Rental Cars and Traffic Tickets: What You Need to Know
Renting a car can be a great way to get around independently while traveling. Furthermore, by renting a car rather than using your own vehicle, you can save on wear and tear on your personal vehicle. On the other hand, if you're issued a traffic citation while in a rental car, things can get troublesome. If you don't know how to properly handle the situation, you could end up with additional fees from your rental car company.
Traffic Tickets vs. Parking Tickets
First of all, it's important to understand the difference between getting a traffic ticket (moving violation) in a rental car versus getting a parking ticket. When you receive a moving violation, it doesn't really matter what vehicle you're in. The violation is applied directly to your driver's license, which means you may receive points on your license (or worse) depending on the severity of the violation.
If this happens while you're in a rental car, simply handle the ticket the same way you normally would. If you choose to pay the ticket rather than dispute it, be sure to keep a copy of your payment receipt. More than likely, the rental car company will never be informed of the ticket unless you fail to pay it; at that time, the issuing agency will contact the rental car company attached to the vehicle you were in when the violation occurred. At this point, the rental car company may choose to pay the ticket and then send you a bill (along with a hefty "administrative" fee) that you will be responsible for.
With a parking ticket, on the other hand, the violation is charged directly to the vehicle and not to your driver's license. As a result, it is more likely that the rental car company will find out about the ticket. The best way to handle this is to pay the ticket immediately and contact the rental car company to provide them proof of this.
What About License Plate Cameras?
Things can get a little tricky if you are charged with a moving violation due to a license plate camera (such as a red light camera). Because these cameras read license plates and automatically bill the ticket to the person or company that owns the vehicle, your rental car company will be the one to receive the ticket. From there, they will most likely pay it and send you a bill for the cost of the violation in addition to the administrative fee.
What to Do if You Receive a Letter From the Rental Company
If you receive a letter or bill from a rental car company stating that you owe money for a ticket, there are a few things you should do. For starters, if you know you paid the ticket, pull up your payment receipt and send them a copy of it to prove that the ticket was paid. Sometimes, there is miscommunication between issuing agencies and rental car companies, so showing that you paid the ticket could prevent you from being responsible for additional fees.
If you haven't paid the ticket, you will unfortunately be liable for the cost of the ticket, as well as any additional fees. One exception to this would be if you choose to fight or dispute the ticket in court. If this is something you plan on doing, you should let the rental car company know about your intentions as soon as possible. Keep in mind, however, that you will still be responsible for all costs if you lose your case.
Getting a traffic ticket while in a rental car can be a pain to deal with, but by knowing what to expect, you'll be able to handle the situation properly.