As domestic quarantines were lifted during the second half of the unforgettable summer of 2020, but most international destinations remained closed to American travelers, we collectively took to the road with a renewed sense of vigor and exploration of the great outdoors. And that revival of the American road trip is expected to continue well into the Fall.
But, not everyone has a car, and some simply don’t want to rack up the miles on their personal vehicle while on a long drive vacation. Or they may want to try a different type of vehicle for their trip, perhaps something bigger, newer, safer, or more fun. A good solution is a rental car.
You may have clients wondering, “Is it safe to drive a rental car?” It’s up to you, as their trusted travel advisor, to know the facts and respond with optimistic reassurance to help them make a good decision - and hopefully keep their travel spirit alive.
But really, is it safe?
The short answer is, “Yes, the experts say that it’s safe, if you take the proper precautions.”
Most agree that COVID-19 is spread person to person through airborne particles. Even if a surface is contaminated with the virus, a person would have to come in contact with that exact area; transfer a sufficient number of particles to their hands; and then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes in order to potentially transmit it to their respiratory system. The risk of all of that taking place is relatively low.
"Remember that most of the transmission of the coronavirus is respiratory — it's not through inanimate objects,” said Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, in a recent Business Insider article. “When you're in a rental car, the greatest risk is if you happen to be in the car with someone else and they could be infected.”
Another expert that we checked in with, Dr. Donald Rice, MD, FAAFP, president/owner of the Urgent Care Clinic of Lincoln, in Lincoln, Nebraska, who has also served as an emergency physician and has been in practice for 25 years, said: “I have no concerns about renting a vehicle while traveling. In fact, I just got back from a two-week trip and rented a vehicle. Most commercial car rental companies sanitize the vehicle before use. However, that actually is not the most important point travelers need to know. The most important thing travelers need to know is that coronavirus is predominantly spread by respiratory particles. So, if you can keep your hands out of your mouth and nose, you should be just fine.
“In fact, the CDC has posted their comments on traveling, and under the topic of cars, they even point out the risk is not the vehicle itself, but rather, stopping at gas stations or restaurants and being in close contact with other people.”
Enhanced protocols and procedures
You can tell your clients that most major rental car companies have rigorous cleaning and disinfecting protocols in place. They instruct their employees to wash, vacuum, wipe down, and sanitize vehicles after each rental with a disinfectant that meets the requirements of leading health authorities. They clean the: key/key fob, steering wheel and column, seat belts, console, spaces between consoles, interior and exterior doors and handles, seat pockets, cupholders and compartments, instrument panel, visors, mirrors, dashboard, vents, gear shift, trunk release, and other high-touch areas. It’s quite a thorough cleaning.
Curbside rentals also help reduce the spread of the virus; with some rental car companies, renters don’t even have to set foot inside the rental facility. Some will also deliver the vehicle to the renter’s workplace or home, again dropped off curbside.
Finally, low-touch transactions have become the norm. Advance check-ins online or via a cell phone are often available to speed the process and reduce, or eliminate, the need for person-to-person touchpoints.
Suggest these added precautions
Here’s a list of added precautions that you can pass along to your clients, to help them feel more comfortable about driving a rental car:
1. Wear a mask and respect social distancing when you pick up your car.
2. Remember to take disinfectant wipes and aerosols with you. Wipe down the exterior touchpoints of the vehicle, including door handles, side mirrors, the gas cap, and the latch on the trunk.
3. When you get in, wipe down the steering wheel, gear shift, knobs, entertainment system, dashboard controls, door handles, and other high-touch areas with your own disinfectant. Spray the seat with a disinfecting aerosol. It will only take a few minutes, and the positive affect on your peace of mind is well worth the time.
4. Drive with the window(s) down and air vents open. This helps to keep fresh air circulating and displaces any potentially infectious airborne particles.
5. If you’re traveling with someone other than immediate family or you’re on business with colleagues, wear a mask while in the vehicle.
6. Rent from one of the major rental car companies, so you can feel more secure in knowing that disinfecting protocols are enforced.
7. For those who want to be extra cautious, wear gloves while driving.
8. As with everything else in our daily lives during these pandemic-influenced times, wash your hands often, and don’t touch your face.
Everyone has a different level of comfort when it comes to traveling during this pandemic. But as the months drone on, that pent-up demand to travel is rising. Whether a client chooses to take a road trip instead of boarding a plane, or they opt to fly within the U.S. and rent a vehicle once they arrive at their destination, you can help alleviate their concerns by presenting the facts along with a good dose of common-sense suggestions for staying safe.
FROM THE SPONSOR: Founded in 1957, Enterprise Rent-A-Car is an internationally recognized brand known for its extensive network of neighborhood and airport locations, affordable rates and outstanding customer service. Enterprise is the first choice for travelers who need to rent near their home or office while providing their company savings. With more than 7,800 fully staffed locations globally, including more than 5,800 neighborhood and airport branch offices located within 15 miles of 90% of the U.S. population, Enterprise offers local convenience and outstanding service, including picking up customers at no extra cost. Book an Enterprise car for your clients’ upcoming road trips at www.enterprise.com/tmr.