Renting a Car Abroad

Ah, the assumptions we make. I regularly rent a car in Panama, and haven’t really thought about whether that car — always a recognizable brand — conforms to U.S. safety standards. Turns out I should challenge my own assumptions.

“It was a showdown between an American Nissan and a Mexican Nissan — a contest that served as an object lesson for global tourism.

In a crash test last week near Charlottesville, Va., organized by several automotive safety groups, the two vehicles were sent speeding toward each other at a combined closing speed of 80 miles an hour. Each car conformed to its home country’s national safety standards.

Although the 2016 Nissan Versa, a model sold in the United States, sustained considerable front-end damage, the crash-test dummy at the wheel showed only minor knee injuries. But the dummy in the 2015 Nissan Tsuru, a popular model for rentals and taxis in Mexico, indicated injuries that probably would have killed a person on impact.”

I always rent from a global chain, like Budget or National, and choose a model whose name I recognize, like “Rav4”. But it never occurred to me that a major car maker, like Nissan, makes cars with different safety standards for different markets.

Lots of people in the U.S. complain about regulation, and I’m sure that in some cases regulations can be onerous and costly. But they also save lives.

Renting a car in Panama is quite expensive, in part because U.S. insurance doesn’t apply and you have to buy car insurance at the counter when you rent. There are a couple of places in the village that rent cars, and from time to time I’ve thought about taking the risk of renting a vehicle there at a much lower cost.

Based on this article, I’m going to put that thought right out of my mind.

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