• Before leaving for your trip, call your insurance agent and ask if you are covered on a rental
  • Before leaving for your trip, call your credit card company to see what coverage they offer on
    rental cars, and use that care to rent the car.
  • Before leaving, verify that you have collision coverage. If not, purchase collision coverage on the rental car.
  • Before leaving for your trip, check the rates for insurance through the company online and check rates when booking.

Laura Hunt AttorneySpring break is approaching and many people and families will be hitting the road for vacations. Often time’s people are flying to their destinations and renting a car or driving a rental vehicle to their destination to avoid excess miles on their private vehicles. Before you decide to hit the open road and spring for a rental car, you should know what kind of coverage you already have on a rental car through your own policy and credit cards. You’ll need this information before you can determine whether or not you need to buy the rental car insurance offered through the rental car company. It is not a decision you want to make at the rental car counter. It’s a complicated decision. You may already be covered through your existing car insurance or your credit card. “Your personal auto car coverage usually does cover rental car coverage,” says Merle Scheiber of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

However, only the personal coverages that you pay for would apply to the rental vehicle. This means that if you do not carry collision on you vehicle which is coverage for damage to your vehicle, you would not have coverage for damage to the rental car if you did not purchase the rental car company’s collision coverage. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure you have collision coverage on your own policy, which pays for damages to your vehicle from accidents involving other cars or objects. “For people who already have collision coverage on the rental car, getting the rental car insurance policy is a waste of money,” says Neil Abrams, an auto rental consultant of Abrams Consulting Group based in Purchase, N.Y. But if you do not have collision coverage on your own vehicle, you’ll want to purchase that coverage at the rental car counter or use a credit card that provides this coverage.

A number of major credit card companies offer rental auto insurance to cardholders, such as Visa and American Express. However, not all Visa or American Express cards carry the same benefits, and therefore, it is very important that you call your credit card company and find out what your card offers. It is important to listen closely. It is not sufficient that you find out that you “have coverage by using your credit card.” You need to find out what coverages you have which are generally collision (damage to the vehicle you are driving) and liability (damage to other vehicles and injuries to other persons) You need both and your credit card company may only provide liability. In addition, certain cards only offer such coverages to elite members or certain card holders, so check with your credit card company first.

So What exactly are the benefits of buying insurance from the rental company? It protects you from out-of-pocket expenses caused by loss or damage to the vehicle, including theft. Rental car insurance can cost approximately $20-$25 per day, depending on what option you select. The collision damage waiver, aka the “optional vehicle protection or loss damage waiver”, can cost as much as $19 per day and changes liability for collision damage from the person renting the car (you) to the car rental company. It is important to note that even if you carry collision on your personal auto policy, you will be liable for you deductible when you turn the car in regardless of fault for the damage to the rental car at that time. Your insurance carrier may reimburse that money to you at a later time if it is not your fault and the other driver was insured.

Liability insurance generally costs between $7 and $14 a day and is for damage you cause to another person or property while driving the car. However, your auto insurance on your own car should already include liability insurance and will generally cover you on a “non-owned vehicle.” Before leaving on any trip where you will be renting a car, call your agent or the 800 number on you card and ask what type of coverage you have for a “non-owned vehicle” and they should be happy to assist you. Their customer service agent should be able to explain what coverage you have on a rental car. If they are not pleasant and helpful, you should look for an insurance company that is pleasant and helpful to their own insured’s.

Although the rental companies are required to provide statutory minimum liability coverage on the vehicles they rent by state law, you do not want to be in a situation where you are reliant on a rental car company who’s’ interests will come first to protect you. In a serious accident, that’s not going to do much to protect you and your personal assets. Statutory minimum liability coverage provides some protection to renters involved in an accident while driving a rental vehicle but they have don’t have the same duty to you as your insurance company. “It’s not insurance, in the technical sense, that rental companies offer,” Abrams says. Rental companies are not licensed insurance agents in every state. Instead, they offer a protection package. “It doesn’t help where clear negligence is involved,” Abrams warns. “If you leave your car with the engine running and the key in the ignition, and the car disappears, the rental company may have a problem with that.”

Abrams adds that some people are protected through their homeowner’s policy. Home owners can extend the liability when the policyholder is not in their home, i.e., while renting a car. However, the provisions vary from one policy to another, so be sure to check ahead of time. This would only cover a stolen vehicle or goods in the vehicle, not damages to the vehicle or injuries.

Jan Zobel, a tax preparer in Oakland, Calif., rents a car when she travels to Hawaii several times a year. Zobel receives coverage using her American Express card, which charges her $17.95 per rental. “I’m not a big AmEx card user, but you can bet that I pay for every rental now with that card,” she says.

If you chose to buy insurance through the rental car company, be sure to read the fine print. Even go online before you leave and review their coverages. Many people do not read the rental agreement when renting a car. That’s why you should make these decisions before you get the rental car counter. Every car rental agreement is different, and you should be aware of that when renting a car. Do your research. Most agreements are similar but like anything, when you sign your name to something, you should know what you are signing. You can be contractually obligated. Another issue, for example, the agreement might only cover one driver, so that would prevent you from taking turns on the road with someone. Don’t be afraid to call the rental car company and ask questions before you take the insurance policy.

Most important, make sure you have some form of insurance on the rental car at the time you pick it up. You do not want is to get into an accident and find out you are underinsured—or worse, uninsured. Many rental companies will allow uninsured customers to rent a car. For example, if you reserve from Hertz at the airport, the reservationist will not ask you for your insurance policy, nor do you have to show proof of insurance, experts say. If you are not insured, you must understand exposure and liability, what coverage you may have through credit card or homeowners, and look at the protection packages offered from the rental company. I would highly urge you to do this before you leave for your trip so that you do not waste money on coverages you already have but also have the coverages you need.

If you are involved in an accident while in a rental car, contact our offices today. By contacting a lawyer immediately, you can receive the most money for your damages. At my office, we are experienced to handle all types of automobile injury claims and property damage claims. Having worked for the insurance company as an attorney for 9 years before opening my boutique law firm specializing in helping injured people, I reviewed thousands of auto accident claims. With extensive experience in the insurance field, I can help you review all of the coverages available to maximize the money you receive.

At the Law Offices of Laura Hunt we are here to help you and your family in the event that accidents and tragedies occur. For any of your legal needs, do not hesitate to contact our offices. The Law Offices of Laura Hunt is a boutique, family owned law firm in Henderson that specializes in helping injured people and the community with legal issues involving auto accidents, wrongful deaths, slip and falls, truck accidents, injuries to children, bicycle accidents, dog bites, and all types of injury claims. Please do not hesitate to call us anytime you have a legal question or you or a loved one has sustained an injury at 702-450-(HUNT) 4868.