Renting a car to take a weekend trip or vacation is a good way to keep the miles on your personal vehicle from adding up. Having fewer miles can help lower your insurance and make your car last longer.
Also, if you don’t have the best vehicle, you might not want to take it on long or tough roads.
However, when you are driving a rental car in the winter, you have to think about the kind of tires that are on the vehicle and if you will need chains.
There are certain areas in higher altitudes where chains are required on all vehicles. Whether or not you have a rental car, you will need to drive with them.
So, can you put snow chains on a rental car?
Most rental car companies do not allow you to use snow chains on their rental vehicles. In fact, doing so may void any insurance that you purchase for the trip, making you liable for damages if they do occur. You could also be charged a fine for using snow chains if the rental company finds out.
This is not the simplest issue, and there are multiple factors that play a role in it, so we will detail the reasons why rental companies don’t allow snow chains and why you are taking a financial risk by using them.
What Rental Companies Aren’t Saying
There’s a not-so-secret sentiment from the rental car companies going on here. While it’s unlikely that they’ll tell you this directly, they clearly would rather not have you driving their vehicles in bad weather conditions.
And to be fair, it makes sense…
Bad weather creates more dangerous driving conditions and a higher likelihood that their vehicles will be damaged. Naturally, more vehicle damages increase their business operating costs.
Their insurance will cover damages to a vehicle, but knowing that the chances of an accident are much higher in bad weather, they want you to stay out of it (when possible).
By not allowing snow chains, or allowing the use of snow chains to void their insurance policy will ensure that you pay for the damages. Therefore, effectively keep you from driving in the snow.
Not Allowing Snow Chains On Their Cars
Most rental companies have a policy that does not allow renters to put snow chains on their vehicles at all.
If any damage is found to the tires or surrounding area, you could be charged for the damage. This is done so that they are not left with a damaged vehicle because of you choosing to break their rules.
They are also strict about checking areas of any damage, to ensure that customers aren’t getting away with using snow chains without their knowledge. But, if you are caught for any reason, you could be heavily fined and charged.
For those who are going to areas where there will likely be at least some snow, a 4WD vehicle or 2WD with all-weather tires will be a good solution.
However, just because you’re not allowed to put chains on your rental vehicle, doesn’t make you exempt from areas where chain control is enforced.
If this situation does arise, you’ll be forced to break your rental agreement by putting on chains or finding a different route.
Voiding The Rental Insurance
When you rent a vehicle, you pay for rental insurance to cover the cost of any damage that may happen while you are driving.
Accidents can’t always be avoided, but even if it is not your fault, you could still have to pay for it if you don’t get the insurance. This is why it is recommended for rental car drivers to be insured while they’re using a rental vehicle.
Some companies will not allow you to use the snow chains, and will actually allow the insurance to be voided if you go against that rule.
This can be said for breaking any rules of the rental agreement, since breaking any rules will cause the insurance to be void.
However, the use of snow chains can be even riskier because of the high chances of accidents and damage done by either the chains or the heavy snow.
If a chain falls off, doesn’t fit properly, or is broken while driving, it could cause serious damage to the vehicle.
Plus, because of the marks that are often left on the tires, it is easy to tell that snow chains were the cause.
What About Winter Packages?
It might be confusing that rental car companies don’t want you to use snow chains but offer ski racks as an added option for winter trips.
Why would they offer this but tell you that driving with snow chains is prohibited?
Well, most harsh weather conditions don’t require you to need snow chains.
In many cases, the most that you will need to be safe is 2WD with all-weather tires or 4WD with snow and mud tires. These combinations will both give you the ability to keep from sliding on ice and snow.
If you are in an area that requires snow chains, then this is a particularly bad snowstorm, or the area is especially difficult to drive on in the snow.
Roads that lead up to the mountains and are filled with twists and turns are often the areas that make these requirements for a driver’s safety.
Even if you get a winter package for a winter trip with your family, don’t expect to be able to put on chains. And, if you do, you should know that you are taking a big risk.
Going Against Rental Policy
If you choose to bring along snow chains for the vehicle and end up in an area that requires them, or you just wanted extra protection as you drive in the snow, know that you are going against the rental policy agreement.
This could end up costing you a lot of money at the end of the trip if the company finds chain marks or small areas of damage around the tires.
Whether or not the company will make you pay for the damage, fine you for the use of snow chains on the vehicle, or void the insurance, you may end up paying a lot of money.
Any damage that is done, even minor, will have to be paid out of pocket.
And, if a major accident happens while you were breaking a rental agreement rule, you will likely have to pay for the price of the entire car.
That means that one weekend could end up costing you twenty to thirty thousand dollars, or the total price of the car you crashed.
The chances of an accident are higher when driving in the snow, so you are taking a huge risk by using the snow chains and voiding the insurance, and breaking a rental agreement rule.
Choosing to go against the rental policy is never a good idea since you will be on the hook for the cash, and likely have to pay for other damages as well, like damage to another vehicle or property.
So, even if you think that you want to put snow chains on your car and go against your agreement, think about it first. It is not recommended to take these chances, and you could end up in a bad position because of it.
Reserving A Car And Requesting Snow Chains
Another confusing thing about putting chains on a rental car is the fact that some online reservation services will have an option for adding snow chains to your vehicle for car rentals with companies that don’t allow them on their cars.
This can make the whole situation much more frustrating because you might think that you will be able to have put snow chains on your vehicle until you are on your trip.
Once you get to the rental company, they will tell you that they don’t allow snow chains. This could affect your ability to go on your trip or make it much harder for you and your family.
The rental companies don’t have to honor these reservations, and if they don’t allow snow chains at all, they won’t. You might be left with a car that you can’t use or with a reservation that you no longer want.
Either way, this can be a terrible way to start a vacation!
So, know that most rental companies will not allow you to use snow chains, and you should double-check with the rental company that the reservation service booked with if it shows a snow chain add-on.
This will clear up any confusion early on so you can change your plans if you need to.
Although having snow chains on your rental car tires would be great for certain trips, it is much more likely that you will not be able to use them at all.
Having a backup plan or allowing a switch over to a 4WD with all-weather tires could be your best option to be able to continue with your trip as planned.
However, if you choose to use snow chains anyway, you need to know the risk and possible cost. So, make your decision to play by the rules of the rental car agreement, or pay for it.