That rental car you're driving might not be as safe as you think. USA Today reports that companies like Hertz and Enterprise had around 184,000 vehicles under recall in 2011. While there is a federal law that requires car dealers to fix recalls before cars are sold, rental car companies have no federal laws governing how they handle recall notices. This means they can rent cars that have recalls but have not yet been fixed. Even worse, they are under no obligation to tell the customer about the recall notice.
The debate started many years ago, when according to AutoSafety.org, Carol Houck, mother of Rachel (24) and Jacqueline (20), discovered this dangerous loophole in 2004 when the PT Cruiser her girls rented from Enterprise had a steering problem presumed to be the cause of the crash that killed both girls. The car rental agency had received a recall notice about a month before that, but the car remained unfixed. Determined that this not happen to anyone else's family, the Houck's began a legal battle that would eventually lead a jury to award them $15 million in damages.
Just a few weeks ago, Hertz reached an agreement with Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety and together they asked congress to come up with legislation that would require car rental companies to repair recalled cars before renting them. State Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) plan to introduce legislation in the current session that would make such a requirement a law.
Until more regulations are passed, the best way to ensure you don't rent a potentially dangerous automobile is to stay up-to-date on the current recalls and ask for a different vehicle if offered one under recall. Check out our list of the most recent product recalls.