The Takata airbag recalls prove to be a scandalizing chapter in the present era of the motoring world, considering its unsavory stature as “the largest and most complex safety recall in US history,” as deemed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). With over millions of vehicles with model years 2002 to 2015 involved across several automakers, the vehicle recalls issued by the Japanese automotive parts giant can practically cover a large percentage of cars in the US, between personal vehicles and rental vehicles. Nonetheless, the Takata airbag recalls is only one out of several kinds of vehicle recalls issued by automakers in recent years.

Given the vast expanse of vehicle recalls, the possibility that your own car may be affected may not be too farfetched. At the same time, the thought that rental cars might be affected by vehicle recalls provides an interesting perspective on ownership as against usage in this particularly-pressing matter. Putting the idea closer to home is the likelihood of you using a rental car that is affected by the recall. While that may sound too absurd from the onset, the sheer number of cars that have been subjected to Takata’s vehicle recalls makes that scenario all too real.

Such a chance-driven scenario has not been ignored by US legal authorities. The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 seeks to provide protection to consumers against car rental companies that use recalled vehicles in their rental car fleet. The law, named after two sisters who were killed in a road accident in 2004, involved a Chrysler PT Cruiser rented from Enterprise. Said model was announced by Chrysler as among those included in their recall over power steering problems. Said incident pinpointed the legal gap involving car rental companies with recalled vehicles in their fleet.

Following the resolution of the Houck Sisters case, the Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 was drafted with bipartisan support. The proposed federal law disallows car rental companies to operate recalled vehicles unless the automakers concerned fix the issues detected, as attested through notification letters. Adding to the high esteem held for the bill is the support pledged by some of the largest car rental companies in the US, including Budget, Dollar, and even Enterprise. However, apart from the bill still pending passage, among the problems car rental companies face is the vagueness of automakers in their notification letters, noting that those are not worded clearly enough to indicate whether their recalled vehicles are safe enough to reenter operations.

The fact that the Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 has not been made into a federal law yet highlights the importance of both consumers and car rental companies in ensuring that recalled vehicles are not used as rental cars. Both the consumer side and that of car rental companies have their respective peculiarities with regard to the issue, as detailed further below.

Consumers

Although ensuring the quality of rental cars is largely the responsibility of car rental companies, consumers are urged to demonstrate a proactive approach by checking whether the cars they have rented are part of any existing vehicle recalls. Here are some helpful ways for you to ensure that the car you have rented is not recalled by its automaker:

  • Check the NHTSA’s Recalls and Defects page on their website, and see if the model of your rental car is named under any vehicle recalls
  • Search the website of your car rental company and check if it has issued any advisories on vehicle recalls for its rental car fleet
  • Before you checkout, make sure to go through the fine print that allows you to have a replacement vehicle that is similar to the model you are planning to rent
  • Make sure to watch out for sudden upgrades within the same class in the event your requested model is not available for rent

Car rental companies

These days, car rental companies are known to exhibit a greater sense of responsibility in responding to vehicle recalls. Although most car rental companies have been known to pull out all recalled cars from their rental fleet, they only tend to do so in high-profile vehicle recalls. Moreover, car rental companies tend to lack transparency when it comes to providing details on vehicle recalls, as attested to the availability of crucial information on dealing with recalled rental cars on third-party websites but not on their own respective pages.