Age re­stric­tions can stall auto rentals abroad

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - TRAVEL - RON PRADINUK

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 askjour­neys@jour­neystravel.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.

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