Should I Pay for Insurance on My Rental Car?


Have you ever found yourself at a rental car agency wondering whether you should buy their additional coverage? What, you wonder, does my regular auto insurance cover?

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers that apply to everyone. Whether you're covered — and for what and how much — depends on what types of personal auto insurance you carry, what protection your credit card offers and where you're renting the car.

Before you rent, call your personal auto insurance provider and your credit card company so you know what terms apply to a rental vehicle. Don't wait until you're on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck or ambulance.

Generally, coverage from your primary auto insurance will extend to a rental vehicle. If you cause an accident while driving the rental, your liability insurance would pay up to your policy limits for the damages to other cars or property. Likewise, collision coverage on your regular policy would pay for accident-related damages to the rental car you're driving. Finally, your comprehensive coverage would take care of damages to the rental vehicle not related to a traffic accident, such as theft or vandalism.

Still, even full coverage on your regular vehicle may not protect you from every charge the rental company could impose. For example, your primary auto policy may not cover things like loss-of-use, loss-of-value or other administrative fees.

Many credit cards come with rental car insurance as a benefit, which can supplement — or even serve in place of — your regular auto insurance policy.

For the coverage to apply, you usually must reserve and pay for the rental car using that card. Some cards offer primary coverage, which doesn't require you to make a claim on your regular auto policy. Other cards offer secondary coverage, however. In that case, the coverage would only pay your deductible or other potential claim costs.

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