You’re standing at the rental car counter with a long line behind you. You got a great rate on a car for the week, and you’re ready to go on vacation with the family. Then, you’re handed a clipboard with an intimidating rental car contract filled with confusing insurance options. Suddenly, you wish you’d spent less time packing and more time researching rental car insurance.
Here’s your chance to be prepared at the rental car counter so you can be on your way faster, and you’ll keep the people in line behind you happy.
I have car insurance. Do I really need to buy their coverage, too?
This is the most common question when it comes to renting a car for domestic travel. The answer is: it depends. You want to make sure you’re covered, but you also don’t want to pay for unnecessary duplicate coverages that could double the price of your rental.
The first step is to check your insurance policy, or contact your agent to see what type of coverage for rental cars may already be included in your personal auto insurance. If you carry comprehensive and liability coverage on your personal car, coverage typically will extend to your rental car. If you’re renting a car of similar value to your personal car, in all likelihood the insurance coverage will be adequate for the rental. But if you’re off to a blowout beach weekend in a slick set of wheels like a Corvette Stingray and you’re leaving your 2008 Subaru Forester at home, the extra coverage offered by the rental company may be a good idea.
You should also check with the credit card company—the credit card that you’ll be using for your car rental. If there are any gaps in coverage with your personal auto policy, the credit card company could provide secondary coverage.
Rental Car Coverage Defined
Know before you go. Most rental companies typically have a short, predictable suite of offerings. Check your auto insurance policy to make sure you’re already properly covered and you may be able to decline the offered coverage at the rental counter.
Insurance You May Have Already
Liability coverage. This is a basic component of most car insurance policies. If you have adequate liability coverage on your own vehicle (check with your insurance provider), you may choose to skip this one.
Personal accident insurance. This covers your medical bills in the event of a crash in the rental car. As long as you have personal injury protection or medical payments coverage on your auto policy and reliable health insurance, you may not need this coverage.
Protection You Might Need
Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)/Loss Damage Waiver. This is not an insurance product, but rather a waiver that transfers financial responsibility from you to the rental car company in case of damage or theft. In most cases, waivers also provide coverage for “loss of use” if the rental car company charges for the time a damaged car can not be used because it is being repaired.
Personal Effects Coverage. If you have a homeowners, renters or condo policy, your personal items will generally be covered even if they are stolen from a rental car. Review your policy documents to be sure before you elect or decline this coverage.