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Car rental Insurance?

When we travel we always rent a car for 3 or 4 weeks at the time and every time I don’t know if we should or not get the car insurance offer by the rental company. The credit card we use to rent the car always assures us that one of our benefits is car insurance. I would love to hear what do you all do on this matter? Thank you :)

Posted by
5010 posts

What do I do? I do my homework.

The way I look at it, you really have three choices...

One: You do your homework - which means you know, understand, and get in writing all the critical details of what your credit card does and does not cover (and where). Then, based on the solid information you have, you can make a rational and informed choice of whether or not to use your credit card for insurance coverage. That's what I do.

Two: You can just decide to do the easy (and often unnecessary and quite expensive) thing and skip doing the work, and just shrug and pay for the extra insurance offered at the counter by the rental agency. Lots of people do that and are happy.

Three: You can trust someone else (me, others online who may be well-intentioned but uninformed, including some customer service agents), who doesn't have any skin in the game, and just shrug and hope for the best, taking your chances without knowing what's going on other than what some stranger told you. Maybe everything will work out fine.

Personally, I think it's crazy to just put a bullet in a revolver, spin the cylinder, then point it at your head and pull the trigger. But that's apparently what many (most?) people do (those who just sign all the forms and proceed without understanding what they're covered for and what they're not).

Yeah, it's a task to spend the time necessary to learn and understand what you're getting (and what you're not), and how much you're paying for that. You can choose whether to do that or not. Personally, I think it's worth doing the homework (it has saved me a buncha money on car rentals, and gave me peace of mind to know when I was covered by my credit card's insurance, and when I wasn't or wanted more/better coverage and was willing to pay for it). Some folks just don't want to bother and will just pay extra just for peace of mind - and that's a perfectly valid choice (although it may be an expensive one).

Hint: The absolute worst place to do this work is standing in line at a rental counter in some foreign country, with a bunch of impatient people behind you, when you're exhausted and jetlagged from a redeye flight, with your family whining and the whole world just pressuring you to sign the damn thing and get moving. Better to do all the homework at home and arrive prepared.

Posted by
3283 posts

I agree with David's thoughts. I will add a couple things. When you do your research, find out if your credit card's insurance covers you if you add on additional insurance from the rental card company. Mine does not. Secondly, where you drive might impact your decision. On my last rental in Spain, we were spending two days driving through mountains. I got a decent offer (in ADVANCE from Autoeurope and not the actual vendor which was Europcar) for comp insurance so because of the mountains I took it. Turns out that it wasn't the mountains, it was the super narrow streets in the small towns that did us in. Small ding on a mirror and bumper from two different incidents when we lightly dinged the wall of the building. Because of the extra insurance, we didn't have any issues to resolve.

Posted by
5010 posts

Yep, Jules is correct. Coverage is highly-dependent on your location - broad statements that "X or Y is covered" almost always have some important exceptions (Italy, Ireland, Israel and other places may be listed in the fine print for "exclusions" - maybe they have something against countries whose names begin with the letter I?).

It's also worth noting: equally important to read and understand is the actual rental contract. More than once I've been handed rental contracts from major companies that had a clause buried deep in the fine print that the car could not be taken on a ferry (this came as a surprise as I was planning to take several ferries - in some cases I've been able to get this clause removed, in others I have not).

Bottom line is that when you rent a car, and when you buy insurance, you are signing a legal document, potentially with significant financial implications. IMHO you must always read the fine print and understand it, fail to do that at your peril. Tasks like that are best done in the comfort of your own home when you have plenty of time to go over the annoying little details (like the fact that in Italy, for example, some insurance is mandatory when you rent a car, you can not decline it - yet at the same time, your credit card's insurance often requires you to decline all other insurance offered by the rental company, and if you fail to decline that your credit card's insurance may be invalidated...a classic 'catch 22').

It's a crazy business!

Posted by
6544 posts

You can pull up your terms and conditions of your credit card anytime online. And you can print a copy so you can read and understand the terms. But there are a couple of other angles to rental car insurance.
Most people don't realize that your personal car insurance company is primary on rentals in North America. Your credit card coverage wouldn't pay any damages until after your own insurance company paid.
On European car rentals, your personal auto insurance is invalid. That's when the credit card insurance comes into effect--except in Ireland and Italy where CDW is mandatory. And they're right about opting out of any CDW coverage to get the credit card to cover any damages.
Beware that many companies also add a second insurance automatically that covers personal belongings if stolen from the car. Many homeowners' insurances will pay in this situation, and it's something to opt out of on the rental agreement.
If someone's renting cars for 3 weeks or longer, it's often better if they lease a car--that comes with collision, comprehensive and theft insurance. Most of the leasing programs are on cars picked up and returned in France, however. They are less expensive than renting from the big rental companies most often. You can also take the cars to some countries car rental companies may prohibit taking cars to in Eastern Europe. AutoEurope also can arrange for car leasing 3 weeks or longer..
The CDW rates charged in Italy by government regulations is more fairly priced than in other countries. I found CDW in Ireland sky high priced., but their roads are so rough and narrow that higher than normal fender benders may be the reason.
Always use your smartphone to take pictures of your rental car from every angle when you pick it up AND when you turn it in. And keep those pictures semi-permanently in case the rental company comes back on you for damage 6 months or later.

Posted by
44 posts

Thank you for the input.
David I was really just curious of what other people are doing on this matter, I was no trying to make a decision of what to do or no do. The terms and conditions of my credit card on this subject are in my files and I read it and check for any changes each time we take a trip. But as you probably know if you have ever rented a car overseas that those sales people at the counter are very pushy and they try very hard to make you feel that if you don’t pay for their ins you are going to regret it. And in a way I guess they make me doubt my self when I decline their offer.
Maybe this question is a bit too personal.... sorry about that.

Posted by
4695 posts

I rented a car in Croatia for two weeks a few years ago. I used EconomyCarRentals to make the booking, and they got me a car with a Croatian company called Oryx. I picked up the car in Rijeka and returned in Zagreb.

I used my Amex's "Premium Rental Car" coverage, which I had used before. Amex had a good reputation, but I had never needed to use the coverage before.

This time, it happened: I hopped a curb driving out of Dubrovnik and messed up the steering pretty bad. I could drive the car OK but the steering wheel was not straight. Fortunately, I was able to swap cars at the Oryx office at Dubrovnik airport and continue on.

So I knew there would be an insurance claim. I assumed I was fully covered, but I called Amex "Assurance" (their insurance company) to confirm. They told me just to return the car, sign everything, and make a claim through Amex Assurance whenever I was ready. This is exactly what I did. I signed a statement of responsibility for the damage when returning the car in Zagreb. The agent there assured me that the insurance company would simply reimburse me for the cost. But they were holding my 800 euro deposit until the car was repaired.

I submitted the claim the day I got home. I provided everything Amex Assurance asked for in the claim form. And then...nothing. I called and called and called again. They told me they sent Oryx a request for information but never heard back. Until Oryx responded to them, there was nothing they could do!

I finally emailed Oryx about six weeks later. They told me the car had already been repaired and sold off - and they no longer had any records for it! But at least they responded to me. (I later gathered that Amex Assurance's effort involved snail mailing something to Oryx's main office. I can imagine how easily that could get lost or ignored.)

So I never got paid for the claim. It cost me about $630 out of my own pocket - even though I thought I was covered (was supposed to be $0 deductible) through "premium rental car insurance."

Who was at fault? Probably both companies. Oryx lost any incentive to cooperate with the Amex Assurance as soon as I signed the claim of responsibility (so they could keep my 800 euro deposit). Why would they care after that? And Amex Assurance had no incentive to do much either - that means they have to pay a claim! And paying claims costs them money.

My mistake was probably signing that form taking responsibility. If instead I had denied responsibility, they would have held my deposit - and I could have disputed the charge with Amex. And to prove there was damage to the car, Oryx would have had to have sent in pictures and repair invoices...exactly the info I needed for a claim. Instead, Oryx didn't bother. (I also learned that Amex wanted to charge Oryx a $20 fee just for processing the claim! Another reason for Oryx to ignore it.)

I actually did dispute the charge anyway. Amex investigated. Hey, you signed the form - did you sign it? (Yes.) OK, then the charge is valid. Dispute closed.

Could be had I rented with a big international company like Hertz, Amex Assurance would have known how to deal with them. Who knows? I did feel that Amex Assurance did the absolute minimum required to seek info for the claim from Oryx. (Clearly they respond to email - but why bother trying?) I still have one Amex card, but I stopped using it out of protest for this incident. I used to spend thousands of dollars a year on it. Small compensation for my grievance, I guess.

Anyway...just a word to the wise about relying on our credit card's "car insurance coverage." Just because you are "covered" doesn't mean a claim will actually be paid.

Posted by
394 posts

You can also buy rental car insurance from a third party like Travel Guard. That has saved us some money in the past over rate offered by the car rental agency. From my research, it seems that you cannot doubly insure the rental car, e.g. you cannot have 'primary' and 'secondary' insurance. I called my credit card company to confirm this. If you insure through the rental company you cannot then submit a claim to your rental credit card company, even though you could have been insured that way. In some countries, like Italy, there is also mandatory theft insurance; if you don't have proof of theft insurance the rental car agency will have to charge you for it or deny the rental. We tend to buy the rental car company insurance these days and take the zero deductible when available for the peace of mind. Also saves the haggling that might occur due to unnoticed damage previous to our rental.