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Credit Card Car Rental Insurance experience

We rented a car from Hertz at Heathrow airport and declined their insurance since our credit card company supposedly provided that for us (this is a USA major bank's card). When we returned the car, Hertz found a ding in the rear bumper (cause unknown) and charged our card about $500 US for the damage.
When we returned home to the US I contacted the credit card company. Their customer service was not very helpful and provided us with a long list of documents we needed to provide them (including a photo which fortunately I had taken). Some of the required documents needed to be obtained from Hertz. I contacted Hertz immediately and they told me it would take "several weeks" to get the documents from them. It has been 3 weeks and we are still waiting. I am not very hopeful.
At this point I am relieved that the damage was only $500, not thousands. Next time we will buy the car rental company's insurance.

Posted by
3581 posts

We had a similar experience with a car we rented from Europcar in the Netherlands. We made the mistake of not documenting the wheels and tires when we picked it up. When we returned it to the airport, the over zealous young man wanted to charge us €700 for damage to one of the wheels.

While I called our credit union about the situation, my husband who knows a bit about cars told the guy that he knew that a brand new wheel and tire didn't cost anywhere close to that amount. He also told the guy that if he was forced to pay, he wanted the tire and wheel to ship home. The poor kid, and he was a kid, was speechless.

In the meantime, our credit union told us to refuse to pay anything until we got a bill for the damage. We were going on into Amsterdam for the last week of our trip, and they sent us some basic paperwork to fill out online. And we definitely took pictures of our own to add to the documentation.

It did take a few weeks before the matter was settled. The credit card was charged something in the range of €150 which the credit union promptly reimbursed to the card.

Two lessons learned from our credit union:

  1. Take pictures of everything, including the tires and wheels, when you pick up the car.
  2. Call your credit card provider before signing anything or agreeing to pay for any "extras" when you return the car.
Posted by
16169 posts

You might put the charge in dispute until Hertz provides you the necessary paperwork.

Posted by
5697 posts

Yes, the insurer wants documentation before taking action and yes, it may take the rental company some time to provide the documentation which the insurer requires. But it's probable that Hertz will eventually provide the paperwork and the insurer will reimburse you. Keep monitoring, but these things take time.
I'm assuming your card insurance was primary coverage so you don't need to have your own insurance company involved ? For me, that's one big reason to use my Chase Sapphire card. That, and the substantial cost of rental company insurance for a week-long rental.

Posted by
9363 posts

Welcome to my world. I will never again trust credit card insurance. I verified my coverage, and had it in writing, before my trip. As you have to do, I turned down the rental counter insurance so that the credit card insurance would kick in. I, too, had a small accident <$500 (I broke a side mirror), and the credit card insurance found a reason to deny the claim. Even the rental car company went to bat for me with the insurance, but I still got stuck with the bill. And they know you aren't going to pursue it legally for a $500 accident. I just consider the insurance part of the cost of my trip and let it go. There are just too many ways they can find to deny their financial responsibility, and since you have to turn down the rental counter insurance, you are completely vulnerable if they do so.

Posted by
6570 posts

Most people don't realize that their personal auto insurance company is usually the primary source of insurance on a rental car--except in a few countries like Northern Ireland and some of the old Soviet bloc countries.
Credit card coverage is secondary to renters' personal insurance policy in most cases--except for a couple of cards.
Notice that the rental company doesn't call their product "insurance"--but CDW which is Collision Damage Waiver. It takes effect after the two sources of coverage above is exhausted. Rental car companies are usually self insured on comprehensive and collision insurance and liability insurance is all they really have.

I've had good luck with Hertz in Europe as they're company owned rentals. Many of the familiar "U.S.branded" rental companies in Europe are franchise operations, and some are very, very poor operations. I still try to stick with Hertz or AutoEurope when I'm overseas.
Like has been said, be sure to closely inspect vehicles when they're picked up and take pictures before and after. And don't hesitate to call your insurance agent at home to verify your coverage and rigihts in the countries you're traveling to--if any. You can go online for your specific credit card and print out a copy of terms regarding comprehensive and collision insurance on rental cars.

Posted by
2916 posts

It has been 3 weeks and we are still waiting. I am not very hopeful.

I had a similar situation with Europcar several years ago, and I'm still waiting. Even with AutoEurope contact Europcar, I never got the documents I needed.

Most people don't realize that their personal auto insurance company is usually the primary source of insurance on a rental car--except in a few countries like Northern Ireland and some of the old Soviet bloc countries.

I don't know how this varies from state to state, but in Maine, personal auto insurance doesn't cover rental cars outside the US, except for Canada. That's probably why all my credit card auto insurance policies make coverage secondary in the US but primary in other countries.

Posted by
5663 posts

The questions regarding insurance coverage that we need to answer is our personal risk aversion and how much we are willing to pay to have someone (or some corporation) take that risk on our behalf. If you are highly risk adverse and are willing to pay, take the pricey rental car damage waver coverage.

If you are an above average safe driver, you will be paying for drivers more likely to damage vehicles. How often do you ding the bumper of your personal vehicle? If you parallel park using the touch and feel system, you may be well served paying for the rental vehicle damage waiver. If you are a safe driver, you may save money self-insuring.

I am relatively risk tolerant with respect to vehicle damage and insure with a $500 collision deductible and $250 comprehensive deductible. But I am risk adverse for the catastrophic events and carry an "umbrella" liability coverage of $1 million. In foreign travel the high risk is major medical and medical evacuation coverage, not dinged bumper coverage.

I do confess to not renting cars for foreign travel with the exception of Canada.

But that said, to each his or her own risk adverseness and whatever lets you "sleep at night".

Posted by
18054 posts

Most people don't realize that their personal auto insurance company
is usually the primary source of insurance on a rental car

My insurance company, which is a mainline US company, isn't the primary source in Europe, it isn't a source of insurance there at all. It specifically excepts European car rental from coverage. That's not unexpected, since they would have to have full time adjusters in Europe to investigate a few claims. I suspect a lot of US insurance companies don't cover Europe.

Check with your own insurance company before assuming you are covered in Europe.

Carefully documenting the condition of the car when you pick it up takes time. Be sure to consider that time when you assume driving will be faster, particularly when arriving in Europe, jet-lagged, and wanting to get to that day's destination as.soon as possible.

Posted by
21327 posts

There has been more than one posting here over the years about credit card insurance not stepping us for a variety of technical reasons. My Chicago son who does not own a car and therefore has no regular car insurance used to rely on his credit card insurance to cover him. Worked great until he had a claim. His parked rental vehicle was badly side swiped in a parking space when he wasn't present. About $2000 in damage and the credit card company walked away for several technical reason - a couple caused by the rental agency not checking a certain box. In the end he and the rental company split the cost.

I would never rely on a credit card company to provide any coverage - either primary or secondary.

Posted by
18054 posts

On numerous occasions, when planning a trip to Germany, I've tried to compare the cost of my trip using public transportation to the cost using a rental car. Like Frank, I wouldn't rent a car in Europe without taking the CDW. At first, I asked Gemut, which is highly recommended here, for a quote including CDW. They always refused to give me a quote with CDW and told me to use my credit card insurance. I've given up trying to get quotes from them.

Posted by
9363 posts

My car insurance in Illinois doesn't cover foreign car rentals, either, and it's a company you see advertised on TV every single day. Perhaps the previous poster's company - or state - allows it, but I don't think "most" do.

Posted by
3181 posts

Since people are jumping in to tell tales of woe about relying on cc rental car insurance, I'm moved to present a different side. We've had 3 "incidents" in 32 years of renting cars in Europe. One was covered by our AMEX cc; one, by our Chase cc; and one, by our AMEX Premium rental car insurance. All were handled with dispatch . . about 6 weeks to process the claims and no hassle. I'm sure it matters which cc you have. Also, it behooves the renter to read carefully the terms of the insurance offered by the rental company. It is quite usual for them to exclude windows and tires, for example, and to have large deductibles.
I believe, also, that it is standard for your home car insurer to exclude coverage in foreign countries, except, maybe, Canada.

Posted by
5663 posts

Read the "fine print" and decide for yourselves. As an example, Capital One Visa Signature Card benefit description in pdf form: https://www.capitalone.com/media/doc/credit-cards/Visa-Signature-guide-to-benefits.pdf

AUTO RENTAL COLLISION DAMAGE WAIVER

What is the Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver (“Auto Rental CDW”)
benefit?

The Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver (“Auto Rental CDW”) benefit
offers insurance coverage for automobile rentals made with your Visa
Signature card. The benefit provides reimbursement (subject to the
terms and conditions in this guide) for damage due to collision or
theft up to the actual cash value of most rental vehicles.

And the section on auto rental CDW goes on for another 1.5 pages.

Posted by
19391 posts

One thing to keep in mind is the great joy car-rental companies take in assessing charges for "loss of use"--the days they can't rent the car because it is awaiting repairs. I leave it to your imagination how they figure the per-day charges for loss of use. (Hint: It won't be a bargain rate.) I'd be curious about how credit-card insurance deals with that likely expense.

Posted by
9363 posts

In Edgar's link there is this paragraph:

However, no benefit is provided for motor vehicles rented in Israel,
Jamaica, the Republic of Ireland, or Northern Ireland. Additionally, this
benefit is not available where precluded by law or in violation of the territory
terms of the auto rental agreement or prohibited by individual merchants.
Because regulations vary outside the United States, it is recommended
you check with your auto rental company and the Benefit Administrator
before you travel to make sure Auto Rental CDW will apply.

Posted by
756 posts

There is an old expression; You get what you pay for. In this case you paid nothing for insurance and that is about what you got. Remember, like it or not, the CDW is a profit source for rental car companies and, given the opportunity, they are going to do nothing to encourage you to pass on the CDW. As little as I like rental companies and airlines we have to remember that they are in business to make money.

Being retired we have the luxury of taking trips that are long enough to do a lease which means the car comes insured to the hilt (beyond CDW) and they don't even look at it when you turn it in.

Posted by
31318 posts

"Most people don't realize that their personal auto insurance company is usually the primary source of insurance on a rental car--except in a few countries like Northern Ireland and some of the old Soviet bloc countries."

That's absolutely not the case for people here renting cars in Europe, as our provincial auto insurance agency does not provide coverage outside of North America. I've used credit card insurance coverage in the past but found that the car insurance part was done through a third party, and the rules and exclusions were complicated. These days I just accept the full package from the rental agency, as I don't want to deal with a lot of bureaucratic rubbish. I learned the value of that a few years ago with a rental in the U.K. When I returned the car, the agent found a small dent in the rear of the car. I just walked away and there were no bills to deal with.

Rentals in North America are much easier, as our auto insurance agency provides an optional Roadside Plus package which is not that expensive, which provides full coverage for rentals anywhere in Canada or the U.S.

Posted by
2 posts

Just a comment about "you get what you pay for" - I did not pay for CDW, but I do pay $100 a year for the credit card fee, so I expect Chase Bank to be better at supporting customers for something they advertise as a benefit of having the card. In the future, we will definitely get the CDW insurance.

Posted by
756 posts

Compared to the cost of insuring a car, the $100 per year you pay for your credit card is still chicken feed. You still got what you paid for.

Posted by
21327 posts

My guess would be that Chase is totally in compliance with the terms of their credit card regarding insurance. The big problem is that you, me, others don't bother to read the fine print that comes with the card. It is easier to rely on market hype than the actual terms. If you are going to rely on your credit card insurance you need to read and understand the terms and, obviously, the docs required for a claim.

Posted by
2916 posts

Compared to the cost of insuring a car, the $100 per year you pay for your credit card is still chicken feed. You still got what you paid for.

Don't forget that liability is already taken care of, and that for any one renter it's only a week or 2. So the insurance cost would be minimal. And the credit card company's coverage is not only funded by the annual fee (which most of us probably don't even pay), but also by fees on every transaction involving the card.

Posted by
18054 posts

Before every trip I compare the cost of renting a car with other modes to travel. Even without CDW (using a credit card for insurance), car rental never compares favorably costwise with using public transportation. If you include CDW in the cost, it's far more than for public transportation.

I'm starting a file with links to postings like this about the problems associated with renting cars in Europe.

Posted by
2916 posts

Lee, I agree that there are major potential problems with renting a car in Europe, including cost. However, in many countries, there really is no viable alternative unless you're staying in cities. We spend most of our trips in rural France, and public transportation is generally abominable there. Yes, the long-distance French rail system is great, but once you want to get outside a city, things are pretty limited. We did go w/o a car a few times, and wound up wasting more time than we would have liked, or couldn't get to places we would like to have seen.
On the other hand, I suspect some countries are far better. I do recall the fantastic train system going out from Munich, for example.