Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by Kristin

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Imagine that you’re driving a rental car and suddenly the oil warning light comes on. While not a common scenario, it can happen that you land a rental car that needs an oil change. Here’s how to handle it like a pro.

How to Know When A Rental Car Needs an Oil Change

In most situations, you’ll know a car needs an oil change or has an oil pressure problem because the oil warning light will illuminate on the car’s dashboard. The “maintenance required” light may also light up to indicate the car needs an oil change.

While the old adage used to be that cars need their oil changed every 3,000 miles, newer cars now require oil changes at longer intervals of anywhere between 5,000 – 10,000 miles depending on the vehicle and type of oil.

In some cases, the car’s “check engine” light could also indicate a bigger problem with the car’s oil pressure. However, this light can indicate any number of issues, including a loose gas cap.

What to Do When Your Rental Car Needs an Oil Change

Let’s face it — nobody wants to deal with maintenance on a vehicle they do not even own. But if you notice a dashboard warning light, it’s always a good idea to give the rental car company’s roadside assistance line a call as soon as possible to report the issue.

Not only can calling the company prevent a possible safety issue, but it will provide a record of the problem and can help keep you off the hook for any further issues.

To get in touch with the rental car company, dial the roadside assistance number in your rental agreement and explain that a service light has turned on in your rental. The company should have the car’s maintenance information on file and can provide next steps.

Are You Responsible for Changing the Oil in a Rental Car?

One reason why drivers might avoid saying anything about an oil warning light is because they do not want to be responsible for the cost and time associated with taking a vehicle they do not even own into the shop. This is understandable. However, the rental car company is actually responsible for ensuring their vehicles are well maintained.

In many cases, the rental car company should offer to swap out the car for an alternative vehicle at a nearby rental office. If you do need to take the car into a repair shop to check the oil, let the car rental company handle all of the details and costs. Do not try to repair the vehicle yourself.

Since the intervals for oil changes have extended over the years, it’s unlikely you will need an oil change while renting a car. But if you do plan to drive very long distances and rent a car for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to ask the rental car company whether you will need to trade in the vehicle at some point.

At any rate, as a renter you should not be on the hook for any costs related to oil changes. Still, it is your responsibility to notify the rental car company of any issues with the vehicle as soon as possible to avoid bigger issues in the long run.