|KNOW BEFORE YOU GO ! Rental Car Companies operate in a highly competitive front end pricing model. Once you have booked though, there are a myriad of bad practices and they gladly ‘over charge’ their customers. In another post I will try to give you the upto date break downs of key decision making criteria for the main franchises by brand. All the big operators seem to be engaged in the pressured selling of ‘top-up’ insurance by commission based staff on the front desk at your collection point. The three types of concern are the DAMAGE EXCESS, the LIABILITY COVERAGE and ROADSIDE EMERGENCY coverage. You really must have coverage ! However like life, it is not a simple story and you need your wits.
Both big and small corporations have laid a few terms and conditions, exclusion clauses, and traps along the way for your hard earned cash. Simply slide that credit card and ‘initial here to agree’ Sir or Madam is usually additional PROFIT to THEIR bottom line !
Whether you buy your Auto Rental as a package with your flight, or as a stand alone arrangement. Check the insurance being included, and what is not included BEFORE YOU BUY. Quite often those deals with the unbelievably cheap Car Rental are when you read the small print only available strictly on the basis of you buying all the additional top-up insurances in the USA, without any option. Your very inexpensive deal can then become a lot more expensive compared with just buying the Auto Rental as a stand alone element. We would caution travellers to ask the question of themselves how do so many online consolidators make their money. We know from experience the answer is that they pay large commissions to re-sellers.
You can buy an annual ‘excess policy’ which will fund the gap the Rental C0mpanies charge as an excess between the CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) or LDW (Loss Damage waiver) coverage and where their own coverage sold to you as ‘prepaid’ takes over. Often this gap is around the first $1500 of any claim in the event of an incident. Some companies are unscrupulous and will charge you hundreds of dollars for minor body damage, even when this pre-existed as you pick up your vehicle.
Tired and late after a long flight in a darkened garage, maybe with the family eager to set off, it’s easy to overlook. Always remember to check the car thoroughly before you leave the compound, and get even small defects notated before you leave. Take photos timed and dated of any more serious defects.
They’ll sell excess insurance as a top up. You can buy an ANNUAL Policy to cover Excess charges. If you travel a couple of times a year overseas and buy rental car services, it is well worth pre-buying a top up policy for this ‘EXCESS’ in the unfortunate event of an accident.
Another area where the Car Rental companies try to create a fear factor is with their ‘Liability Coverage’. This is for third party and own medical expenses in the event of an accident. Most US/CA travellers will have transferable liability coverage from their regular Auto Coverage for their rental. For European or Rest of the World visitors. This is not the case. Check your Travel Insurance policy has a good level of Liability Coverage and check whether it includes Auto related liability.
Being the USA, you should be thinking at least a $250K liability cover per person in your group. If you do not have this, definitely check with your Travel/Household insurer about an extension of coverage for your trip. If you are involved in an injury accident, if someone in your group, or a third party has injury, you need to have coverage. There is a significant cost differential in pre-buying this coverage before you leave home, and the cost at the front desk of the car rental company.
The third and final area to ensure you have some cover in place is Roadside Breakdown Ensure you have cover that includes re-patriation to your accommodation or destination of choice and picks up all the costs of recovery of the rental vehicle and getting you back behind the wheel of a new rental vehicle as painlessly as possible. I speak from bitter experience. The rental Companies are very naughty. They rely on supplying mainly less than 12 month old vehicles which will be mostly reliable. They do minimal servicing. But things like blow outs, breakdowns still happen and you’ll be left carrying the costs if it happens to you. Again they charge a large uplift at the front desk for this extra coverage. Most travel policies sold in Europe do not automatically cover this either, but you can usually add the coverage for a nominal sum at a fraction of what you will pay locally. In the US/CA your AAA or usual Auto policy should cover you for rental coverage….so this issue affects mainly travellers only from outside of the USA.