Should I Get Rental Car Insurance When I Rent a Car?

Renting a car when on vacation is usually a necessity, especially when in any large metropolitan area that may not have extensive and easy mass transportation. But even renting a car for a day trip or a driving to an overnight stay has some of the same questions as when you've flown in and are standing at the rental counter. One of the those questions is whether you should get rental insurance when you're renting the car.

At first blush, it sure seems like just an added expense, and unfortunately, the price of insurance on the car is rarely included when you get a rental quote and secure your reservation. There's also the question of whether having insurance on a rental car is even necessary if you pay for your own car insurance on a vehicle that you own. But does your own insurance even cover a rental car?

As you stand at the counter trying to decide if the extra money is worth it or it's just a tack-on scam, you may play out the risks of driving an uninsured car around for several days. Sure, you think, nothing usually happens when you rent a car, but that one time that it does, you don't want to suddenly have to try and fork over the price of repairs to the rental car company. And what if the car was completely totaled in a crash? What then?

What's actually being offered is more commonly referred to in the industry as a Collision Damage Waiver, or CDW. Many rental agencies will wait until you are about to seal the deal on the car before making a hard push to buy a Collision Damage Waiver, and even though it's unscrupulous, it can be an effective sales tactic. It is common for drivers to routinely buy coverage that they don't really need. However, it has almost become common knowledge among travelers that they may not need coverage, so many people just reject any pitch for a CDW right away without realizing they may actually need it.

It is true that your personal auto policy may offer the coverage needed for a rental car, but, you will need to double check you policy and if it is not clear, you should call your insurance agent and find out for sure. Even if you do have coverage that extends to a rental car, it might not be good enough coverage in case of major damage. In these cases, you should definitely be aware of the gaps and probably should get a Collision Damage Waiver. This would often be true of people who own older model cars, because the insurance requirements on an older car are often not enough to cover newer cars.

Most rentals are done with a credit card, and you often will have coverage by the car issuer. However, don't just assume this is the case, find out for sure. Card companies vary as to how they cover various purchases, including vehicle rentals, and even though deciphering the legalese of a card statement or card issuer website may be nearly impossible, you should be able to get a clear answer with a quick phone call before renting.

However, even if you determine that you do want to purchase some additional coverage, remember that the rental company usually offers several different packages. Ideally, you want to take a few minutes to really review the options and see what's the best choice. Of course, it's not the time to do that as other rental customers are standing behind you in line. The best bet is to check the available offerings online before you embark.

You can also offset the additional pricing of including insurance with car rental discounts and coupons, such as those available from Car Rental Express.