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Rental car companies and the screening of drivers records: what you need to know

Yes, and many companies now screen drivers when they rent in vacation-popular destinations such as Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, New York, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Sales agents conduct screening checks by entering your license number into a computer program that calls up your driver's record as reported by your state department of motor vehicles. If your record doesn't meet the screening criteria of the rental company, the agent will refuse to rent you a car.

Instead of screening you, some rental car companies may require you to sign a statement that you have an acceptable driving record. This shifts the responsibility for providing accurate information away from the company and to you. If you have an accident and signed a statement that turns out to be incorrect, the rental car company could use it against you by claiming that you acted in violation of the rental agreement.

Rental Car Screening Standards

Generally, a rental car company that screens drivers will deny you a vehicle if, during the past 36-month period, you

  • were caught driving with a suspended or invalid license

  • had one instance of drunk driving, hit-and-run, driving a stolen car or other serious offense

  • had three moving violations, or

  • were at fault in two accidents.

The standards adopted by each rental car company vary and are subject to change, so you need to inquire about the specific rental screening standards of any company you are considering using. If your driving record is questionable, do the following:

  • Call your motor vehicle department to see if your state makes driver records available. If it doesn't, then relax and don't worry about being screened.

  • If your state makes driver records available, when you call to reserve a rental car, ask if the company screens driving records and whether it maintains a nationwide blacklist.

  • Get your driver record evaluated by a screening company. Several companies evaluate driving records to determine in advance whether drivers will be disqualified from renting. TML Information Services (800-388-9099), the leading evaluator of vehicle records for rental car companies, operates a program for drivers from states that make driver record data available online. For around $11 (less for AAA members), you can get an evaluation of your driving record against the criteria for screening risky drivers used by six major rental car companies.

  • If you don't want to pay for an evaluation, get a copy of your driving record from the motor vehicle agency in your state (allow plenty of time), obtain the screening criteria of the rental car companies you are considering and make an evaluation on your own.

  • If you are traveling for business, rent from a company that has a liability agreement with your employer-the screening company may overlook items that would otherwise disqualify you.

Finally, if you are disqualified by a screening system, have someone you are traveling with rent the car and do the driving.

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