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Coronavirus: Is it safe to rent a car, how clean are they?

Whilst flights have been grounded and holidays cancelled the world over, there will be a point in the not too distant future where restrictions are eased and we return to a ‘new-normal’. We don’t know what that looks like just yet, but people will travel again, holiday makers will fly, rent cars and they will experience different cultures, foods and places again.

When that time comes, people will want to know how clean and indeed how safe a rental car will be. Car rental companies have always taken the cleanliness of their rental cars seriously, however in the current climate, never has this been so important. Where previously a freshly valeted car in the car rental parking lot would make a good impression at the start of your rental, it’s now more than just a feel-good factor, it could be critical to your health.

coronavirus is it safe to rent a car

We’ve reviewed the car hire company policies for cleaning rental cars during and after the coronavirus pandemic to summarize. A common theme is the increase in cleaning procedures for specific high-contact touch-points.

High risk areas of a rental car

The following areas of a rental car have been identified as ‘high-risk’ due to their high contact requirements by the driver and occupants to operate the car. All of these areas will be cleaned / sanitized between all rentals;
  • Door handles (inside and out)
  • Steering Wheel
  • Gear lever
  • Switchgear (radio, heater, sat nav controls)
  • Seatbelts
  • Internal touchpoints (seat pockets, cup holders etc)
  • Rear-view mirror
  • Fuel filler cap
  • Key / fob
Coronavirus COVID-19 Is it safe to rent a car

It is not only the rental cars themselves under the microscope, rental agents have implemented procedures for operations at the rental desks and offices themselves, measures include;
  • Limiting the number of employees at the rental desk / office
  • Employing social distancing measures between employees
  • Frequent hand-washing
  • Frequent cleaning surfaces
  • Reducing customer interaction at pick-up / drop-off maintaining social distancing
  • Providing customer hand-sanitising facilities

Will car rental be safe after coronavirus?

Whilst car rental agents are taking every precaution to prevent the spread of coronavirus from their vehicles, much like airlines and public transport providers, any facility or equipment that is shared by the public carries a risk. However, a rental car has far less exposure to a high volume of people.

The average rental duration is 6 days, whereas an airline might use the same aircraft at least twice in a single day and a bus / train seat is likely to be used by many more different  passengers in a single day. Car rental could be considered one of the safest forms of ground transport.

The average rental car carries 5 passengers (some cater for 7,9,12 and up to 15), compared to aircraft and public transport, far fewer people will come into contact with a rental car than other means of transport.

​The average queue time at the rental desks across our car rental locations is around 17 minutes, we expect this time to be reduced as demand for car hire is low due to travel restrictions, but you will be asked to maintain social distance in the queue of at least 2m.

What if the previous renter had coronavirus?

If a car rental agent is made aware that a previous customer is suspected of, or has been confirmed to have coronavirus the car will be removed from service to receive an independent deep clean in accordance with local government policy.

We all have a responsibility towards each other and if we, as a society are to successfully tackle the coronavirus, enabling a return to life as we knew it we have a responsibility to advise the car rental company, airline or other service provider if we have subsequently suspected to have had, or confirmed to have had COVID-19. Only by doing so can we ensure that travel and the services we have used are safe for future.

If you are concerned or have any questions in relation to how clean a rental car might be following coronavirus, get in touch and we will guide you to all relevant information available at the time.

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Phil Partridge
Posted: May 05, 2020 by Phil Partridge
About the Author -

Travel writer, car rental guru, Phil has rented cars all over the world and shares his knowledge and experience on the Rhinocarhire.com Blog. Favourite country to visit: France.

Last updated: Tuesday, May 12, 2020
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