Recently we got to experience something new – getting into a car accident in a rental car. Thankfully, it wasn’t terrible. We hit a young deer that bolted across the road. We couldn’t avoid it – either we hit the deer or hit the semi-truck next to us. It was a small enough deer that we were able to continue driving before stopping to check the damage on the car, and no one was hurt (save for the deer, of course).
When we finally stopped to check the damage, it wasn’t too bad. Mostly the front bumper. As we were close to our final destination, we opted to keep driving and deal with it when we got back.
Rental Car Insurance
When you rent a car, you will be asked if you want to pay for their insurance. This is up to you – but you may already have the coverage you need. In our case, we have car insurance policies that extend to our use of rental cars. Additionally, the credit card we used has coverage for rental cars (though that is only secondary insurance). So in our case, we turned down the insurance.
Before you rent a car, do your research. Find out if your personal auto insurance will cover your use in a rental car. (Make sure you know the difference between rental insurance and rental reimbursement – the latter covers your cost to rent a car if your car is in the shop. Many policies have both, but be sure to understand the difference.)
Would it be easier to use the car rental company’s insurance if you get into a car accident in a rental car? Possibly. But why pay for additional coverage that you don’t need – especially considering the odds are very good you won’t be in an accident. I can’t tell you how many rental cars I have been in over my lifetime and this was the first time I’ve ever been involved in an accident of any sort.
Who to Contact
After an accident in a rental car, you need to contact the rental car company and if you’re using your own insurance, also call your insurance company. In our case, we opted to call the insurance company first to find out the best way to handle the situation. They took all of our information and were very easy to work with. They gave us a claim number to give to the rental car company and told us they would take care of all of the communication with the rental car company. Then we contacted the rental car company and shared all of the information. They too were very easy to work with, and were most concerned as to whether or not anyone was hurt.
Before You Return the Vehicle
Make sure you take pictures of the damage. The last thing you want to have happen is for the rental company to come back and say the damage was much more than you indicated. While we didn’t run into this problem, it isn’t unheard of anytime you have work done on your car, so it’s always good to have proof.
What Happens Next
Because we had already filed with the insurance company and shared the claim information with the rental car company, they told us they would handle all of the next steps, and that’s exactly what happened. The final charge on our credit card was the cost of the rental plus the deductible on our car insurance policy. We waited and waited for the other shoe to drop… and it didn’t. That was it. It was entirely handled and so incredibly easy.
Obviously, our case was unique. It was a car versus animal. It was a no fault crash. There were no police involved and no tickets issued. The damage wasn’t terrible.
The lesson here is that make sure you know what to do if you do have a car accident in a rental car. Make sure you know how your insurance works and what sort of coverage you have. And make sure you keep all of the documentation and photographs.
Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.