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Our attorneys’ top 4 rental car “musts” when at the rental car counter

When it comes to rental car insurance coverage, sometimes paying a little extra can prevent huge financial losses after a car crash on vacation


This is the time of year when rental car counters are lined up with people going out of town for the Fourth of July weekend. And as an auto accident attorney, I’m asked many questions from my clients, friends and family about just what kind of car rental insurance coverage is best when you’re at the rental counter.

Today, I’m summing up the top 4 “musts” you need to know when renting a car.

  1. You must be the renter if you’re driving: If you’re driving a rental vehicle, are not the person who rented it and don’t have authorized use of the vehicle, you can be forfeiting your rights as well as the rights of the person on the rental agreement. Check with the rental agency as to what their policy is regarding additional drivers. Some companies automatically allow a spouse to drive the vehicle without specifically naming them on the rental agreement, but every rental company is different. If you have to pay extra, then you have to pay extra.  Understand what risk you take if you don’t and a serious car accident occurs and your spouse or someone not specifically authorized to drive is behind the wheel. The insurance company may then argue that the claim should not be paid. In some states, like Michigan, the contract will control and you can lose the right to No Fault insurance benefits. This is extremely important, so don’t be tempted to wink it away at the rental car counter.
  2. Check to see if you have collision coverage: If you don’t have collision coverage on your regular vehicle, you won’t have it on your rental vehicle. If you only have PLPD on your regular vehicle, then you need to purchase the damage loss waiver coverage on your rental vehicle. It makes it much easier to return the car. If you have to pay extra, then you have to pay extra. Accidents happen frequently and you don’t want to be left with a huge damage bill.
  3. Check your insurance policy: Check your regular insurance policy to see if it covers rental vehicles as a “temporary replacement vehicle,” even if you’re on vacation. Some insurance companies will only extend coverage to a rental vehicle if your regular vehicle is in a shop being repaired. If this is true, you will need to purchase liability coverage in addition to the damage loss waiver on your rental vehicle if you’re driving it on vacation. I’ve read a surprising number of insurance policies that do not cover rental cars, so be careful.
  4. You’re responsible for the right coverage: You and you alone are responsible for making sure you have the insurance coverage you need — on your rental agreement and your regular car. As an attorney, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told that someone asked for different coverage, or more coverage than what the insurance policy shows. The insurance policy will control if a car accident occurs and the coverage is different than what you think you have. The takeaway is if you purchase coverage for your rental vehicle, you must double-check that they actually gave those coverages to you.  My advice is to confirm at the counter and ask the rental car company employee to show you where it is on your agreement before you leave the building and drive the car off the lot.

Related information:

How an accident lawyer chooses a rental car

Do I need to purchase insurance coverage on a rental car if I have Michigan No Fault?

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Blog Author Steven M. Gursten
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