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Does My Auto Insurance Cover Rental Cars?

Rental Car InsuranceIf you’ve ever had to rent a car, you already know the drill: At some point during the transaction and well before handing you the keys, the person behind the counter is sure to engage in a determined effort to tack on car rental insurance.

You may genuinely need it. You could even want it, but before you sign on the dotted line, you might want to ask yourself the bigger question: Do I really want to purchase it here?

Don’t Believe All They Tell You

Few car rental agents are licensed insurance professionals. Most have little knowledge of the rules and regulations, and they will often tell you things that may or may not be true. They might state outright that the law requires you to purchase the coverage. This is false. They may also inform you that unless you purchase this insurance, you will be personally responsible for any damage that might occur to the vehicle. Nine times out of ten, this is not true either.

The High Price of Rental Car Coverage

These temporary policies don’t come cheap. When purchased through the company that rents you the vehicle, rental insurance can cost you 10 or even 20 times as much as it would through your personal auto insurance policy. Even worse, by agreeing to purchase all the bells and whistles, you could easily double the costs of renting that car.

You May Already Be Covered

The rental agent who tries to sell you this insurance has no way of knowing whether your primary auto insurance includes coverage for a rental car. The vast majority do. It’s up to you to find out, and it’s best if you do so before you even think about approaching the rental counter. No one set of answers applies in all cases, but the chances are good that you’re already protected by your:

  • Liability coverage. The same insurance that covers any damage you might cause to another person or his property while driving your personal vehicle should protect you just as well in an accident you cause while seated at the wheel of a rental car.
  • Collision coverage. In contrast to liability coverage, the collision portion of your policy should take care of any damage to the rental vehicle itself.
  • Comprehensive coverage. You’ll be happy for this coverage if vandalism, theft or other reasons unrelated to an actual traffic accident result in loss or damage to your rental automobile.

Unfortunately, your primary insurance will not necessarily cover everything.

Common outliers include administrative fees; loss of use or value; or any other charges of the sort that the rental company might see fit to impose.

Nevertheless, if you feel that your current insurance should be adequate for most foreseeable eventualities, be sure to let the person behind the rental counter know it.

Purchasing Additional Coverage

The term “full coverage” is often misleading. Although it might insinuate that your auto coverage is complete, some such policies include nothing more than liability and collision. If you feel that this is not enough to cover your car rental requirements, you can either speak to your insurance agent about improving your overall primary coverage or agree to purchase any extras that you think you might need from the car rental representative.

Removing Coverage to Save Money

Although you may think you’ll never have occasion to rent a car, lowering your coverage could be a bad idea. Circumstances do have a way of altering cases.

You never know when a car breakdown or other emergency might leave you without your primary means of transportation, and that’s when you’re likely to find yourself at the rental agency in spite of yourself. If ownership of an older car or a desire to save on monthly costs have previously caused you to divest yourself of collision or other coverage, you might even find yourself inclined to purchase insurance from the rental company whether you want to or not.  Nothing forces you to do it. You can try to tell yourself you won’t have an accident, but there’s always that big “what if?” Remember, if the unthinkable does happen, you could find yourself forced to pay the piper. Do you really want to take that risk?