Do You Need to Buy Rental Car Insurance at the Counter?

Is Your Rental Car Covered?

Who is going to pay for this mess?

Who is going to pay for this mess?

This has got to be the question that causes travelers at the counter than any other. You get to the rental car counter, and the smiling attendant offers you insurance for your rental car, and you have no idea if you should buy it or not. For one thing, it tends to add a lot to your car rental price. For another thing, you think you vaguely remember something about being covered by your existing auto policy or a credit card.

What you shouldn’t do is guess. You may be adequately covered, but you may not be. It is better to find out before you rent a car than afterwards.

Car Owner Insurance on Rental Cars

If you already own a car, you are probably covered as well as you are for vehicles you own. For instance, if you have liability insurance on your own car, you probably have it on the rental. But your old car might be 10 years old, and you are planning to rent a late-model vehicle. If you are worried about damage to that vehicle in case you cause an accident or suddenly drive into a hail storm, you also need comprehensive and collision.

Tip: Before you rent, call your agent and find out how you are covered when you rent a car.

It might be helpful to review the basic kinds of auto insurance that may be included in a policy:

  • Liability covers damage to the other guy in case you cause a wreck, and it is usually required to be a legal driver in each state.
  • Collision covers damages to your car, or your rented car, in case you cause an accident.
  • Comprehensive covers the car if it gets damaged for some reason besides an accident. Vandalism, theft, or storms might be included.

What About Credit Card Car Insurance?

Now your credit card may cover damage to the rental car. What they may not cover is liability. If you call your credit card company to make sure, you might be fine with a combination of your own liability and your credit card’s coverage.

What if You Don’t Own a Car and Want to Rent?

Lots of people rent cars who do not choose to own one. If you are in a hurry and waiting at the counter, your best option might be to pick up the counter policy. You need to make sure you get liability at the least, but you probably should consider comprehensive and collision to keep you off the hook for repairs.

If you plan ahead, you could shop for non-owner car insurance. This is typically cheaper that insurance for people who own a car, but it might only provide liability. So, if it doesn’t cover everything, consider the ways you can cover damage to the car you intend to rent.

Don’t Take the Keys Before You’re Covered

Nobody plans to have an accident but plenty of people only realized that they weren’t covered until after they had an auto accident. If you already know you are going to rent a car, figure out how you are going to handle rental car insurance. Even if you’re standing at the rental counter, you can always use your cell phone to call your agent and credit card company.