Road safety organisation the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has expressed concern over car hire firms putting arbitrary and strict age cap limits on users wanting to hire a vehicle.
A survey by the IAM of the UK’s main vehicle rental organisations found while many had no upper age limit, a handful did impose strict conditions on people over 70 wanting to hire a vehicle.
But all had conditions or outright bans on younger people wanting to hire even the smallest cars.
The organisation points out that while teenagers are a documented high-risk group when it comes to accidents, the risk drops considerably after six months of driving experience and even more so for drivers in their early 20s.
And according to existing Government data, reported killed or seriously injured (KSI) casualties in accidents involving young car drivers have decreased at steady rate since 2000, says the IAM.
In 2011, compared with the 2005-09 average, the numbers of KSI casualties in young car driver related accidents in 2011 was 35% lower and the number of fatalities was 46% lower.
Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, suggested that those in their early 20s with a proven good driving record, membership of a reputable motoring body, or who have taken documented additional training should be allowed car hire at more affordable rates.
He said: “We are not suggesting that inexperienced or teenage drivers should be let loose with a powerful hire car.
“But younger 20-somethings shouldn’t be penalised to such a degree with expensive premium charges. Safe young drivers could be a potentially fruitful market as the economy picks up.
“The rise in the popularity of City Car Clubs which do allow 19-year-olds to drive shows that demand is out there.”
He continued: “Car hire companies should be commissioning research and looking at their real world claims history to see if the age limit can be reduced.
“It’s a small part of the overall traffic mix on our roads but reviewing the age limit would remove what appears to be a fundamental unfairness for safe young people in their early twenties.”
When it came to younger drivers, 25 was the typical minimum age that vehicle rental companies are prepared to hire to.
Some companies were prepared to hire to those under 25, but only if prepared to pay a hefty premium.
This was the result of the IAM’s survey of upper and lower limits for UK car hire, taken on 10 September:
Enterprise: Minimum age 25 with no exceptions. No maximum limit
Hertz: Minimum age 25 years, but 23-24 year olds can rent with a surcharge for renting a car in certain categories (up to Ford Focus-size) for £30.84 a day. For larger cars age strictly 25 years old. Maximum age 75; but will rent to over 75s on production of a doctor’s letter and confirmation of existing current car insurance
Europcar: Minimum limit varies from branch to branch, but generally 22. No maximum limit
Travelsupermarket: Won’t insure 17-20 and over 75s, 21-24s incur a surcharge
Thrifty: Minimum limit age 21 or over, 21-24 certain categories only, prestige cars 30 and over. Additional daily charges of £25 including VAT applied to drivers aged 21-24 and a senior surcharge of £12 including VAT applied to drivers aged 70 or over is included in the quote
Avis: Operates a young driver charge. Will rent to anyone 17 or over, but for those 17-24 there is an extra daily charge. They say while you have to be at least 17, you need to have held a licence for three years, effectively excluding those age under 20. No maximum limit
National: Minimum age limit of 22; young driver surcharge (22-24) of £27.08 plus tax per day on the smallest car. Maximum age limit varies slightly by location but across the UK is 100, apart from some Cornwall locations where it is 75.
Sixt: Minimum limit 25 for many locations, although some will rent to 21-24 year olds. In these cases, daily surcharge of £36 a day applies. No maximum limit