My family and I have operated a daily car rental business for more than 50 years as an Avis Rent a Car System licensee under the Barbush Rentals Inc. banner. We have a fleet of about 700 units at three airports and seven off-airport locations.
Of the many challenges that we face in this business, the one that bothers me the most is when a customer rents a vehicle with the proper credentials, then leaves our offices and turns the vehicle over to someone who is not on the agreement. That individual may not have a valid driver’s license or may not be old enough to drive, among other things that would disqualify that person from renting.
Often these situations end up as bad rentals. In a lot of cases, the vehicle is used to transport illegal substances, as witnessed by what we find in these vehicles upon their return. Law enforcement officials often contact us for information about the renter either while the vehicle is on rental or upon its return.
In addition, these vehicles are often trashed inside and damaged outside, which costs our company, and our industry, a lot of money. More often than not we are unable to collect for these damages.
Tougher Requirements for Leisure Rentals
Very little—only a driver’s license and a credit or debit card—is needed in today’s world to rent a $25,000-$35,000 vehicle.
Often these renters, when asked for how long they’d need the vehicle, will misrepresent the length of the rental so that their credit card takes a minimum hold. Even though these rentals are often extended, sometimes we will not be able to get the additional hold when we run their credit card again. We then request that our vehicle be returned to us immediately. In a lot of cases, we must spend time and money to collect what is owed to us.
These types of rentals are mostly leisure rentals and are often returned to us either by the police or a telephone call from the police telling us to pick up our vehicle.
I have always thought that the requirements for leisure rentals should be tougher than those for corporate use. When there is a problem with a leisure rental, there is not a layer of protection for car rental companies. However, when there is a problem on a corporate rental, at least you have their company to fall back on. I have never had a situation in which the company did not take responsibility for any excessive abuse to the vehicle caused by their employee.
An Industry-wide Do Not Rent List
There is no way that I know of to stop this type of rental. Only when an arrest is made or an accident takes place can we determine that the renter violated the contract. At that point, we can put them on the “do not rent” list. While that denies the renter the ability to rent our brand at another same-brand location or city, they can still rent from another brand and start the process all over again. Even putting the violator on the “do not rent” list does not stop them from getting a qualified friend to rent a vehicle for their use.
Perhaps tougher regulations with more severe penalties are the answer. My idea would be to make sure that any individual who rents from any car rental company and allows a non-authorized individual to operate that vehicle during any illegal activity would be put on a nationwide “do not rent” list. They would lose the privilege of renting for a specified amount of time, if not for life.
I am not aware of a law that using a rented vehicle to commit a felony is a crime, even though committing a felony is obviously a crime. Perhaps a law could be passed to help deter this activity, even though tougher laws do not seem to deter even the most horrific crimes these days. It leaving me where I started: “How can we deal with this type of renter?”
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