Last Updated on March 30, 2024 by Kristin

rental car won't start
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Imagine, after a day of sightseeing, discovering that your rental car won’t start. Before panicking, read these tips.

Why A Rental Car Might Not Start

There could be various reasons why your vehicle won’t start. Here are some of the most common scenarios:

  1. The battery could be dead.
  2. A component such as the alternator, spark plugs or ignition switch could be malfunctioning.
  3. You might have run out of gas.
  4. An electric vehicle (EV) may not start because the battery is drained. If so, it would require a recharge before getting back on the road.

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What to Do If Your Rental Won’t Start

Call the rental car company: The first thing to do is to call the rental car company. Don’t try to do any of your own repairs, as this could void your renter agreement.

Ask the rental car company for next steps. An agent can then give you instructions about how to proceed. Here are roadside assistance numbers to keep handy:

Avis: 800-354-2847

Budget: 800-354-2847

Hertz: 1-800-654-5060

Enterprise: 1-800-307-6666

National: 1-800-367-6767

Follow troubleshooting instructions. The agent will likely ask a few questions about why the car might not start and how it is functioning. For example, you may be asked to check whether the lights are working to determine whether the battery is dead.

Wait for roadside assistance: The rental company might expect you to use a roadside assistance service. Or, perhaps it will send you a tow truck. While you may be able to cover the costs of a jump-start through your American Automobile Association (AAA) membership or credit card, it’s still a good idea to keep the company informed about the problem.

Keep track of receipts: If you have to call a taxi due to a car being towed or have any additional expenses related to the car breaking down, keep the receipts. You may be able to get reimbursed for these charges later.

Who Is At Fault When a Rental Car Won’t Start?

In theory, the rental car company should be responsible for damages and towing costs if a car won’t start due to a mechanical issue caused by a faulty component. It should also help find a new rental for you to use during the rest of your trip. However, rental car breakdowns can be more complicated if the company determines you were at fault for the rental car’s failure to start.

If you paid for the rental car’s roadside assistance policy and your car won’t start due to a dead battery, the rental company should cover the costs of jump-starting the vehicle. You could also opt to use an AAA membership to cover these costs if you have one, or see if your credit card policy will help cover them.

But if the car does not start because you accidentally left the lights on and drained the battery, there is a good chance you will have to pay for a new one. Roadside assistance will not necessarily cover the cost of the battery itself — just the labor needed to replace it.

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If an electric vehicle won’t start because the battery is drained, for example, you will most likely be responsible for paying any towing costs. (Rental policies warn renters that they cannot call a tow truck on their own, as electric vehicles require flatbed towing. Let the company handle it.)

If you are not responsible for your rental car failing to start, ask for at least a partial refund for the reservation and to be reimbursed for any costs you may have incurred.