Rental Car Insurance, Yes or No?

This is a tricky one. With people starting to make travel plans again (all the extra precautions now required will make it easy to forget some things you should know), part of that involves car rentals. Who you rent from, and their insurance rules can make a huge difference in both the price of your rental and the headache you may incur.

I had always been of the school of thought that your personal vehicle no fault insurance plan would cover rental cars. That can be true, depending on who you rent from. However, some have found clever ways around no fault, in an attempt to pressure you into buying their insurance at the rental counter. That extra insurance can more than double the original price of your rental.

Let me explain.

You rent a car for $40/day. When you get off your plane, you go to the rental counter (or worse, take a shuttle to the offsite rental office). Then, you wait in line.

(Keep in mind, you've just gone through the hassle of flying to your destination with all that entails, and just want to start your vacation.)

Finally, your turn at the counter. Every single agent is going to tell you that you need to purchase rental insurance from them. Well, I'm from New York, and we have no fault. You've always been told it covers rentals. The rental agent will tell you their insurance isn't mandatory. But, highly recommended against things no fault doesn't cover.

You: Ok, well how much is it?

Them: $50.

You: Oh, that isn't bad. For my entire stay?

Them: No, per day.

You: Oh my God. That's more than the rental! I've never had a problem before. I guess I don't need it.

At this point, they make you initial about 9 different points on the rental agreement. You're tired. Your patience is wearing thin. Are you going to read the fine print on every spot you're initialing? Better yet, did you bring your lawyer to read it? Of course not.

So, you drive off in your rental and finally start your vacation.

On the second day of your trip, you're carefully backing out of a parking spot at a busy shopping center, being extra careful because of all the people around.

Just as you finish backing and are about to put the car into drive, someone whips around the corner and rear-ends you. They then proceed to drive off, as if nothing happened. You follow them to the end of the parking lot row, as they see you and pull into a spot. They then get out of their car, and start walking toward a store. You get out of your car and yell, "Hey, where are you going? You just ran into me!" They act as if you're inconveniencing them as they return.

You make all the proper calls, talk to the right people, and it is decided the car is safe to drive and you will keep it until the end of the trip.

Your insurance company tells you, that since you are a New York State customer, you are not liable for the deductible ($250) which Ace Car Rental may try to collect when you return the car.

You then proceed with the rest of your vacation with this hanging over your head, questioning your own decision to forego the insurance.

You return the car when departing. They give the car a once over, and fill out a brief form with the damages (basically, a diagram with circles in damaged areas). You sign that as they try to collect the $250 deductible. They call your insurance, because they don't believe that you're not liable as a NY resident. Insurance clears that up, and you leave.

A week later, you receive a bill with the repair estimate ($3200), the loss of use bill ($1200), the diminished value bill ($1600) and the filing fee ($200).

$6200 total.

(This is what the multiple initials are for. All of their extra fees.)

You call your claims adjuster. They tell you they will cover the $3200 repair bill. But, the rest is your responsibility and suggest you attempt to recover that money from the credit card we used to make the original reservation.

Oh, you forgot about that! Their advertisements do say they'll cover whatever your insurance doesn't. Whew. They send you to a separate claims company, which requires every single form and proof of existence on the planet in order to process anything. They also direct you to the fine print of your credit card agreement, which states they are not liable for any fees outside of the damage to the car which insurance won't pay. So basically, they won't pay for anything.

You call your adjuster back and give them the news about the credit card.

They say how sorry they are, and they will bring it up to superiors at their meeting tomorrow. You're pretty depressed.

The very next day, your lovely, wonderful adjuster calls you to say,

Geico will pay the entire $6200 to protect you. After you recover your jaw from the carpet, with tears streaming down your face, you ask how?

She tells you that Ace Rental Car is one of the only companies charging these ridiculous fees, and next time they would recommend you rent from someone better. She suggests Enterprise, since they're affiliated with Geico and claims with them go much smoother because of it.

I'm sure you know by now, this was me, last year in Clearwater, Florida.

Bottom line. Avoid the cut rate companies. Ace, Fox, Payless, etc. Their bargains are only a bargain if you can avoid even a minor mishap. Insurance or not. I mean, get the insurance if you want the extra piece of mind and don't mind doubling your rental price.

Geico has me as a lifelong customer now. All my rentals since are from Enterprise.

I didn't include the part of story which included ME getting a ticket for unsafe backing (bullshit). Later thrown out. I figured it didn't pertain to whether or not you should buy extra insurance. But, I did have to hire an attorney to represent me in court, in my absence.

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