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On a private car, you’re free to add a bike rack as you see fit. But what about rental cars?
Rental cars always have to be returned in the same condition you received them in.
Using rental cars with bike racks has the potential to damage the car and cost you a lot of money, so you must be careful.
In this article, you’ll find out what factors you need to consider before installing a bike rack onto a rental car.
So, Can I Attach A Bike Rack To A Rental Car?
The short answer to this is yes, you usually can add a bike rack to a rental car.
However, you need to check the terms and conditions to make sure this is not explicitly prohibited.
The big caveat in all this is that you are always likely to be liable for damage to the car if the rack you use either dents it or mars the finish.
Even if the damage falls within the scope of the “collision damage waiver” you take out when renting a car, there will often be an excess charge. Any repair is thus likely to come out of your pocket, at least to a degree.
Note that not all areas of the car are always covered by a collision damage waiver. The roof or rear window may not be covered, for instance.
If you damage an area of the car uncovered by the damage waiver, you are liable for the full amount of the repair. To some extent, though, excess charges make this a moot point.
You also need third-party liability insurance for any potential damage to other vehicles. This will be voided if you ignore the company T&Cs or break local laws.
Bike Rack Types
It’s vital to choose the right type of bike rack for a rental car. It has to comply with the hire company’s terms and conditions as well as pose minimal risk to the car.
For example, car rental company Alamo explicitly says you cannot attach a hitch to its vehicles, which rules out a hitch-mounted bike rack.
Hitch racks offer several benefits if they’re allowed, including their greater weight capacity, stability, and built-in security features.
Roof racks with suction cups like SeaSucker racks are ideal for a rental car. The big danger there is forgetting the bike is on the roof when passing under barriers. That could be a very costly mistake, though you’ll always pay for damage to a degree.
Trunk-mounted bike racks probably pose the lowest risk in many cases. What you must be careful of with those are the metal hooks that cling to the trunk edge. These often cause minor damage to the finish.
You can prevent this type of trunk-rack damage by covering the hooks with electrical tape or using a custom-made solution.
The takeaway: choose a bike rack that complies with the T&Cs and preferably fixes to an area of the car covered by the damage waiver.
Consider taking out supplemental third-party liability insurance for peace of mind.
Video: Installing A SeaSucker Bike Rack
Can I Rent A Car With A Bike Rack Already Attached?
The short answer to this in most cases is no.
Although many car rental companies tacitly allow the use of a bike rack in some form, very few of them supply the car with the bike rack attached.
Europcar rents out Thule ProRide roof racks in some countries but leaves you to install the rack. Note there is no insurance cover for roof damage in this case.
Other companies that supply a rack include the three below.
The only big-name rental company that we could find offering cars with racks already attached is Hertz. Despite showing a picture of a roof rack on its bike rack page, the racks Hertz offers are 4-bike hitch racks.
Hertz supplies the rack already mounted on the vehicle, so you don’t need to grapple with installation. Bike racks are only available on certain vehicles.
RentAWreck (US, Scandinavia)
Although it varies from outlet to outlet, many RentAWreck locations offer bike racks for rent at an extra cost. RentAWreck has multiple locations in the US as well as other locations like Alta, Norway, which will loan you a bike rack.
RentAWreck locations are franchises, so you have to enquire locally for precise details (installation may or may not be included).
The Out (UK)
A bespoke car rental company based in London, England, is The Out, which offers high-end vehicles with most types of equipment you’re likely to need. You just need to toggle the applicable switch to add a bike rack during booking.
Extensive fully comp insurance is offered, so you can ferry your bikes around without worrying about the legitimacy of the bike rack.
Can I Take A Bike In A Rental Car Without A Rack?
Carrying a bike in a rental car without a rack is fine in general. Indeed, it avoids any worry you might have about attaching a bike to the exterior.
A bike is just cargo, and a rental company is unlikely to stipulate exactly what you can put in the trunk. Nevertheless, there are a couple of things to consider.
If you know you’re going to carry a bike in the back of your rental car, you need the right type of car. Most hatchbacks, liftbacks, SUVs, or estates (station wagons) should work fine for this.
You’re ideally looking for a car that enables you to push the rear car seats down to create ample space. With an estate or SUV, it’s quite likely you’ll fit a whole adult bike in the rear without needing to take any wheels off.
What you don’t want is a car with a small trunk separated from the vehicle’s midsection, which you’d find on some small sedans, sports cars, or city cars, for instance.
Carrying a bike inside a rental car does not eradicate insurance concerns. In fact, the car interior is not usually included in the collision damage waiver. Thus, if you get bike grime all over the fabric, you’ll be liable for the total cost of any repair.
You’d be wise to lay some plastic sheeting down before throwing a bike inside a rental car. And it’d be a good idea to avoid squeezing a bike onto the back seat, where oil or lube marks would be highly visible and near impossible to remove.
A bike bag is another way to avoid this type of damage or further reduce the risk.
Our Final Thoughts
To summarize: always look closely at the T&Cs of a rental company to see if bike racks are specifically excluded, and if so, which types?
A trunk rack is generally safe as long as you cover the hooks and install it with care. Any harm caused by a roof rack may be excluded from the damage waiver.
We hope you found this article useful. Please feel free to add a comment or share it.
Read more: Removing bike racks from cars
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