1. Not Having Rental Car Insurance & Having To Wait While At-Fault Insurance Drags it's Feet on Accepting Fault
The insurance company of the person who hit you is responsible for approving your rental car. That insurance company will research the crash and establish liability to help determine whether they will authorize a vehicle be rented to you. This process might take a week, or even longer in crashes where the insurance company disputes liability on behalf of its insured driver.
2. Buying Unnecessary Extra Insurance
One of the most obvious, and the most costly, mistake people make while renting a car is buying extra insurance that isn’t needed. Many rental agencies offer insurance coverage for a per-day fee, like Supplemental Liability Insurance, Loss Damage Waiver (LDW), and one or two others. If you don’t know what all of these mean, how do you know if you need them or not?
There are generally 4 coverage options available when you rent a car.
- Loss-damage waiver (aka collision damage waiver)
- Typically waives financial responsibility if the rental car's damaged or stolen; also covers loss-of-use charges while the rental's in the shop, towing charges, and related fees
- Costs roughly $9–$19 a day
- Liability coverage
- This state-required coverage protects you from potential lawsuits
- Costs around $7–$14 a day
- Personal accident insurance
- Covers medical costs after an accident
- Costs $1–$5 a day
- Personal effects coverage
- Insures what you keep in the rental car
- Costs $1–4 a day
Of the 4 rental car insurance coverages listed above, the loss-damage waiver offers the most protection. But if you have comprehensive and collision coverage on your car insurance policy, the value of your rental car is likely covered even in the event of a total loss. You'll only be responsible for the deductible, plus any added fees from the rental company.
Check with your insurer on whether rental car insurance is a good idea before you make a decision, and ask about potential administrative and loss-of-use fees levied by the rental company. Your comprehensive and collision coverage may be all you need.
Since you have to use a credit card to rent a car (in most cases) you might already be covered by the credit card you use to pay for the rental. Before you rent a car, you should always check your credit card coverage to make sure your card offers coverage, and exactly what it covers
All four major card networks offer rental insurance, but the benefits and requirements vary substantially. Some only offer secondary insurance, which will kick in after the coverage you have on your own personal car insurance policy. Others, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, offer primary car rental insurance at no extra charge. Needless to say, if you’re planning to use your credit card for rental car insurance, you should read all of the fine print before you go. Here is a pretty comprehensive article on credit card insurance coverage to use as a guide, but double check your own card’s benefits so you know for sure.
3. Ignoring Existing Damage
Whenever I rent a car, I spend the first 5 minutes scouring the outside of the car for any pre-existing damage, then I take time-stamped photos. This is the only way to be sure that damage someone else made to the car before you took possession doesn’t get blamed on you.
4. Not Returning The Car On Time
If the At-Fault Insurance Company is paying, they will want to limit the number of days of your rental as much as possible. They will try to limit it to the number of days your car takes to be repaired or if it is totaled they will promptly discontinue your rental when a total loss offer has been offered to you. DO NOT RELY ON THE RENTAL AGENCY TO TELL YOU WHEN TO RETURN THE CAR. GET CONFIRMATION FROM YOUR ATTORNEY or PROPERTY DAMAGE ADJUSTER! Keeping the car beyond when it is approved, will leave you with out of pocket expenses!
If you rent a car on Saturday and return it on Monday, you very well may be charged for 3 days, rather than 2. Most companies charge on a 24-hour basis, so if you keep the car for 26 hours, you’ll be charged for 2 full days. Remember when you reserved the car online and you put in what time you’d pick and and return the vehicle? Those times might seem arbitrary, but you can be certain the rental car company took note of it and will charge you accordingly. If you return the car late, some companies will give a 29-minute grace period before charging either by the hour or a full extra day.
5. Not Doing A Walk-Around When Returning Car
I also recommend doing a walk-around of the car when you return it, although these days it’s hard to find an employee to do that with. The drop-off process has been streamlined so much that you rarely even see an employee at the return. The problem is you want to be there to confirm that there is no damage at the time of the return, If they find damage on the car after you’ve dropped it off and left the airport, you have no way of proving that the damage was was actually there when you left it.
6. Thinking All Insurance Companies Handle Rental Cars The Same
The insurance company does not have to provide a rental car for you. They have options including:
- Providing a rental car — and then covering the expenses themselves so there is no out-of-pocket cost to you
- Making you pay the rental car fees upfront — and then reimbursing you after you provide appropriate paperwork; this can put a financial strain on your budget since rental cars can cost $60 to $100 or more per day and you might have the car for a week or so
- Paying you a “loss of use per day” amount — this amount is the rate they can rent a car for, so in theory you could rent a car for that amount also. However, many insurance companies will reimburse you for only actual out-of-pocket costs that you have paid.
Because each insurance company may handle rental car agreements differently, you should talk an experienced personal injury attorney about what your best option is. Call me today at 404-436-1529!