During this busy holiday travel season, federal officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are launching an investigation into commonly rented vehicles from GM, Chrysler, and Ford, and their status on recall repairs.
Under federal law, rental car companies aren’t required to fix cars that have been recalled before renting them to customers. In addition, some rental car companies, including Avis, Hertz and Enterprise, don’t have policies in place to ensure that cars that have been recalled aren’t rented until they are repaired.
According to the NHTSA, the investigation began because of several accidents involving injuries and death that were caused by safety defects on rental vehicles. One accident that received a lot of attention occurred in 2004, in which two sisters were killed in a vehicle rented from Enterprise that was subject to a safety recall. The sisters rented a PT Cruiser one month after Enterprise got a recall notice that a fire could break out in PT Cruisers because of a power steering fluid leak. The sisters’ rental car caught fire while they were driving and hit a tractor trailer head-on in California. Enterprise had rented the same car three other times after hearing about the recall. A jury awarded the family $15 million.
Currently, the FTC is considering preventing Enterprise from renting out vehicles that are subject to a recall. A Senator from New York is pushing the FTC to require all rental car companies to repair recalled vehicles before they are rented. If you are planning on renting a vehicle this holiday season and are concerned about potential safety issues, do your homework. Find out the make and model of the car and investigate any recalls at recalls.gov.