9:00 AM EDT, August 26, 2012
Question: I believe I fit this description: 80 is the new 60. I know that sometimes there are upper age maximums when renting a car abroad. I've tried many platforms to see if I can rent a car in Italy, but I cannot get a straight answer from anyone. Can you help?
Answer: Vance is right to be concerned. When I first addressed this issue in 2008, a reader was having trouble renting in Northern Ireland. An On the Spot column (http://www.lat.ms/TPRIXy) noted that Hertz's website said the maximum age for car rentals in Northern Ireland was 75 but that customers between 76 and 79 years could "rent with specific conditions (you must drive on a regular basis, you will need to provide to the counter a letter from your doctor to state you have been in good health for at least 12 months and a letter from your insurance company to state you have not had an accident within the last five years."
Times, attitudes and, apparently, some laws have changed since then. Diane Clancy of Europe's Assn. of Car Rental Industry System Standards, whose website says one of its missions is "to develop standards to avoid misleading information when making a car rental booking online or via any electronic," tells me that in Italy, Vance shouldn't have any problem renting from National, Alamo or Hertz, among others. He also should check with Avis and Europcar (whose terms and conditions do not indicate age maximums).
Here's one tricky aspect I wasn't aware of, at least when renting from Hertz. "Hertz does not have upper age restrictions at all corporate locations in the U.S. or at corporate locations in Europe or the Caribbean," Hertz spokeswoman Paula Rivera told me in an email. But, she added, some licensee locations set their own standards.
Hertz's licensee standard in Egypt, for instance, is 69 years old; in Kenya, 70; in Morocco, 80. In some places, there may be a surcharge if you're above a certain age. (Note that if you're under a certain age, often 25, you can't rent at all. Some companies also set an age minimum for renting premium cars, such as Jaguars or Land Rovers, and now you must be at least, in some instances, 30.)
I also emailed Thrifty without identifying myself as a travel writer. It told me to look under "Terms & Conditions," and then went on to tell me, in an email, that its upper age limit for Rome was 80. (Note to Thrifty: I'm not 80, but the type in your Terms & Conditions is so small that baseball slugger Ted Williams — said to have had 20/10 vision — couldn't have read it.)
Maybe the world will take its cue from the U.S., where most companies do not have upper age limits and soon, Britain, where the Equality Act of 2010 is to be implemented in October.
The website of the British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Assn. notes that "the Act prevents businesses from imposing higher costs or age restrictions on customers that are deemed a higher risk allowing all products and services to be open to all customers for the same price regardless of their age.
"Vehicle rental firms will no longer be able to decline to rent to younger or older drivers on the grounds that they are statistically more likely to be involved in accidents."
It's possible that you would still be refused if a rental company can "objectively justify" a reason.
Just to be safe, carry a letter from your doctor stating that you're in good health and a copy of your driving record. (For California, go to http://www.lat.ms/ORSiop. You will have to register — which I did and it went immediately into my spam folder — and it will cost you $2 for a copy of your record, which, in the best of all possible worlds, should show no incidents.
Here's hoping the road to renting a car is less rocky in the years to come.
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