Rental car insurance is one of the lesser known aspects of the vehicle insurance world. Rental car companies love to take advantage of this fact. Most people don’t think about the slightly dry world of insurance very often, and the vast majority don’t even consider the idea that their rental vehicle won’t be covered under their normal plan until they hit the front desk. This situation is tailor-made for a high mark-up since you can’t drive without the car being insured (in most places anyway) and you are already at the desk. The end result is the average consumer paying a huge premium for a fairly basic coverage package. By taking charge and learning about rental car insurance before you hit this point you can save yourself some easy dollars.
In order to guarantee yourself the best rate, take a quick look at your calendar and figure out how long you need the insurance for. Many places will recommend that if you are renting a vehicle because your personal vehicle is being worked on, that you actually buy a couple days of extra insurance just in case the work takes a little bit longer than was quoted to you (a common occurrence). Some insurance companies offer discounts on weeks, or weekdays for weekends, so by know the exact days you will have the rental car you can save yourself unnecessary expense.
Rental car insurance rates often follow the same basic rules as any other vehicle insurance as far as determining rates go. The type of vehicle you are going to drive will have an impact (ie. a sports car or truck will cost more than the average) as will the age of the driver, and the value of the package you want. Don’t settle for less coverage than you usually would simply because “it is only a rental.” I’ve seen people take out only basic liability coverage on their rental vehicle in order to keep themselves legal, only to get in an accident and end up on the hook for a vehicle that isn’t even theirs! Remember that basic liability coverage only covers any injury inflicted on the other driver and their car. Any damage to your vehicle has to be covered completely out of your wallet. You don’t want to get stuck in a lawsuit over who is at fault with $20,000 or more hanging in the balance. Don’t even think about going after car rental company either, as a major corporation their lawyer team will be top-notch, and you will almost assuredly get stuck with a huge bill.
One interesting fact that many people are not aware of is that if you own a premium credit card, it might already have fairly comprehensive rental car insurance as part of its benefits package. Make sure and read the fine print here as different levels of cards will provide different levels of coverage; however these days, with premium credit cards fighting for market share, comprehensive rental vehicle insurance is a fairly common perk to include in the package. This is definitely worth checking out since it could save you a pile of insurance premiums over the life of the card. As a general rule, your package should be listed alongside any extra automatic warranties, and/or trip cancellation insurance that your credit card offers. Keep in mind you often have to pay for the car rental with the credit card in order to trigger this automatic insurance coverage.
Another special consideration that you might not think about when purchasing your rental car insurance is if you will be travelling across international borders with the vehicle. As someone that grew up near the Canada-USA border, it was not uncommon to cross the international territory 3-4 times a week, and some people do it a lot more often than that! Rental car insurance does not always cover you in another country. This can ruin any trip your on very quickly. Make sure and enquire about this specific part of the coverage from either your credit card company (if you plan on taking advantage of an automatic coverage perk) or your insurance broker that you go through. Whatever you do, don’t wait until you get up to the front desk at the rental car company because for any sort of extra coverage you will absolutely pay huge premiums.
At the end of the day rental car insurance (like most types of insurance if you really think about it) is one of those important little pieces of paperwork that we don’t think at all about until we absolutely need it. Do the future you a favour and look into this matter before your “everyday” car breaks down and has to be booked for an extended stay in a garage somewhere. I recommend first of all checking out your credit card agreement and reading the fine print. (I’m a huge fan of buying everything on my premium credit card in order to get the massive travel rewards as well as the extra warranties. I have also never had any trouble redeeming rewards or warranties from the company, but I have heard of people that have experienced some troubles at this point.) If you aren’t fortunate enough to have coverage, you might want to look at another card, but at the very least make sure you stop at a decent insurance broker on your way to the garage and they can make sure you are covered comprehensively at a competitive rate. Anything else and you are just making the sales associate’s day because he likely will get a big fat commission on upselling you the expensive insurance deal to go with your rental that day.