Traveling Thursday – Rental Car Insurance

Even before my time as a travel professional, I loved taking trips. Traveling is the perfect passion for someone who loves learning and exploration along with planning and organization. I’ve learned some lessons during my adventures and I’ve decided to start a series of travel posts so I can share them with you.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. I do have some good information that I look forward to sharing.

I’m starting things off with a post about rental car insurance and why you should think twice about turning it down.

For years, Mr. McB and I always took insurance directly from the rental car company. While this insurance was expensive, it always made us feel better. That changed after I attended a travel conference in 2010 and sat in on a session about travel costs. The speaker went on a tirade about rental car insurance. He explained that those drivers with good insurance coverage would be covered by their own private insurer; he shared stats about the amount of money we spend on rental car insurance annually. I decided that we were never buying rental car insurance again.

Flash forward a month to a trip to visit family in Virginia. We did not take the insurance from our rental car company. I did have a momentary panic and bought the cheap coverage that was mentioned on the third-party site that I used to book the car. I’m so thankful I made that choice.

After always buying the expensive insurance and never having a problem with the car, we had a mishap. While we were enjoying an afternoon in Yorktown, someone broke the window out in our car. While nothing was taken, we had a car that was full of glass and missing the all important passenger-side window.

We called the cops and filed a report. This is a very important step – no matter where your insurance comes from. If the car is damaged, even in something other than a wreck, you really need to file a police report.

I contacted State Farm, our wonderful insurer. They told me that our coverage would pick up everything but fees and “loss of use” charges assessed by the rental car company. The representative explained the fees are charged by many car rental companies for each day they can’t rent the car and for their employee’s work on the paperwork related to the repair.  I saw dollar signs and started to get a sick feeling.

I then remembered the other coverage. After a few calls, I learned that the other company (called Access America at that time) would pick up the fees and charges levied for “loss of use.” I felt so relieved. They also acted as the primary insurance so other than doing a lot of legwork and coordination, State Farm didn’t have to worry with the claim.

We did have a few more hoops to jump through including getting a copy of the police report for the insurance company. You see, since we didn’t own the car, we weren’t the injured party so we had to wait for the car rental company to agree to release the report to us. After a few weeks the whole thing was settled and we didn’t pay a cent of the $142 fees. I was so thankful that we had the $28 coverage on the car.

Before you turn down the insurance, think about all the possible charges and talk to your own insurer about what they cover. According to this article, some states require your insurer to cover loss of use. It’s still worth a call to confirm even if you live in one of the state’s mentioned. If you have a credit card that offers free rental insurance, ask them about “loss of use” fees. The article mentioned above indicates that this varies by company.

It’s a gamble with any kind of insurance is but before you place your bet, consider what fees you might be responsible for if your rental car is out of commission for a few days. Our clown car Accent was out of service for one day and the fees were $142. Imagine if the SVU you’ve rented has to be out of service for a few days and consider the costs. Most of all, just think about the possible risks and be comfortable with the gamble you’re taking, or not.

Please note that the insurers mentioned in this post have not provided any services in exchange for the mention. These companies simply came through for us in the past.

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