By law, a car dealer cannot sell you a vehicle that's under a safety recall until it's been repaired. But a company can rent you that vehicle or give it to you as a loaner.
"This doesn't make any sense," said Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, who has been pushing Congress to close the rental car loophole. "There's a weird double-standard here based on the type of transaction, not the safety of the car. Whether you are buying a car or renting a car, it should be safe."
The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 (S. 921) would ban companies from renting a recalled vehicle until the safety hazard is fixed.
The bill, which had its first hearing on Tuesday, was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators earlier this month: Charles Schumer (D-NY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
Raechel and Jacqueline Houck were killed in 2004 while driving a rental car that had been recalled for a defect in the power steering hose that could result in a fire. The sisters were killed when the car, which had not been repaired, caught fire and slammed head-on into a truck.
The girls' mother, Cally Houck, has been pushing for congressional action to prevent similar tragedies. She told senators every company that rents cars, whether a big national company or a small local used car dealer should be required to repair dangerous defects before someone gets behind the wheel.
"Recalled cars endanger the lives of everyone who shares the roads – not only the people who are riding in them, but other drivers as well," Houck testified. "While my daughters happened to collide with an 18-wheeler, and as a result the truck driver and his co-worker suffered relatively minor injuries, it could just as easily been a minivan full of children, with more lives lost."