Californians who rent cars may want to watch out for new charges on their bill now that a longstanding provision prohibiting charges for additional drivers has been quietly removed.
These fees — the largest rental companies charge between $13 and $15 a day for each additional driver — had been banned in California for more than 30 years. In fact, California was the only state to ban these fees starting in 2021, according to the bill’s analysis.
The updated law, which came into force on January 1, still prohibits car rental companies from charging additional drivers in certain cases, such as if the driver is a spouse, child, sibling. , the renter’s parent or grandparent, or if the driver is a co-worker or employer.
But consumer protection groups say fees that are not included in the originally advertised price can significantly increase the cost of services. (Many company websites still state that there are no additional driver fees in California.)
“It’s just another way to get extra money without it showing up in the posted rate or the base rate of the car,” Robert Herrell, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California, told me. .
“We just find this fee increase to be misleading for consumers,” he said, adding that these fees “disproportionately impact low-income renters.”
The bill, AB 901, was introduced by Congresswoman Lisa Calderon, a Democrat representing parts of the gateway cities in southeast Los Angeles County and the San Gabriel Valley. She said car rental companies were struggling due to the “devastating toll” of the coronavirus pandemic and “numerous price caps and burdensome restrictions”.
The bill was introduced at the request of car rental giants Avis, Enterprise and Hertz, which also own Alamo, Budget, Dollar, National and Thrifty.
The consumer federation lobbied against initial drafts of the bill but withdrew its objection, Herrell said, as a show of good faith after provisions such as banning charges for certain additional drivers were added.
“The bill had gone through the process” before the federation and others opposed it, he said. “Even when we tried to engage the author’s office early on, it became painfully clear that it was the rental car industry that was driving the train here.”
As the pandemic prompted trips to the crater in early 2020, the car rental industry sold off vehicles to make a quick buck; Hertz, which was bloated with debt, filed for bankruptcy protection.
But when travel rebounded a year later, rental car prices soared as agencies were unable to purchase enough new vehicles to replenish their depleted fleets. Hertz made $600 million in profit in the three months ending September 2021, and Avis Budget Group made nearly $675 million in profit in that period, a record.
A spokesperson for the American Car Rental Association, a lobby group, said the fee covered the cost of insuring additional drivers. “The assumption is that if you have different drivers driving the vehicle, there will be a different risk than if there is only one driver,” Greg Scott, the spokesperson, told me.
Sharon Faulkner, the association’s executive director, told Auto Rental News, “This is a great example of what can be accomplished when ACRA members come together to pursue a common legislative goal.”
The updated law also allows companies to double the charges if they find the car was driven by an unauthorized driver, and it increases the cap on damage waivers to $25 a day for most small cars, from from $11 to $17 depending on the car. model. This cap will now increase with inflation.
Hertz referred questions to the rental car association, and Calderon declined to comment beyond his statements during the bill’s passage. Avis declined to comment.
Here are the typical charges for each additional driver for the largest car rental companies and any exclusions they make in addition to the California mandated exemptions for spouses, family and co-workers.
Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty: $13.50 per day, up to $189.
Hertz’s website says it exempts unmarried partners who permanently reside together at the same address and are members of its loyalty program, and Avis’s website says it exempts life partners. But representatives of these companies’ sites said only spouses can be added as additional drivers for free. Enterprise said it verified spouses and domestic partners by matching addresses on driver’s licenses.
Take-out? Be sure to review all the documents you sign and be prepared to fend off any unwarranted charges.
William P. Davis is associate editor in the Los Angeles-based New York Times business office.
what we eat
Shaded apple pie.
where we travel
Tip of the day comes from Mary Anne Salsich:
“While I appreciate the natural beauty of California, I also love the inner beauty. One of my favorites is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which has an impressive art collection from so many different art styles. I could spend a whole day or an hour every day admiring not only the beauty, but also the fun elements of modern life. Give it a try, even though there is an entrance fee.
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.
What we recommend
“Snowfall,” an entirely under-the-radar drama about a South Los Angeles family’s cocaine empire.
And before leaving, some good news
Today we have not one but two stories of pets finding their way home after years away.
The first: A cat that went missing in Riverside County seven years ago was found and reunited last week with its family, which has since moved to Tennessee. “We never thought we would see her again,” the owner said.
Also this month, a dog who was reported missing in the Bay Area 12 years ago was rescued 60 miles from where he originally went missing. It too was returned to its owner. “I’m still in shock,” the owner told KTLA.
Thanks for reading. We will be back tomorrow.
PS Here today’s mini crosswordand a clue: Spanish for “fire” (5 letters).
Soumya Karlamangla, Briana Scalia, Mariel Wamsley and Geordon Wollner contributed to California Today. You can join the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.
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