Last Updated on May 22, 2023 by Kristin
Most car renters know to check the exterior of a rental car for dents or scratches before driving it off the lot. But many drivers overlook the need to check the tires on a rental car.
It’s easy to assume that the rental agency is checking the condition of rental car tires after every dropoff. But often that’s not the case. In fact, over the years, multiple AutoSlash customers have told us that they had gotten a flat while renting a car because the tires were in bad condition.
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Driving a car with bald — or nearly bald — tires can not only cause a massive headache, but it can be extremely dangerous.
We recently heard from a AutoSlash customer who shared photos of a bald tire with the threads exposed. A renter on the FlyerTalk forum recounted having to get his rental towed due to bald tires. In both cases, the renters were unsatisfied with how the companies responded to these incidents.
Here’s how to check the tires in your rental car for wear and tear.
How to Check Tires for Safety
Checking the tires on a rental car only takes a minute and could save you and your family from a dangerous situation.
One of the easiest ways to check whether a tire is going bald is to use a penny to check the tread depth. The so-called “penny test” is quick and simple. Turn a penny so that Abraham Lincoln’s head is facing down. Now, insert it into the tread of a tire. If any of Abe’s head disappears into the tread, the tires are fine. But if you can still see Lincoln’s entire head, the tire treads are too worn.
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If you suspect your rental car has balding tires, ask for another vehicle before leaving the rental car office. Otherwise, you may run into issues later on and have a hard time covering the expenses.
What to Do If You Get a Flat Tire in a Rental
If you get a flat tire in a rental, follow these steps:
- Once you’ve safely pulled over, call the rental car company’s customer service or roadside assistance hotline to alert them that you are stranded in one of their vehicles with a flat tire. Depending on the situation, you may have to pay for the tire as well as the tow truck.
- Arrange for a tow if you did not opt for the roadside assistance service when renting the vehicle. Check resources like your personal auto insurance policy, credit card or AAA membership might cover the cost of a tow truck.
- Document everything. Take photos of the tires and keep all receipts for any towing expenses, taxi rides or other charges you might incur when getting a flat.
- If you suspect or know your rental car’s tires were bald at the time of rental, clearly mention this to the rental car company and ask for a full refund. Send all documentation to support the case.