we were unable to rent it in the system.

    However, the fleet department frequently left us with too little cars or not the right type (airport seemed to get preference). Thus, we sometimes were forced to rent a recalled car using a “hidden movement”, else face the wrath of the customers.

    I’d say at least 40% of the time, the cars we requested were not sent to us from fleet. Customer reserved a compact car, we request one and instead get a full size or, as was most often the case, we were sent mid-size SUV’s or mustangs, and told to just basically “deal with it”. That’s one of the reasons why I quit. Tired of getting yelled at.

    And for the record, even though it is your own business (franchise) technically, it’s a pain in the ass to work for one. You only get 10% of the profits per rental contract, and the rest goes to Avis/Budget. Supposedly we got comission on the extra sales (insurance, etc) but I never saw a dime. I worked ten days in a row and got two hours of overtime (which i know is my franchise owners fault, but I digress).

    And also, while you only get 10% of the profit (which is why every car rental counts), if anything goes wrong with the contract the store can be charged 100% of the contract cost. You get yelled at for not meeting sales goals and then ignored once you reach them.


  9. AllanG54 says:

    Look, planes are allowed to fly with defective equipment…the list is called the MEL (minimum equipment list) where they’re allowed to go even if certain named parts are failing. Driving a car is less dangerous and don’t tell me that everyone on here runs (or drives) to the dealer the day after they get a recall notice because I’d say they’re full of crap.

  10. vliam says:

    I think, by the time most of these recalls are issued, the car is long past its lifecycle as a rental car.

  11. dush says:

    Better create a federal bureau to regulate this.