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.

 

How Much Car Insurance Coverage Do You Need?

Car insurance, like most insurances, can seem complicated.  Deciding just how much car insurance coverage you need is the biggest hurdle.  Of course, it’s easy to select the coverage that meets the requirements of your state and the lien holder (of you owe on a loan for the car, you’ve got a lien holder, and it’s likely the bank you borrowed from), but those aren’t the only factors to take into account when deciding on how much coverage you need.  In the end, you’ve got to find a coverage that will meet those requirements, and also fit within your budget.

State Requirements

You’ll want to know what the state requires you to have for insurance.  Any local insurance provider should be able to tell you, but you’ll want to double check if you’re planning on using an out of state or online provider.  If you still owe on your car, the lender on your loan will likely require that you have full coverage, so the state minimums will likely only come into play if you own the car you’ll be insuring.

Lien Holder Requirements

If you owe on your car, you’ve got a lien holder.  The lien holder is whomever you borrowed the money from.  Most (if not all) lenders will require that you carry full coverage insurance on the car.  It has nothing to do with them wanting to make sure you’re safe, and all to do with making sure that should you get in an accident, that they’ll get some of their money for the loan.  While most lien holders won’t require a certain level of insurance (over full coverage), it is a good idea to find out what they require just to make sure that you’re getting the coverage that you need.

Deciding on Coverage Levels

Car AccidentOnce you know the requirements of the state and any lien holders, you’ve got to decide on the level of car insurance coverage you want.  There are two ways to look at this.  The first is that you’ve got to find a coverage and provider that is affordable enough to fit into your budget.  The second is usually the forgotten way of looking at insurance.  The coverage doesn’t just have to fit into your budget, it also needs to cover you against a total loss.  If you have full coverage, but it’s only enough to cover a portion of what you owe on the car, you’ll also want to look at something that’s usually called “Gap Insurance”.  Gap insurance is aptly named in that it is designed to cover any gap between the value of the car and the remaining loan should the car be totaled before you pay it off.  Car insurance can be a combination of three coverages.  A liability coverage (usually what States require), Comp & Collision, and personal injury.  The exact levels that you need will vary based on your situation, but your insurance provider should be able to make recommendations for you.

How Much Deductible for Car Insurance

One of the easiest ways to lower the monthly cost of your car insurance coverage is to raise the deductible on your policy.  This method is a bit of a double-edged sword, however.  Raise it too high, and you might not be able to afford to have the car fixed.  Or, anything short of a major collision may fall under the amount of the deductible.  Again, your insurance provider should be able to help you compare the different deductible levels and help you find one that fits your budget without breaking you if you get in an accident.

The level of coverage that you need is going to be drastically different based on your own individual situation.  Do you own your car, or owe on your car?  Do you have sufficient savings to cover a higher deductible in an emergency?  What are the requirements of your state and any lien holders?  Make sure you know all that information before you go looking for car insurance, and remember to double check any suggestions by an insurance provider.  We’d all like to think that they are all honest, but not all of them are.  Knowing at least a little about what you’re talking about, and the information required to ask informed questions is a huge step towards not getting taken advantage of.

How much do you know about car insurance?  How much have you learned since the first time you bought insurance?

img credit:stupid.fotos on Flickr.