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Coronavirus: Can I still hire a car?

We investigate whether hiring a car is still a possibility during the current pandemic

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The ability to hire a car can be a key way of getting around. It’s a growing business, particularly in busy urban centres like London where many people no longer own their own car and simply hire a vehicle when they need one.

However, with the current spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) being at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it’s a tricky time to think about taking the keys to a hire car. This applies to traditional car hire companies as well as car club, car-sharing, companies.

Of course, government advice states that you should limit travel and stay at home whenever possible, but if you absolutely need to, can you hire a car through a car rental company or car club?

Can I still hire a car?

Yes, you still can at this stage. Companies such as Zipcar and Enterprise have told the PA Media news agency that they are still allowing people to hire a car, and have put more stringent safety and hygiene measures into place.

That means that if you do need to get around and require a hire car, you can. However, other car rental companies may not be operating as normal, so if you have a car booked then make sure you contact the hire company to make sure the car will still be available on your booked date.

What measures are being put into place?

Companies are building on existing levels of car cleaning in an effort to reduce the risk of coronavirus transfer. Enterprise, for example, told us it is including additional measures to clean both vehicles and locations. Key touchpoints in the car – such as the dashboard, instrument panel, steering column and wheel and many others – are all getting a thorough clean with disinfecting products.

Zipcar has changed the type of cleaning products it uses and has further enhanced the hygiene checks it makes on every vehicle.

Europcar says it’s operating a ‘zero contact’ policy, disinfecting car keys before placing them in a sealed envelope. This can then be opened by the driver.

What if I need to cancel my booking?

If you’re experiencing symptoms which could signify the presence of the coronavirus and had planned to hire a car, you need to cancel it.

Zipcar has waived cancellation fees completely, recognising that many people may need to self-isolate with very little warning. The company already allowed users to cancel at no charge with three hours’ notice for bookings under eight hours, or within 24 hours for journeys over eight hours. However, those who need to cancel with less notice need only contact the company and the cancellation fee will be waived.

Enterprise says it has extended its existing no-fee cancellation policy to include those who have pre-paid. Those who booked through a third-party company are requested to get in touch with them in the event of a cancellation.

Europcar has also extended its free-of-charge modification and cancellation policy to any current or future reservation for any pick-up until 31 May 2020.

What should I do to protect myself and others?

It’s all about cleanliness. Zipcar is requesting its members practice good hygiene, and ask that they bring disinfecting wipes to wipe down the car for yourself and others, and also use anti-bacterial hand gel before and after each trip.

If you are going to hire a car, make sure you wash your hands both before and after being in the vehicle, and if you experience any symptoms of coronavirus then you don’t use a hire vehicle.

The latest from The Car Expert

Jack Evans
Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.