Last Updated on January 17, 2021 by Michael

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If you own a car, you are alerted if and when there is a recall. But you may be wondering how car rental companies handle recalls for cars in their fleets.

Not too long ago, it was perfectly legal to rent out a recalled car that had not yet been repaired.

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Then Congress passed the Rental Car Safety Recall Law in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. The federal law prohibits rental companies from renting unrepaired recalled vehicles. In addition, now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority to investigate rental car companies and punish violators.

In one of the highest profile cases, sisters Raechel and Jacqueline Houck were killed in October 2004. They had been upgraded by Enterprise to a car with a known fire risk. They were driving a PT Cruiser when it caught fire due to a defective power steering hose. As smoke poured into the vehicle’s cabin, Rachel Houck lost control of the car. It then crashed head on into a semi-tractor, killing both women instantly.

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The deaths of the Houck sisters led to a large financial judgment against Enterprise. Congress introduced multiple bills in an attempt to take unsafe rental vehicles off the road. But by then the major rental car companies had already decided to proactively remove rental cars with active recalls from their fleets.

What Does a Vehicle Recall Mean?

A recall issued through the NHTSA means that there’s a safety-related defect that’s present in a particular car model or models.

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If a rental car company learns of a safety risk and doesn’t fix the issue, there is massive liability issue. Today, rental car companies are smart enough to handle recalls as quickly as possible. Yet in the not-so-distant past, rental car companies didn’t even contemplate whether recalled vehicles should be pulled off the road.

If you’re wondering if a particular make and model is under recall, NHTSA’s free Recall Look-up Tool lets you find out quickly.

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