Rental Car Insurance: Do You Need It?

Maria Sanchez
Written by
Maria Sanchez
Photo of an Insurify author
Written by
Maria Sanchez
Insurance Writer
Maria Sanchez is a personal finance writer specializing in auto, home, and renters insurance. With a special interest in educational content, Maria distills complex financial information to be more accessible to the greater public. She holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts and the London School of Economics.
Jackie Cohen
Edited by
Jackie Cohen
Photo of an Insurify author
Edited by
Jackie Cohen
Editorial Manager
Jackie Cohen is an editorial manager at Insurify specializing in property & casualty insurance educational content. She has years of experience analyzing insurance trends and helping consumers better understand their insurance coverage to make informed decisions about their finances.Jackie's work has been cited in USA Today, The Balance, and The Washington Times.

Updated July 21, 2022

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Insurify is America's highest-rated insurance comparison platform. We partner with the nation's top insurance companies and are licensed as an agent in all 50 states. However, the insurance experts writing our content operate independently of our partners, and you can learn more about how we make money by viewing our advertising disclosures. Also check out reviews from over 3,000 satisfied customers, our data methodology, and our editorial standards.

Renting a car gives you the same ease of transportation that owning a car provides, but without having to worry about the same costs. But whether it’s a rental car or your own, you still need to make sure you have auto insurance coverage before getting behind the wheel. Especially in the case of driving a car that is not your own, you want to make sure you have rental car insurance.

Whether it’s rental car coverage or homeowners insurance, these policies are here to make sure you’re not paying out of pocket for any accidents. Insurify is here to help you find the best rates on insurance policies. Getting quality coverage shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg. All it takes is a few minutes to set up your profile so we can give you a side-by-side quote comparison!

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Quick Facts

  • Rental car companies offer multiple different types of coverage that you can buy (or not).

  • You might already have rental car insurance through your credit card or other policies.

  • Renting a car doesn’t require you to have your own auto insurance policy, but having one can help.

Rental Car Insurance: The Basics

Do I need to purchase rental car insurance?

Generally, regular auto insurance will cover damages to a rental car. However, it’s never a bad idea to purchase the rental company’s supplemental coverage for extra protection.

One of the great benefits of renting a car is that you don’t need to have your own personal auto insurance policy—or any of the other costs or responsibilities that come with car ownership—in order to have the temporary convenience of a car. Unlike the work that goes with setting up your own personal car insurance, you can simply buy car insurance coverage at the rental counter.

However, this means that it is just a temporary policy with coverage options that will only protect you from accidents related to the rental car and not for other mishaps that happen during your trip. For example, if you go to the hospital on vacation for a reason unrelated to your rental car, you should have your own health insurance policy or travel insurance to cover medical costs.

What It Covers

If you choose to rent a car, it is smart to insure yourself so that you’re not left paying entirely out of pocket for any damage, loss, and liability expenses you incur while you’re behind the wheel. Even worse, if the rental vehicle is stolen or totaled and you don’t have coverage, you might find yourself buying the rental car company an entirely new car to replace the loss.

Similar to other policies from standard insurance providers, rental car insurance is a bundle of different coverage options that apply to different situations. In some cases, an auto insurance policy you have for your own car can actually be applied to a rental car. If you are ever unsure of what your coverage options are, you can speak with an insurance agent who can help you out.

See More: Best Car Insurance Companies

The Four Types of Car Rental Insurance Coverage

Typically, car rental companies will have four different types of coverage that you can choose to accept or decline when you’re checking out your rental vehicle. These differ slightly from what you would be offered by an auto insurance company just because rental is temporary coverage, but they protect you in more or less the same way to give you peace of mind behind the wheel.

However, note you might already have some (or all) of these types of coverage from other pre-existing policies you own, so be sure to look over your own insurance options and your coverage limits before you make any extra purchases at the counter. In some cases, you might just need one or two types or even just an add-on, rather than spending money on all of them.

See More: Car Insurance Quotes

Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) or Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)

Essentially collision insurance, this has you covered in the case of damage to the rental car. In the case of a standard auto accident where you crash into something accidentally, having this type of coverage will make sure that you’re not left paying for repair costs if the rental car is damaged. This even protects your rental car from theft if it is stolen while under your contract.

You might already have this coverage through a car insurance policy you already own or even through your credit card company. If you already have an auto insurance policy for your own car, check if you have collision and comprehensive coverage. This could extend to a rental car if you rent in the U.S. or Canada. In this case, you would still need to pay your deductible.

Liability Coverage

Unlike collision insurance, which protects the rental car against damage or theft, liability insurance is here to protect you against damage you might cause to other people’s vehicles or personal property. Say you’re found at fault for causing a fender bender or even property damage, like backing up into someone’s fence. This coverage can help you avoid paying out of pocket.

You may already have this through your own car insurance policy with liability insurance. Note that there could be international exclusions on a rental agreement if you rent a car outside of the U.S. or Canada. You can also buy additional protection at the rental agency if your own policy only provides minimal coverage. This will typically cover damage from $300,000 to $1 million.

Personal Accident Coverage

Personal accident insurance is here to help you pay for medical bills in the case you and/or your passengers are hurt in an accident. The last thing you want to worry about on vacation is going to the hospital and making medical payments in a foreign country. Some car rental companies will use this coverage for emergency medical care, transportation, and other unexpected costs.

You might already have this through your own health insurance policy. Check to see if your pre-existing policy offers international protection or travel medical insurance. Also, your own auto insurance policy might offer personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments coverage for medical expenses, like ambulance or hospital bills, in the U.S. or Canada.

Personal Effects Coverage

With this coverage, you have peace of mind knowing that your personal items are covered (up to a certain cash value) if they are stolen from the rental car. Similar to personal property coverage, this type of car rental insurance makes sure you get a reimbursement to help pay the costs of replacing your things. Items like luggage, camera equipment, and more are all insured.

You might already have this through your own homeowners or renters insurance policy. Check your policy or speak with an agent to see if your possessions are protected from theft, even when traveling out of the U.S. or renting a car overseas. However, filing a claim on your own policy could cause your rates to rise, just like how they would with an auto insurance claim.

See More: Cheap Car Insurance

Your Credit Card Might Offer Car Rental Insurance Already

Don’t spend more money than you need to! Certain credit cards—mainly those for travel—offer coverage for rental cars. However, note that credit card benefits only cover Loss Damage Waivers or Collision Damage Waivers. Also, benefits depend on what card issuer you have, so do your research and check your benefits statement so you know if you’re protected.

Primary vs. Secondary Coverage

If you use rental protection through your credit card, be sure to check if your card offers primary coverage or secondary coverage. Primary is ideal, as filing a claim using your card won’t raise your premium or require you to meet your personal policy’s deductible. If it acts as secondary, know that filing a claim on your own policies, even in a rental car, could raise your premium.

Here’s what you need to know:

Primary coverage: Incredibly beneficial, but also incredibly rare, very few credit cards offer this type of protection. When it acts as your primary insurance, filing a claim this way won’t raise your premium because you can file directly through your credit card company before applying for reimbursement elsewhere, like a pre-existing insurance policy.

Secondary coverage: This coverage is helpful, but only after you get reimbursement or support from any other pre-existing insurance policies you might already have. The good news is that benefits from your credit card, even as a second resort, might reimburse you for any deductibles you owe on another policy after filing a rental car claim.

See More: Best and Worst Sites to Compare Car Insurance

Long Story Short: You Should Have Rental Car Insurance

At the end of the day, no one wants to be stuck paying for unexpected costs, especially while on vacation or out of the country. If you find yourself driving a car that isn’t yours, make sure you’re covered so you’re not left with huge repair—or even replacement—bills. Car rental agencies offer four different types of coverage, but check to see if you already have protection elsewhere.

You might already have collision or liability coverage through your own car insurance policy! If you want the cheapest rates on quality coverage, Insurify works to help you compare quotes from hundreds of insurance companies in the market. Renting a car might be pricey, but your insurance coverage doesn’t have to be. In just a few minutes, you can get your free quote today.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Absolutely! One of the benefits of renting a car is being able to have the convenience of a car without all the costs. However, in most countries, car rental companies are required by law to include some type of coverage to make sure their cars are insured. Rental agencies in the U.S. and Canada usually require renters to pay for CDW and LDW insurance in order to take the car.

  • Sales representatives at car rental agencies will offer you different types of coverage when you check out at the counter. If you have no other policies, you should consider buying coverage here to protect yourself behind the wheel of a rental. However, you may already have protection through other policies you already have, like health or homeowners, or even via your credit card.

  • Usually, credit cards with travel benefits are more likely to offer rental car insurance. If you’re willing to pay an annual fee, check out the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred, Visa’s Ink Business Preferred, and airline cards, like the United Explorer Card. A lot of credit cards offer rewards, so be sure to do your research and check for exclusions and limits.

  • Rental cars can be convenient but pricey. With costs like a GPS, tolls, prepaid gas, and renting for multiple days in a row, expenses add up. One of the best ways you can save is by having your own car insurance policy so you don’t have to buy coverage at the counter. Insurify can help you compare quotes from different insurance companies to get you the best deal.

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  • Data scientists at Insurify analyzed over 40 million auto insurance rates across the United States to compile the car insurance quotes, statistics, and data visualizations displayed on this page. The car insurance data includes coverage analysis and details on drivers' vehicles, driving records, and demographic information. With these insights, Insurify is able to offer drivers insight into how their car insurance premiums are priced by companies.

Maria Sanchez
Written by
Maria Sanchez

Insurance Writer

Maria Sanchez is a personal finance writer specializing in auto, home, and renters insurance. With a special interest in educational content, Maria distills complex financial information to be more accessible to the greater public. She holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts and the London School of Economics.

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Jackie Cohen
Edited by
Jackie Cohen
Linkedin

Editorial Manager

Photo of an Insurify author
Edited by
Jackie Cohen
Editorial Manager
Jackie Cohen is an editorial manager at Insurify specializing in property & casualty insurance educational content. She has years of experience analyzing insurance trends and helping consumers better understand their insurance coverage to make informed decisions about their finances.Jackie's work has been cited in USA Today, The Balance, and The Washington Times.