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Gamez asks: Do you need rental car insurance?

Mar 5, 2024, 12:37 PM | Updated: 12:39 pm

Image: Alaska Airlines planes are pictured at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport the day after Ho...

Alaska Airlines planes are pictured at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport the day after Horizon Air ground crew member Richard Russell took a plane from the airport in Seattle, Washington on August 11, 2018. (Photo: Jason Redmond, AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo: Jason Redmond, AFP via Getty Images)

My family and I embarked on a long-awaited vacation. Our initial plan was to get a rental car until the extra insurance busted our budget to the tune of almost $500 extra.

So we took ride share … everywhere … from the airport to the hotel, even 15 miles away to Six Flags Fiesta Texas.

Looking back, the cost was the same as if we rented a basic economy car for four. So it begs the question — did we really need rental car insurance?

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“If you have auto insurance, probably not,” Consumer Advocate Herb Weisbaum with Checkbook said. “Your personal policy should protect you against big losses from damage or injuries for rentals that are less than a month.

“You have to have collision and comprehensive on your car to get them to pay for the damage,” Weisbaum continued. “So you have to make sure you have that.”

Weisbaum shared his recent experience with rental car insurance.

“The coverage rental car companies sell, which is not technically insurance, is expensive,” he said. “I went looking for a one-day rental at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac). The quote from one company for an intermediate car was $91 plus all the taxes and fees. And if I wanted to buy full coverage, that was another $49.60 or more than half the base rate of the car.”

The four types of rental car insurance

According to Allianz Travel Insurance, there are four types of rental car insurance.

One is a collision damage waiver, an actual rental insurance that will protect your car anywhere in the world. Another is supplemental liability which covers medical costs. There is also the option of personal accident that covers the driver personally for medical costs. Or a driver can opt for personal effects which covers personal theft.

So many credit cards offer rental car protection as a perk for any damage to the vehicle. However, these perks don’t offer liability coverage.

“The big thing to know is in most cases, that perk from your credit card company is secondary coverage, it kicks in after you file a claim with your insurance company,” Weisbaum said. “So it might pay the deductible, but it’s not going to pay the full deal.”

When should someone say yes to car rental insurance?

People who don’t own a car but still have a license. That is when car rental insurance comes into play.

“You could very quickly shop around before you head to the counter. Alliance, Travel Insurance or some third-party seller to see what they’re going to charge you,” Weisbaum said. “You can find out what it’s going to cost you on the website before you rent the car, and then decide which way to go. But you’ve got to have some kind of coverage. You don’t want to leave yourself without coverage, you have no idea what could happen.”

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And if you risk not having insurance, Weisbaum said you will be responsible.

“You’re going to be held liable for that situation,” he said. “You’re going to be held for any injuries to the people and could be hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. You could be liable for the vehicle damage.

“The rental car company is going to go after you,” Weisbaum added. “You could get tied up in a lawsuit if you don’t have the money. It is just not worth it for the few dollars.”

In the end, informed decisions about rental car insurance can save you both money and peace of mind. So, before you hit the road, know your options and choose wisely.

You can read more of Micki Gamez’s stories here. Follow Micki on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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Gamez asks: Do you need rental car insurance?