Renting A Car? Make Your Agent Your First Phone Call

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If you’ve ever seen the movie Trains, Planes, and Automobiles you will remember with a smile the way Steve Martin and John Candy systematically destroyed their rental car one hilarious mishap at a time. By the time they were done the vehicle was a smoldering, bombed-out, heap of metal. I always wondered about the conversation that took place when it was time to turn the vehicle in.

Unless you are prepared to have an awkward conversation like that, it is probably best to figure out how you’re insuring your car BEFORE you rent it. There will be some helpful information to follow but first, a spoiler: We are going to tell you to check with your agent. That being said, you can make sure that is an informed and brief discussion by reviewing these bullet points on car rental coverage

  1. Most policies cover you, at least somewhat, as long as you have full coverage on one vehicle you insure and you are renting a private passenger vehicle. Note that we said MOST. There are cut-rate policies (we don’t sell them) that will not provide any coverage. Generally if you do have coverage and you wreck the rental, the insurer will do the same thing for the rental agency they would do for you: pay to repair or replace the car.
  2. Most policies DO NOT cover everything you are promising to cover in the rental agreement.
    Do you read the rental agreement before you sign it? Some are short; most are not; but nearly ALL say that if you damage their car you owe them lost income for every day it is out of service and may also owe them something for the diminished value of a wrecked vehicle that is not worth as much when the try to re-sell it. These are two things that most auto policies do not cover, though we have some carriers that do include this—so always ask!
  3. Most policies DO NOT cover you fully when you rent box trucks or large vehicles. This is where the fine print in your policy (and a good agent) REALLY become important. We have seen policies that offer no coverage for any type of cutaway van or box truck, policies that cover liability but not physical damage (comp and collision) and policies that cover the whole box truck liability and physical damage. That’s why it is always a good idea to call or email us before you rent a car. We can probably give you an answer in thirty seconds, which might be less time than it takes you to remember where you put your policy!

If you have bought a policy from a reputable independent agent and have full coverage on at least one vehicle, you probably have some pretty good coverage for renting cars. There are always some catches though. Are you renting the vehicle for business use? What type of business? Are you authorizing drivers under the contract who are NOT drivers on your auto policy? Even though you may have MOST of your bases covered with your personal auto policy there could be still be reason to buy the collision damage waiver that the rental agency offers. It will come down to making an informed decision based on weighing the risks of the uncovered perils vs. the cost of actually buying coverage at the rental counter. Fortunately helping clients make informed decisions is where we excel so remember us the next time you rent a car!