Rental Car Companies Must Now Repair Open Safety Recalls Before Renting Vehicles

While many of us (myself included) eagerly look forward to summer vacations, car rental companies should take heed that starting this summer (actually effective June 1), they are required by federal law to fix any and all open safety defects before renting  vehicles to customers. As announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), the legislation was passed by Congress as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (“FAST”) Act of 2015.

As explained by NHTSA, the new law prohibits any company or dealer with rental fleets greater than 35 vehicles from renting unrepaired recalled vehicles. It also extends NHTSA’s recall authority to cover rental car companies for the first time, giving the agency the ability to investigate and punish violators. Prior to the bill’s enactment, it was legal under federal law to rent a recalled car that had not yet been repaired. Under the bill, rental fleet operators have 24 hours from the time they are notified of a vehicle recall to have the car fixed or to park it until repairs are made (48 hours if the recall covers more than 5,000 vehicles in the company’s fleet).

The American Car Rental Association supported the legislation and noted that major rental car companies like Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis Budget were already complying with the law before it went into effect.

While the legislation exempts rental companies with fleets smaller than 35 cars, the industry association is pushing to extend coverage to all rental cars.  And, the advocacy group Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety has indicated that they  are focusing on the sale of used cars.  Currently, under federal law used vehicles can be sold with open safety recalls.