When it comes to automobile accidents there are two main questions people have about rental cars and insurance:
- Will the insurance company cover the cost of a rental car while my car is being repaired?
- What happens if I am in an accident while driving a rental car?
The answer to the first question is "probably." The answer to the second depends on a number of factors.
Renting a Car While Yours Is Being Repaired
Insurance policies differ from company to company, so make sure you read your policy carefully and get the facts about rental cars. Most insurance companies will pay for rental cars while your car is undergoing repairs. However, this is subject to some important limitations that you should be aware of.
- Daily Limit. Make sure you know how much per day the insurance company will pay for a rental car. Often this is not a lot and might not be enough to get you into a similar size or class of car as the one you are used to driving. Where this becomes a real problem is when you have a large family, your children's friends, or things that need to be transported from one place to another. You won't be able to fit the same number of people and size of objects into a compact car as you did in that sport utility vehicle that's in the shop. Try to see if you can get additional money for the car you need. Otherwise, you might need to shell out some of your own money to upgrade your rental vehicle to a larger size.
- Number of Days Limit. Your insurance company will likely limit the number of days that they will pay for a rental car while yours is being repaired or you are trying to buy a replacement. Often this number is about 30 days, but get clarification up front from your insurance agent.
Having an Accident While Driving a Rental Car
When you rented your car, chances are that the rental agent asked you if you wanted to purchase insurance on it. Rental companies usually offer several different levels of coverage, including one that assures that if you are in an accident you walk away without owing them or anyone else a cent. Of course, many people do not opt for this type of coverage. So, if you're in an accident in a rental car, who is responsible? Ultimately, you are. However, you may already have coverage whether or not you knew it.
- Your car insurance policy. Make sure to check your regular car insurance policy. It is possible that you have coverage for accidents that happen when you are driving a rental car or a car owned by somebody else.
- The credit card you paid with. Some credit cards have services for their users and one that is sometimes offered is insurance on rental cars paid for with the credit card. It's a good idea to know which of your cards might offer this benefit.
- The rental car company. The rental company has insurance on its rental fleet. The question is, what will they go after you for if there's a loss connected to the car you rented? This could vary depending on the company. It will also vary depending on whether you declined optional insurance completely or added some amount of insurance on to your rental contract. Either way, know what part of the damages you will be obligated to cover either out of pocket or through another insurance company.
Regardless of whether you need to rent a car to replace yours or whether you've had an accident in a rental car, make sure you know your rights and what is and is not covered under all applicable policies.
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- Dealing With Insurance Companies
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