Why Purchasing Rental Car Insurance Isn’t Necessarily a Waste of Money

I recounted in my last post the many adventures we had driving 1,750 miles from Illinois to Arizona where we damaged not one, but two rental cars.  We saved $100 by not purchasing the rental car company’s auto insurance, but that decision cost us $500 in our deductible.  Not my brightest move ever.

If you think, like I did, that a rental car company’s insurance is a scam that should be avoided like the plague, here are some reasons why you might want to reconsider:

The Rental Car Company Has a Different Standard Than You

Rental Car InsuranceThe rental car company we used said any damage smaller than the size of a quarter, they would let slide.  Anything bigger than that, and it needed to be repaired.

Any time you drive a car, you risk bumps and scratches to the car’s exterior.  I have a large scratch on the back of my vehicle that I find annoying, but not worth the price of paying my $500 deductible.  I’m guessing your own vehicle has similar scratches and dents.  They’re minor, and you don’t want to spend the money to repair them.

The choice is yours because it’s your vehicle.  However, if it’s bigger than a quarter, the rental car company is going to make the repair, and you will pay if you don’t take out the rental car company’s insurance.

Your Insurance Premium May Go Up

Another reason people let minor dents and scratches on their own vehicles slide is because they don’t want to face a claim and risk having their insurance go up.

Some people even do this for more major repairs.  Several years ago, a man rear-ended me, and he chose to pay the $1,400 for the repair to me directly so he could avoid submitting the claim to his insurance and risk having his premium go up.

If you don’t purchase the rental car company’s auto insurance, you’ll have to choose to pay out of pocket or to risk having your premium go up.

How to Decide If You Should Purchase Insurance from the Rental Car Company

To decide whether or not purchasing insurance from the rental car company is worthwhile, ask yourself these questions:

1.  Have you made any claims on your insurance in the last three to five years?  If so, you will probably want to purchase the rental insurance; in the long run, that will be cheaper than facing a spike in your insurance.

2.  How far do you have to drive?  Of course, accidents can happen anywhere, but if you’re renting a car for the weekend and driving it around your hometown, you may be able to avoid rental insurance.  Our problem was that we were driving 3,500 miles round trip in an area we were unfamiliar with.  Things like dead deer and street sweepers on the highway pose risks that you can’t foresee before the trip

3.  How high is your deductible?  If your deductible is anywhere from $500 to $1,000, purchasing rental insurance may be smarter, especially if it is going to be less than $100.

What is your opinion?  Purchase car rental auto insurance or just rely on your own car insurance?

Original img credit: Insurance Disclaimer on Flickr

How Trying to Save $100 Cost Me $500

My husband was offered a job in Arizona, 1,750 miles from where we current live in Chicago, Illinois.  Because neither of us had been to Arizona before, we wanted to visit before we committed to living there.  Time was of the essence, and booking a last minute flight for the two of us was expensive, so we decided to drive.

We also decided to rent a car for the trip to save wear and tear on our car and pay less in gas (our family car is a minivan, so a small sedan would use much less gas).

Being frugal, I decided not to buy the rental car company’s insurance.  I had called my auto insurance company, and they assured me that my coverage would cover any damage to a rental car.

By not buying the rental company’s car insurance, I saved $100, or so I thought.

I was wrong.

Traveling Long Distances in Desolate Areas

100 cost me 500I was proud of my penny pinching ways until our first night on the road.  We were driving along a desolate stretch in Oklahoma; it was dark, and we were ready to stop for the night.  A semi was in front of us and swerved at the last minute.  We had no time to wonder why; a deer carcass was straight in our path.  Even though my husband swerved, he still hit it.  We felt the thump under our car and feared the worst.

When we got to the hotel, we didn’t see any damage to the bumper, so we thought we had lucked out.

That thought soon faded when we were driving through Texas the next day and heard something clicking against the tire.  A piece of the interior bumper was hanging down and hitting the tire.  We pushed it back in and thought all was well until we hit the brakes in Santa Fe and felt resistance on the tire.  Yep, the piece had fallen down again.

Long story short, in Arizona, we traded out the vehicle for a different one and had to pay a $500 deposit for the repair.

Street Sweeper Causes Havoc

On the way back home, in our new rental vehicle, we ran into a street sweeper on the highway in New Mexico.  (Seriously?  I have never seen a street sweeper sweeping the highway!)

As we passed the street sweeper, what seemed like a million pebbles pelted our windshield.  I think my husband and I cursed in unison when we heard a particularly nasty hit on the windshield and saw a chip in the windshield, right in the middle of the driver’s side.

Car rental number two, and another injury to the car.

Sigh.  Suddenly my decision to try to save $100 by not getting the rental company’s car insurance didn’t seem like such a good idea.

Luckily, when we turned in the second car, we weren’t charged for the damage to the windshield.  (Any dent or scratch smaller than the size of a quarter, the rental car company let’s slide.)

Still, my desire to save $100, ended up costing me $500!

Stay tuned for part two, where I’ll explain in more detail why rental car companies’ insurance isn’t the waste of money we all think.


The Argument for Freezing Credit: Is Your Social Security Number Easily Found on the Web?

You’ve likely heard about the recent security breaches at popular stores like Target, Neiman Marcus and Michael’s.  While it’s bad enough that so many customers’ security was compromised, what’s even worse is the reports that these customers’ personal and credit information often ends up on a large database to be bought by criminals for as little as $40.

You might imagine some shady database that is hard to find unless you’re a criminal.

Unfortunately, the truth is that your personal information is surprisingly easy to find on the web.

Hiding in Plain Sight on the Internet

Freezing CreditMy husband and I are searching for a house.  Like any diligent buyer, I searched the Internet for the address of the house we’re interested in.  (I did this just to make sure it had not been the scene of a murder or crime or meth bust.  Every perspective home buyer does this, right?)

While I didn’t turn up anything amiss with the home, I was shocked when I happened upon a site that touted itself as a reverse social security number look up.  The address I was searching was there, complete with the owner’s social security number.  In fact, every social security number that was listed had either the number holder’s full name or address.

Scary stuff!

You Can’t Control What Happens to Your Personal Information

The simple truth is, no matter how cautious you are about not sharing your social security number or making sure to shred all documents containing your personal information, you can’t control all aspects of that information.

If you’re living a normal life and using a credit card or debit card, you might be the victim of a company’s security breach (even though you did everything right to protect your identity).  Your own information could very well end up on the web even if you’re diligent about not having a web footprint.

Consider Freezing Your Credit

My friend recently had her identity stolen.  She found out fairly quickly–within 3 days, but by then the thief had already charged over $20,000.  She’s spent hours trying to clear her name while also caring for her 5 young children during the day.  I can’t imagine the stress she’s under right now.

Truth is, that could happen to any of us, especially when our personal information is so freely available on the web.

If you want to protect your name, identity, and credit score, the best way to do so is to freeze your credit.

First, to clear up a misconception, if you freeze your credit, the credit lines you already have open will not be affected.  You can use your credit as normal with no inconvenience.

However, freezing credit does have a few inconveniences.  If you want to open a new line of credit or even apply for a new apartment, for instance, you’ll need to thaw your credit.  Depending on the state you live in, this can cost anywhere from $2 to $10.  Initially freezing your credit also costs about $10 per credit bureau.

My husband and I have had our credit frozen since 2009 when we had our eBay account hacked and $1,000 was purchased over night.  I plan to keep our credit frozen for the rest of our lifetimes, thawing only when needed (like we did a few weeks ago to pre-qualify for a home loan), especially now that I know social security numbers and other personal information are so easy to find on the web.

Have you frozen your credit?  If not, would you consider doing so?

(Editors note: Freezing your credit is the best way to stop a lot of this stuff from happening.  It’s what many of the services like LifeLock (not recommended) really do. Alternatively, there are ID theft protection services like Credit Karma that you can use that will monitor your credit and credit score without the freeze, or in coordination with a freeze.)