Imagine if you will ... a rental Nissan Altima (easy to imagine) being driven by a 16-year old (hard to imagine), where the driver possesses no license, no insurance, and ignores a stop sign because the driver has not yet passed the state's road sign recognition test. The vehicle with the right-of-way just so happens to be a fire truck. Remarkably, this happens to be a real story out of St. Louis and the outcome was predictable -- fire truck sustains damage but rental car loses the collision contest. The driver of the Nissan (and his passenger) were trapped in the car remnants and needed extrication. Fortunately, the people best at that task -- the fire department -- happened to be on hand! While the newscasts tend to focus on the damage to the fire truck that's going to be out of service temporarily for repairs, the Altima is missing much of a front end, spun around against a building, and the occupants had to be cut out of the vehicle. And while the 16- and 15-year old had minor injuries, the mother of the driver denied medical care on their behalf after extrication. How is the rental company going to view this incident?
No word as to whether the occupants' hair changed from black into bright white.
First, we have to state that the reporters did a horrible job on this story, completing missing the "why" and "how" of a 16-year old without a license causing this accident -- was this a parental choice to toss over the keys to a rental car or a child that needs to be shipped off to military school? Second, I have to admit to growing up in a different era. If I did this at the age of 16, my mother would have been arrested on the scene after making the statement that her son "would require medical attention after we got home". And finally, the rental car company will take a dim view of the incident, which resulted in three citations (no license, no insurance, and failure to yield) for the driver who shouldn't have been driving.
What are the Policies of the Rental Car Companies?
No major rental car company allows drivers under the age of 18 (ever) and most have a higher age requirement. No major rental car company allows drivers without a license. And obviously, the 16-year old without a license couldn't be an authorized driver. The answer is pretty straightforward -- if mom and/or dad made the rental, they are going to be writing a massive check, like a "there went your college fund" check.
Why? If the renter allowed the 16-year old to drive the vehicle against the contract, that's clearly a prohibited use and when a usage that violates the rental car contract occurs all insurance coverage is voided. And by all, that means all -- whether from a personal insurance policy, a policy purchased from the rental car company, or coverage provided by a credit card. If the child took the car rented by the parents without permission, well the parents are still responsible for the condition of the vehicle. And if the child stole the car from a non-family renter (the car was not reported stolen), then the family would be sued for damages anyway.
In this case, there are also the repairs to the fire truck!
You get the idea; permissive use by a non-approved driver always exposes the renter to maximum financial liability if damage occurs, whether the driver is properly licensed or not. Our team members admit to catching flack from friends and family members because we flatly refuse to allow others to drive our rentals unless the driver is authorized by the rental car company. And we love to drive -- no one's getting added to our contracts unless there's an additional driver fee waiver! If we get a particularly fun car (like Jonathan's recent free Mustang GT upgrade), even drivers that could get added to the contract with a fee waiver don't get added to the contract.
Unless the car was stolen (and reported stolen, with police reports substantiating the theft), the actual renter of the vehicle earned a place on a rental car company's permanent "Do Not Rent" list for an accident caused by an unauthorized (and this case, illegal) driver. The 16-year old also managed to make the same "Do Not Rent" list before even getting a driver's license (an impressive feat). And as KISS reminds us, permanent is Forever (and forever is a long time).
Legally, we have no idea how the State of Missouri will look upon an individual who picks up three citations before starting the first (of three) steps for a Graduated License but we have a strong inclination that the behavior will be frowned upon! Then there are the repercussions at home; mom and dad just might decide he's going to remain one of the increasingly common individuals without a license by filing a Missouri Department of Revenue Form 4811 to deny driving privileges until he reaches the age of 18 (and/or boarding school) ...
Ready to rent your next rental car? You know not to let your 16-year old (or anyone else not listed as authorized) drive the car! You also know that AutoSlash finds the cheapest rates available, so click below to request a quote on your upcoming trip(s) now!