Age restrictions can stall auto rentals abroad
MOST travellers are cognizant of the fact young drivers have a more difficult time renting automobiles abroad.
Some companies will not rent to those under the age of 25, while others will impose significant extra charges that tend to dissuade many who otherwise would prefer this mode of self-directed travel.
What is less known are the restrictions placed on seniors who wish to rent cars around the world. They may have perfect driving records with decades of on-road experience, but for car-rental companies they are deemed to be higher-risk clients. Why is this so? It is the insurance companies who, for the most part, will not provide costefficient, across-the-board coverage to car-rental companies unless they impose age-limit restrictions.
But the restrictions are not universal or consistent. There is often a difference between the policies of the corporate locations of a car-rental brand and those of individual franchisees. As a result, it can be confusing for a senior to find the policies of a company as they travel from country to country, and even from region to region within one.
What is worse is by not knowing the facts more than one senior has been left in the lurch and denied transportation because of their age, even if they had reserved a vehicle far in advance of their travel dates.
Generally speaking, the cutoff age tends to be somewhere between 70 and 75, although some are as low as 65.
In Canada and the United States, there seems not to be age restrictions on rentals from corporate locations, but as elsewhere individual franchisees may institute their own polices.
To highlight the confusion a traveller can run into around the world, I will reference country-to-country policies of the best-known brands, Budget Rent a Car.
In Australia, as in Canada and the United States, there seem to be no age restrictions, while in the Dominican Republic it is a reasonable 80.
The policy of the same brand at locations in Cyprus prevents people 73 and older from renting their vehicles. In Greece, it is 70.
The youngest age restriction I could find for Budget was in Morocco, where the cutoff age is only 60.
Perhaps because of the general overall incidence of accidents in Jamaica, the limit is to senior citizens under 65. While the Budget policy is overly restrictive, major competitors Alamo Rent a Car and National Car Rental allow rentals to seniors up to 80 years old in the same country.
This underscores the need to do a lot of research on individual company policies in each country, even if the next country you plan to visit borders the first.
In the United Kingdom, while companies such as Avis Car Rental (a sister company of Budget) and Hertz Corporation seem not to have age restrictions, Budget has instituted an age-75 cut-off.
Some rental companies will extend the age cut-off if proof of supplemental insurance from a renter’s home country’s insurance company covering any overseas damages is obtained. (Manitoba Public Insurance has a program for auto rentals in the U.S., but to my knowledge not beyond that.)
Others such as Enterprise Rent-ACar have a stated policy that says: “Drivers over the age of 74 will need to provide a PRINTED medical certificate which states that they are fit to drive and a letter from their insurance company stating that they are currently driving and have not had an accident within the last five years. This information must be received at least five working days in advance of your rental.”
Older drivers wishing to rent from Hertz in some countries may have to provide a letter from a doctor declaring you are in good health, and have been so for several months before. A similar letter from your insurance company stating you have been accident-free for up to five years may be required as well.
Because of insurance restrictions based on age, older drivers need to understand the fine print of any contract to ensure they will be covered should they get into an accident.
The company may still rent you a vehicle but a clause may limit your coverage on damages in the same way the small print on health policies does not cover those who partake in recognized dangerous activities.
While it is often the case seniors who wish to rent are travelling with a spouse who may also be a senior, it is sound advice to leave the driving to a younger person travelling with you if possible.
While insurance may be the biggest barrier, it is also important to find out if an International Driving Permit is needed for the country you will be visiting (places such as Poland, Austria, Hungary and Greece). An IDP is easily acquired in Canada and does not require a driving test. It is obtained by showing your current licence and paying a fee.
Forward your travel questions to email@example.com. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard
Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www. journeystravelgear.com or read Ron’s travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.