• Jim Herndon

Car Rental Accommodations: Double Checking is Key



When renting a car, you cannot assume your accommodation request will be honored. Different companies and services have varying procedures for acquiring special needs services. Failing to adequately assure your request is honored can lead to unnecessary disruptions.


Prior to our San Antonio trip, my wife and I were impressed by the assurance given by the operator at the nationally recognized car rental office. “Why yes, Mr. Herndon, we have several vehicles equipped with hand controls. There will be no problem when you get here.”


I must admit, I felt a certain sense of satisfaction after I finished my telephone calls that June afternoon. We had a nice, large SUV with hand equipment officially secured for our trip. However, things would not be quite so simple.


Upon our arrival in San Antonio, the wife and I walked up to the car rental company to get our vehicle. After exchanging information, the counter person called for our SUV. Pretty soon a freshly washed vehicle arrived outside the glass windows of the rental office. The wife smiled and I sighed a bit of relief that everything had gone so smoothly.


I walked out into the already stifling heat and I asked the driver, “And this is equipped with hand controls?” The look on his face told me the answer.


“Why, no sir, did you request hand controls?” the man responded.


“Yes, I was told that this was not a problem since many of your vehicles are available with equipment,” I said through a frustrated frown. The counter person hurriedly began to scan through what I assumed were my records on his computer screen. After several moments and a few muffled calls to his associates, he assured me that I had NOT requested hand controls. “Sir, there is nothing in your request that notes that you asked from hand equipment. You did call the ‘special’ (800) number, correct?” I was rather startled and replied, “You have a special (800) number? Why didn’t the person tell me this when I called your office in June?” I asked.


After several minutes of heated exchanges (mostly on my part), the manager’s manager came and assured me that, “Yes, we have some vehicles with hand controls. There may be one available. I will check.” By this time, I was beyond furious. I informed him and anyone within hearing that I was an ADA Compliance Coordinator back in Charlottesville and that I know what federal law requires. I probably repeated that many times over the next two hours at the rental office. I am prone to making a scene, on occasion.


After two more hours of waiting, the hand control equipped vehicle arrived. I knew right away I would not be able to comfortably get into the Chevy Tahoe. I had requested a smaller SUV. So again, we waited for over half an hour until the smaller vehicle arrived.

Once again, I became concerned when I was summoned to the front counter, where I was told that my rental bill for the week was going to be cut in half. I felt relieved and expressed my appreciation; maybe shared some red-faced apologies and soon we were on the road to see my daughter and her family.


This experience left me wondering if anyone else out there could fall victim to a similar fate. Due to that concern and perhaps some lingering anxiety, I offer the following advice to anyone renting a car with hand controls:


When making a request for a special accommodation, make sure you thoroughly research the policies of the company or organization you are addressing.


Call or write as early as possible to make the formal request. It wouldn’t hurt to get the person’s name who you communicated with.


Check back a few days before your trip begins to make sure all requested items are in order.


Car Rental Resources


*Terminology and department names are the companies’, not Blue Trunk’s*

  • Alamo

  • Available accessibility options

  • Reservations phone number: (800) 651-1223

  • Reservations TTY number: (800) 522-9292

  • Accessibility-related customer service inquiries

  • Email: mobility@alamo.com

  • Phone and TTY: same as above


  • Avis

  • Available accessibility options

  • Avis Access: contact this department to reserve cars with accommodations

  • Phone number: (888) 879-4273

  • TTY Number: (800) 331-2323

  • Budget

  • Available accessibility options

  • Budget Special Needs Department: (888) 221-1203

  • Call this number, not reservations, to request accommodations and book a car


  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car

  • Available accessibility options

  • Reservations phone number: (800) 642-2042

  • Reservations TTY/TDD number: (800) 456-1371

  • Accessibility-related customer service inquiries

  • Phone: (866) 225-4284

  • TTY: (866) 534-9270

  • Email: mobility@erac.com


  • Hertz

  • Available accessibility options

  • Reservations phone number: (800) 654-3131

  • Reservations TTY number: (800) 654-2280

Just a little planning and preparation can make renting a vehicle with accommodations enjoyable and stress-free. Good Luck!

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