Wednesday, August 16, 2000

car rental issues

note:Ignore the date of posting on this post. It is current as of 2008. I just wanted to bury it here for easy access by one link and yet not have it in the sequential way of my blog.

I was leaning in the direction of renting a car for my next trip. But after hours of researching how insurance works and doesn't, I am not very comfortable renting without the full waivers and that puts the price up pretty high.

Before you dismiss these issues, be sure you read a bit and talk to more than one insurance agent. My State Farm agent did a 360 degree turn around after telling me for years that I was covered.

And using the Visa may not do it either.

Here is what happens.

You get in an accident. Your insurance covers you minus your deductable up to the amount you carry on the car you drive at home. So I drive a 99 Saturn. Odds are I would still have quite a bit to pay if I totaled a brand new rental expecially after one of those free upgrades that come along.


You get in an accident. Your insurance does not cover loss of use, but the Visa does. Read the fine print. The Visa demands the car rental company send them a a fleet utilization log that shows that while the car was out of service, they did not have other rentals. Guess what? The Rental Car company just ain't gonna send no log So who is responsible for the loss of use fees? Well, You are.


You have an accident and the car is damaged. The rental company decides not to fix it but just to sell it off as salvage. You are stuck with the difference in the full value of the car and what they get. Does the insurance company cover that cost? Well, not all the time. So a $35,000 sold off at $7,000 leaves $28,000 for you to pay. And the rental company is conservative about what they will fix and put back out there because if a rental has a damage history, it leaves them open for lawsuits in a future accident. They like to get rid of the cars and start over. Especially since someone else pays.

And even if things go smoothly, you are responsible for the damage until you get your insurance company to pay for it. Any accident may raise your premiums so you pay for it over time for the rest of your life. And you better not have a drink. Drinking, speeding, reckless behavior, having your car impounded by police all void insurance policies as does letting someone else drive for a while who not on the rental contract. I have a family fight every time we rent a car about that one. it is so easy to get tired and just let the kid drive for a while.

Basically, I am back to deciding that car rental is sort of like playing video poker. The Royal never comes and never comes and never comes..............and then when you least expect it........there it is. Only the Royal is a good thing in Video poker . The casino pays off. The accident is a not good. You pay.

From what I gather from my son who as a financial advisor and talks to insurance agents every day, the entire issue is being debated around the agents' coffee meets. My own State Farm Agent is doing some research. Perhaps she will come up with some definitive angle. My son recommends getting the waiver.

I did find that renting from some companies using AARP will give you a cap on anything you are liable for.; the cap is 3 grand some places and 5 grand others.
I also found this site that sells a cheaper policy than the car rental places offer.
This one at $9 a day is nice but not for me as I am a NY resident

This one has no deductable for $13 a day and you don't have to rent on this site to add the insurance:


Travel guard offers the same type of coverage and seems to have pretty good press.


However, this is still an insurance where you must do the work of collecting. If anything does not work the way you hope it will, you are still responsible.

I also found out that Visa does an easier job of negotiating with the car companies than Mastercard and that American Express promises much more than they deliver. They require a log.

But all insurance leaves you responsible to have a claim approved and doing the paperwork. What the rental car places give you is not insurance but a waiver of their right to recover money in case of accident, theft, damage. That is why they can ask such a huge fee for the waiver. It is not covered by insurance regulation, so they can ask whatever the market will bear.

I will keep asking questions. If I find out anything, I'll add it to this post. In the mean time, I know this adds anxiety to those of you who rent everytime you go to Vegas and are proud of the $9 a day you manage with codes and specials. I am one of you. Frugal to the bone. Just don't dismiss the issue of liability because someone once told you that you were covered. I asked my agent if State Farm would send me something in writing, and she just laughed. Take the time to review the issues and make the agent focus on Nevada which has different rental laws and sketch out the loss of use and the selling off the car as salvage senarios for the agent. Some states do not allow the company to charge loss of use, for example.

Here are some articles to read around this issue.


This seemed the most comprehensive article. Don't neglect the comment section as that has more information.



This one discusses the AARP cap at $3,000. He mentions that Alamo is a participant but the AARP did not include that company, just National so Alamo may have dropped the AARP cap. Alamo also has some cheaper waiver deal that covers the first $3000 of damage which would be the large majority of accidents. Less risk on the smaller amounts.

Here is an older article, but I like the questions it raises:



Happy motoring.