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What Should I Know When Renting a Car?

Written by Doug Cohen

Insurance Protection for Rental Cars

There is plenty of confusion over rental cars and the insurance offered to you at the rental counter. Do you really need the rental company's coverage? Or are you safe signing a "damage collision waiver" or "loss damage waiver"?

Like many other issues that affect your insurance, the answer depends on your insurance company and the specific terms of your policy. Some insurance policies may cover you, while others may

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only cover you up to a specific amount. You may be personally liable for any amount not specified on your policy, which is why Ensurance.com president Doug Cohen recommends a solid understanding of your current terms. "First and foremost," Cohen says, "read your insurance policy. If you call your insurance agent, or your insurance company representative, have him or her put in writing what they tell you."

Your agent may point out that the terms of your insurance are already in writing, but if what the agent tells you doesn't correspond to your understanding of your policy, ask the agent to explain where you might be misinterpreting the fine print. If there is a disparity between company policy and what you have in black and white, make an appointment with your insurance agent to get a new policy drawn up that accurately reflects your coverage.

If it's established that your insurance does cover you when you drive a rental car, Cohen says there are issues to be fully aware of before driving the rental car off the lot. "Your policy may cover you for liability against property damage and or bodily injury you cause up to the limits of your policy, but it may not cover you for damage you cause to the car you rented ... this is why you need to thoroughly understand your car insurance policy."

Another important factor to keep in mind is the limitations of your existing coverage. "If your insurance policy does provide coverage for you for rental cars," says Doug Cohen, "it only provides you as much coverage as you have on your own car. So for example, if you only carry liability coverage on your car because your car is 15 years old and it doesn't make sense for you to carry physical damage coverage, you also do not have any physical damage coverage on the car you rent."

If this is the case, you may have additional coverage available to you through your credit card company. If your Visa or MasterCard includes a rental car insurance option, this is a very good way to fully protect yourself when your existing car insurance won't be enough or doesn't cover a rental car. Rental car insurance purchased at the rental counter can add $15 a day or more on the cost of your car. Using your optional credit card rental insurance protection is another way to avoid paying higher fees for a rental while avoiding potential liability if you get into an accident with the rental.

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