What Does My Auto Insurance Policy Cover When I Rent a Car?

by Robert Moore

When you rent a car, you'll probably be asked if you want to purchase the additional rental insurance provided by the agency. Deciding is not always easy. On the one hand, it can be pricey, and it's possible you might already have more than enough coverage. On the other hand, you don't want to forego coverage unless you're 100 percent sure you don't need it. Checking the wrong box on that rental form could potentially result in some pretty hefty out-of-pocket expenses in the event of an unfortunate mishap.

Your Insurance

According to Geico, if you already have full coverage on your personal vehicle -- including comprehensive, collision and liability coverage -- your insurance policy will normally extend to any rental that has a value close to that of your personal vehicle. This type of coverage will even cover you if the rental is considered a total loss in the event of an accident. There is a thin line between being covered and being under-insured, however. Before you turn down coverage at the rental desk, give your insurance agent a call to make sure you understand exactly what is covered when you rent a car, and what isn't. If your personal policy doesn't cover everything, you'll want to purchase whichever coverage your current policy is lacking at the rental desk.

Rental Insurance Options

Rental companies offer a handful of different coverage options. There is the waiver of damage, which covers all or part of the cost for any damage or theft of your rental – assuming you've complied with the terms of your rental contract. Supplemental liability coverage covers you – often up to $1 million – if you're sued by the other parties in an accident. Personal accident coverage covers medical bills and death for the driver and passengers of your rental care. Personal property insurance covers personal items in the event that someone breaks into the vehicle.


  • If you decline insurance coverage from the rental company, and your current policy doesn't cover you, you will be considered an uninsured driver in the event of an accident. You will be liable for all medical bills and auto repairs, along with any other judgments against you if you don't have coverage.

Credit Card Insurance?

According to eSurance.com, it is possible that you have at least some coverage from the bank that issued the credit card you use to rent a car. Most major credit card companies include at least collision coverage if you use their credit cards to pay for your rental car. Some companies even offer additional coverage that you can purchase that may be cheaper than what the rental company offers. Contact the customer service department at the number listed on the back of your credit card and ask about coverage options.

Health Insurance

Your current health insurance may also provide coverage for you, your passengers and anyone else that may be injured in an at-fault accident. Go over your health insurance policy and compare the limits to your state required minimums. Even if your health insurance covers you in a rental car, you might need to purchase the supplemental liability insurance.

About the Author

Robert Moore started writing professionally in 2002. His career started has head writer and Web designer for VFW post 1224 in Hamburg, Michigan. He has prepared business plans, proposals and grant requests. Moore is a state of Michigan-certified mechanic and is pursuing an Associate of Arts in automotive technology from Lansing Community College.