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Who’s eager to discuss insurance deductibles, liability and waivers when they’re standing at the rental car counter? Nobody: It’s a good bet you’re already in a traveling mindset when you suddenly face a quick barrage of multiple insurance options – and now the trip is stalled. With some easy pre-trip research, though, you can be confident you’re making the right financial decision in these moments – ensuring you’re covered behind the wheel and making the best use of your travel money.

What Rental Insurance Offers

Typical coverage offered at the rental car counter covers a range of situations, from crashes and theft to injuries and stolen property. Your own personal insurance may or may not apply to these, so it’s important to begin with an understanding of each situation.

Collision/loss insurance – sometimes referred to as a waiver – covers damage suffered by the vehicle in a crash or theft of the vehicle. Liability insurance covers any harm done to another person or their property – but not to you or yours – while you’re behind the wheel. Personal accident insurance will cover you and your passengers in the event of injuries resulting from a car crash, while personal effects insurance will cover your property if it’s stolen from a rented car.

Do You Need It?

The only way to know for sure whether you’re covered in any or all of these instances when renting a car is to call your insurance company before you go. In most cases, if you have a good auto insurance policy, you’re likely covered under all the items that rental insurance would handle, although you should keep in mind that you will still be responsible for any deductible under your personal insurance.

Since rental insurance generally doesn’t include deductibles, you’ll need to weigh the amount of your personal policy’s deductibles against the total cost of the rental car company insurance to help determine if it’s truly worth it. (And make sure you’re clear on the costs: Several per-day insurance fees can add a bundle to the price of a rental over the course of a trip.)

There are also a few general insurance trends that provide some directional guidance. For example, most drivers’ personal comprehensive auto insurance – which would cover collision damage and vehicle loss – extends to rental cars as well. If your personal auto policy isn’t comprehensive, or doesn’t include collision coverage, you might consider adding it at the rental counter.

A few more things to keep in mind:

  • Credit cards used to secure rental cars sometimes include coverage that supplements your primary auto insurance policy. Call your credit card provider to see if you’re covered.
  • Most personal auto insurance policies apply only to cars rented on personal trips – not business. If you’re renting a car on a business trip and the decision at the counter is going to be in your hands, check with your employer ahead of time.
  • International travelers tend to purchase the extra rental car insurance when driving abroad, since most personal policies don’t extend outside the country. Variations in traffic laws and driving conditions also heighten the risk of accidents.

Be Prepared

The best move is simply to make insurance planning a part of your travel preparation checklist: Call your auto insurance provider and credit card company, and ask questions about your policy’s coverage when it comes to rental cars. You also may want to confirm any specific coverage requirements in the area where you’ll be driving.

Understanding the benefits you already have, coupled with the knowledge of what you’ll need and the costs of supplemental insurance, will ensure you don’t overspend on an unnecessary policy – keeping more of your money where it belongs.

This information and recommendations contained herein are compiled from sources deemed reliable, but are not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or are offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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