Remember the last time you drove a rental car in a snow storm? How your anxiety level ratcheted up with the iced over windshield, treacherous roads, and blowing snow reducing visibility to zero? You're in an unfamiliar vehicle, so what would happen if you don't judge the brakes right or if you underestimate the responsiveness of the steering? It's times like this that you wonder if you should have taken the rental car company up on their insurance offer.
Undoubtedly, having your approach to this kind of insurance sorted out before you arrive at your destination is the preferred way to travel – one less worry and headache to deal with. And one less risk to your financial well-being. Don't leave this important question an unsolved mystery as you stare blankly at the customer service rep at the counter and she asks you again if you want the coverage or not. The good news is that you probably can say "no thanks" because you are covered already. Here's how you find out for sure:
- Check with your auto insurance company. Your policy will likely cover you if you are driving a rental car in the same country as your policy is based. If you are traveling abroad, then you may or may not have coverage – you need to check. The big insurance companies usually have partner programs in place with certain rental car companies, too. This is a good deal because not only can you get a substantial discount with the rental car company, but you can get extended coverage due to the agreements negotiated between the insurance company and their partners.
- Check with your credit card company. If you rent a car using their credit card, then the credit card company will often have a rental car coverage clause in the fine print. It's worth 10 minutes of poring through it to save some bucks and uncertainty at the counter. To qualify for the coverage the credit card company will usually instruct you to decline the rental car agency's insurance. The benefits of the credit card's insurance are pretty good (coverage on deductibles from your primary insurance, physical damage to the vehicle, theft of the vehicle), but there is usually a long list of things not covered, too (like SUVs, trucks, and theft of personal items). You need to understand what you're getting and what your not, so print this out or copy it and keep it with your travel items.
- Check with your employer. If you're traveling on business, your employers will typically have insurance that covers their employees who drive on company business. Check with Finance or HR to see if you should take the insurance from the rental car company or decline it. Your company will usually have a policy in place already about how to handle this.
In the unlikely event that you don't have coverage from one of these angles, then yes, take the rental car coverage. But it should be a last resort.