Renting a Car on Your Vacation? Read This Before You Do!

When you go on vacation it is usually a mystery whether or not you need to buy the “extra” insurance coverage when you finally make your way to the rental counter. After traveling all day the last thing you want to do is read the five-page rental contract that 99% of the time people just sign.

Basically what you are signing (besides the rate per day etc.) is a valid contract where you acknowledge that you are responsible for whatever happens to the rental car including any lawsuit you get the Rental Car Company involved in. They don’t care whether it was your fault or not. This wonderful (insert sarcasm here) lopsided contract also makes you responsible for any damage to the other car or any other property damage you cause.

Perhaps you’ve asked this or heard someone else ask when the Rental Car Company employee asks you if you wish to purchase the extra insurance coverage: “Does my own auto insurance policy cover me for any of this”? The standard answer that they give is “every state is different so we can’t answer that question.”. The truth is they don’t know what is covered under your auto insurance policy.

The good news is that as long as you have Massachsuetts Personal (note the word: personal) Auto Insurance policy that has Collision and Comprehensive coverage, your policy will extend to cover the Rental Car as if it’s your own car. It is considered a “temporary substitute” under the Massachsuetts Auto policy. This means you do not need to buy the extra insurance they will try to sell you. Provided that:

  • You have an active Personal Auto Insurance policy
  • Your Personal Auto Policy has Collision and Comprehensive coverage
  • The Rental Car agreement is in your personal name (not in a business name- as it is a contract)

Other important things to keep in mind:

  • Your policy only extends/covers you while driving anywhere in (whether you’re driving your own vehicle or a Rental Car) the United States (It’s Territories and its possessions) and Canada. That’s it. Coverage will not apply to any other country.
  • Your Personal Auto Insurance policy will only cover personal type of vehicles. If you rent a U-Haul truck for example, your Massachusetts Personal Auto policy will not grant you coverage because a Box Truck doesn’t meet the definition of private passenger.
  • Your Personal Auto Policy work as excess coverage. The rental car does have some insurance coverage on it as they by law need to have at least minimum liability coverage. Usually it’s just liability coverage and again it’s minimal at best. Your Auto Insurance policy covers any expenses left over (as long as it’s covered under your Auto Insurance policy) after the Rental Company’s insurance coverage is exhausted. They simply transfer all the risk to you the renter via the five-page contract that no one reads and you just signed.
  • Your Bodily Injury to Others, Uninsured and Underinsured coverages will apply as excess as well. Theses coverages will respond should the Rental Car Company’s limits become exhausted.
  • The “Collision Damage Waiver” that they try to sell you will only pay your deductible. That’s it. Don’t think for one second that they won’t file a claim against your insurance policy to get the damage to the rental car fixed.
  • Some Credit Card companies offer some type of supplemental coverage that may or may not pay for the damage to the rental car by using their card. You’ll need to understand exactly what it will and will not cover if anything. Call them before you leave for your trip.
  • The Rental Car Company may hold your deductible or deposit hostage until the claim process runs its course.

Give us a call prior to renting a car to make sure you have all your bases covered.


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