At rental car counters in some European, African and South Pacific countries, a little known rental car regulation has stranded more than one unsuspecting senior traveler, leaving them without transportation because they are “too old” to drive the rental car they have reserved.
Too Old for a Rental Car?
How can this happen? Easy. Insurance companies mandate the maximum age for car rental, and they usually set the cutoff age at 70 or 75. If an older customer has an accident, the company's insurance carrier will increase rates across the board, unless the company agrees to refuse service to any customer above a certain age.
Different rental car companies have different insurance carriers, however, so the only way to know whether you will be allowed to drive away in the car you have reserved before leaving on your trip is to ask specifically about age restrictions for rental cars, and how they apply in the area where you will be traveling.
More Senior Travelers Encounter Rental Car Age Restrictions
The rules about rental cars if you are above a certain age haven’t become more rigid, but with more seniors traveling the frequency of problems has increased. Most people know there is a minimum age for rental cars, but few people realize that rental cars also have an upper age limit.
Dealing exclusively with major rental car companies like Hertz or Avis won’t necessarily help you avoid the problem. While some of the larger rental car companies don’t impose age maximums for rental cars at their corporate sites, many have franchise operations in various locations that restrict rental cars by age to meet insurance requirements.
Tips to Help You Find a Rental Car at Any Age
Despite the age limits some insurance companies impose on rental car companies and their customers, however, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of finding a rental car regardless of your age.
Shop Around for Your Rental Car
If one company where you’re traveling has an upper age limit for rental cars, another company in the same city may not.
In some areas, older drivers are allowed to get rental cars if they can provide their own insurance policy that will cover them and the rental car while they are traveling in that location.
Sometimes, it pays to get a rental car near your destination, because the regulations are more flexible, and drive it into the area where you really want to go.
Don’t Count on the Web
Companies don’t always post rental car age restrictions on their Web sites in a place that is easy to find. If you’re 70 or older, call the rental car company directly and ask about their policy in the area where you want to travel. If you get a clerk who doesn’t know or seems uncertain about rental car policy regarding age, ask to speak to a supervisor--and keep going up the ladder until you find someone at the rental car company who can verify that you will be able to get a rental car when you arrive at your destination.