The Ugly Truth About Rental Car Recalls

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
the ugly truth about rental car recalls

Back in November, NHTSA announced that it was investigating how long it took for rental cars to be repaired under recall, saying

NHTSA understands that there is presently a petition before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) seeking to prohibit at least one rental car company from renting vehicles on which safety recall campaign remedies remain outstanding.

Because only vehicles made by the Detroit Three are under investigation, they are the only firms who have been asked to disclose how long it takes rental fleets to repair their vehicles. And, according to the Detroit News

GM and Chrysler told NHTSA this week that 30 days after a recall — 10 to 30 percent of vehicles sold to rental car companies had been repaired.

By 90 days, it had improved to about 30 percent and within a year, the number had improved to 50 percent or higher.

Ford did not make its data public, citing the fact that the release of the information could damage it is relationship with rental car companies and result in “decreased sales of motor vehicles to rental car fleets.”

Rental car companies are not legally required to complete recalls before they rent the cars to customers.


It turns out that the FTC petition was filed by the Ralph Nader-founded Center for Automotive Safety, which sought to force Enterprise Rent-A-Car to repair its recalled vehicles before renting them out. The petition stems from an incident in which two women died in an unrecalled PT Cruiser that caught fire. But, argue rental car firm advocates, targeting rental fleet recall compliance just isn’t fair.

Bob Barton, president of the American Car Rental Association noted, that hundreds of recalls and service bulletins affecting millions of vehicles in North America are issued annually.

“In most cases, members place a ‘hold’ on recalled vehicles so they are not rented until the recall work is completed,” he said.

Because rental cars move around so much it can take weeks or months for the company to find out a model has been recalled, thus taking much longer for repairs to be done, advocates said.

Rental car companies generally have better repair rates than consumers, who often fail to get recalled vehicles fixed.

But then, consumers who experience defects because they do not service their recalled vehicles have only themselves to blame. Consumers who rent vehicles, on the other hand. should probably be able to expect them to be free of dangerous defects. If nothing else, complying quickly with recall repairs would help rental fleet owners avoid legal liability. Still, current laws only prevent rental fleets from selling unrepaired recaled vehicles… there are no current laws requiring fleet owners or private consumers from repairing recalled vehicles. NHTSA’s investigation into the matter is ongoing.

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  • Joeveto3 Joeveto3 on Feb 27, 2011

    I'm pissed. I just went out to the garage and checked my V-Strom. Looks like someone stole the side airbags (well, all of the airbags) and the traction control too. Looks like I'm screwed.

    • See 3 previous
    • Joeveto3 Joeveto3 on Feb 28, 2011

      @Horner Take those stats and remove all the imbeciles who ride without helmets, the rookies and the rest who jump on 100hp plus bikes with no license, no insurance, and no formal training, and the nitwits who think it's ok to ride after a few beers, and you'll see dramatically different numbers. I've been riding for over 20 years. I go long distance, I commute, and I even ride in freezing weather. And through it all, whether we're discussing cars or motorcycles or something else inherently dangerous, shit, riding a bicycle or walking down the stairs, I never relied on a safety nanny to keep my ASS out of the ringer, but instead relied on training, practice, and respect for whatever activity it is in which I'm partaking. Heck, I even do this with rental cars I use (very frequently). So in the event that I'm provided with a rental car that ...ghast...doesn't have yaw control, I can tailor my driving style accordingly, and perhaps not attack that cloverleaf at 9/10ths in light snow. Maybe I'm getting old, but the whole personal liability/responsibility/good citizen thing just makes sense. Now excuse me while I go enjoy my V-strom.

  • JustPassinThru JustPassinThru on Feb 28, 2011
    John Horner: ‘“JustPassinThru” – By your definition, a corporation would be obliged to ignore any moral codes and break as many laws as it thinks it can get away with if that is the perceived path to maximum profits…’ That sounds like the definition of a politician as well. Just substitute profits for contributions or power. Completely different. A government (controlled by politicians) can and does use FORCE, or the threat of force. You are free to not patronize any corporation you choose not to. Nobody ever put a gun into my ribs and ordered me into a Microsoft store. Nobody ever forced me to rent from Enterprise. If you think that what a business is doing is unsafe or immoral, you can vote with your wallet. What's being done to us from Washington, we have very little say on. ... I wasn't polled about ethanol. Were you?

  • Lou_BC ERay? A southern model will be the BillyRay.
  • Lou_BC I've never used a car buying plan service. My Costco membership did get me 1,000 cash back on my last truck.
  • Jeff S I can understand 8 cars is a bit much unless you are a serious collector. I always loved the Challenger when it first came out and now. I don't need a car like this but I am glad it exists at least for 1 more year. If I had a choice between a Mustang, a Camaro, and a Challenger I would opt for a Challenger but probably with a V-6 since it has more than enough power for most and I don't need to be burning rubber. Challenger has the classic muscle car looks, more cabin room, and a decent size trunk which makes it very livable for day to day driving and for traveling. The base models of the Dodge Challenger has a 3.6-liter V6 engine that gives you 305 horsepower with 268 lb-ft torque. The car attains 60 mph from a standstill within just 6 seconds, which is quite fast. Even with their base engines, the Challenger and Camaro are lightning-fast. The Camaro reaches 165 mph, while the Challenger can go up to 11 mph faster!
  • Inside Looking Out I would avoid American cities if I can. European cities are created for humans and Americans for cars.
  • Inside Looking Out I used True car once in 2014 and got a great deal. The difference is that you do nothing but dealers call you. No haggling but you can get the same deal browsing inventories on dealers websites. It just matter of convenience, Rich people delegate job to someone else because time costs more.