Insurance for Rental Car Damage: Where to Get it and Things to Know

man inspecting damage to his rental car

What happens if you get into an accident with your rental car while on your trip?

We’ll answer that question in just a moment, but first, let’s do one of those camera tricks you see on commercials and rewind from the accident to the moment where you had to choose whether to buy an insurance plan that provides coverage for your rental car.

Also read: Top 5 Reasons to Get Travel Insurance

How to Get Insurance Coverage for a Rental Car

So, you’re at the rental car counter, you’re presented with the loss-damage waiver form, and your pen hovers above the form before making a decision.

At this point, you’re thinking of your options, which are:

1. Accept the insurance from the rental car company

The knee-jerk reaction is to think that the insurance from the rental car agency is a rip-off, but it will likely get the job done -- protecting your wallet from those magic dents and scratches that always seem to appear between the time you pick up the car and the time you drive it out of the parking lot.

2. Buy a standalone rental car policy from a company

As more people rely on services like ZipCar for their auto-transportation needs, standalone rental car coverage has become more common. For trips where you don’t have a lot of prepaid travel expenses, this coverage can be a good choice.

3. Rely on your standard auto-insurance policy to cover you

If you're hoping a rental car accident won't impact your regular auto-insurance rates, anything other than your standard car insurance is a good choice.

4. Hope that your credit card has rental car coverage

Many travel credit cards include some level of rental car protection, but only if you used that card to pay for the car. And, the devil’s in the details -- be sure to read the fine print.

5. Remember that you got the Rental Car Damage coverage with your travel insurance plan*

Finally, there’s Rental Car Damage coverage through a travel insurance plan. This coverage is great if you have a lot of prepaid expenses – like airfares, hotels, and excursions – especially if you’re buying travel insurance anyway.

For instance, the Premium plan from Generali Global Assistance includes Rental Car Damage coverage that can reimburse you up to $25,000 if your rental car is damaged through collision, theft, vandalism, natural disasters or any other cause beyond your control while you’re on your trip. It’s also available as an extra-cost add-on with the Standard and Preferred plans.*

Also read: 7 Questions to Ask to Find the Best Family Travel Insurance

Understand Your Rental Car Insurance Coverage

With any rental car insurance, it’s important to see exactly what’s covered and at what level. It’s also helpful to be able to see what the policy covers far in advance – as in, not at the rental car counter. If you can get something from the rental car company 10 days or so in advance, great. If not, you may want to consider alternatives, like travel insurance.

Finally, note that even though the car rental company may tell you, you have to buy their insurance, that’s not true. You don’t need their insurance to rent a car. However, a car rental company can refuse to rent a car to you if you don’t buy their insurance or supply adequate proof of insurance coverage.

What Happens if You Damage Your Rental Car

Now, let’s return to that scenario we presented at the outset – you know, where you’re debating whether to buy rental car insurance coverage. Actually, you decided to go with the Rental Car Damage coverage offered with the Generali plans, and you got into an accident, because... of course.

First, you’ll need to do the basics that you’d do with any car accident, like:

  • Calling 911 or the equivalent;
  • Filing a report with the police;
  • Exchanging insurance information, remembering to give them the name of your primary car insurer;
  • Calling for a tow truck, if you need one;
  • Taking all your stuff out of the rental car; and
  • Taking pictures of everything. It literally costs nothing to snap several dozen pictures of everything from insurance information to car damage to the tow truck’s license plate.

At that point you should report the incident to your rental car company and then submit a claim to Generali to be reimbursed for either the cost of repairs and rental charges imposed by the rental company while the car’s being repaired, or the car’s actual cash value, whichever is less.

Sounds great, but there’s one last wrinkle: Texas. Texas residents can’t buy rental car damage coverage through Generali Global Assistance.

For everyone else, though, travel insurance with Rental Car Damage coverage, is definitely worth considering for your trip.

* Rental Car Damage coverage from Generali Global Assistance may not be accepted by all rental car companies and jurisdictions.

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