When Renting A Car, Is Short Term Insurance Necessary?

There are various reasons why a person would need to rent a car. Some of the reasons that you would need to visit your local car rental office include:

Your own car is being repaired due to an accident,

You are expecting out-of-town guests and want them to have access to their own transportation,

You are going on a vacation and your car is not in a condition suitable for a lengthy trip, or

You have a leased car and heading out of town and don’t want to add additional miles nor the extra wear and tear on the tires.

My husband and I haven’t had to rent many cars in our lives, but for the most part, I haven’t heard too many bad things about car rental agencies – that is until we had our own problem with one that we rented a car from. The following account is from personal history that could happen to anyone – especially if you are senior citizen and haven’t had to deal too much with these things before.

Car Rental Agent Suggested Short Term Insurance
Several years ago we had a personal experience in needing to rent a car due to damages to our car from an accident and our car was in a garage for repairs. Never having rented a car, we were unaware of what was involved. I was laid up with some injuries but I was able to make the rental arrangements for the most part over the phone and my husband went to pick up the car.
When I made the initial call to find out the specifics of renting a car, the rental agent at some point suggested that we take out a short term insurance policy from their agency which would cover any damage to the rental car while we were renting it. It made sense to us so we elected to get the insurance. We didn’t realize the insurance from our own car insurance policy covered car rentals – which we found out later.
When my husband picked up the car I don’t know if the full details of the insurance policy were fully explained then. I’m also not sure if my husband heard everything completely, if it was ever explained in full, because of my husband’s hearing difficulty. But we had rented a car and started the wait for ours to get out of the auto repair garage.

Our Car Took Longer To Fix
Our own car took longer to fix due to ordering parts and we ran over the time we thought we would need the rental car. We called the car rental agency and they said that we could continue to rent the car and that there was nothing we needed to do to keep the car. When we were finally ready to turn in the car it was 5 or 6 weeks later. The time that we could drop the car off was after the agency was closed for the day, but we were told to drop key in a slot in the door and leave car locked and parked on their lot. So that’s what we did. End of story.

Surprise Rental Car Bill In The Mail
Much to our surprise, several days later the rental car company’s billing statement arrived showing that we owed close to $900.00 for the rental insurance and an over-extension on the policy. Our insurance claims adjuster told us this amount was far beyond the benefit our policy would pay for a rental car and that we’d owe the balance. He also suggested that we didn’t need the coverage at all because we were insured with our policy for any rental car that we needed. None of this was ever explained to us.
Well, needless to say, we were pretty upset and felt terribly taken advantage of. In a phone call I made to the rental agency, I explained our displeasure of the charges, the salesman’s strong pitch they made to us for the insurance, the fact that no one mentioned to us the extension on the insurance when we called about needing the car for more time, and it wasn’t according to our understanding of what we’d owe.

Finally Negotiated A Settlement But We Had To Pay
Unfortunately, it took several phone calls and discussions with others in the agency which were not very nice to get things resolved. But in the end, the rental car company finally agreed to lower the amount due on the rental insurance to $200 which we were forced to pay to settle up our bill.
Being seniors on fixed income, this was quite a hardship for us. I have since learned that in addition to our insurance company picking up the insurance coverage for us in another car that several major credit cards have a benefit where they’ll cover damages on a rental car if I use their card to pay for the rental charges.
The lesson for all of us is not to allow ourselves to be persuaded to buy unnecessary insurance from Car Rental Agencies. After all, I imagine that their salesmen are urging everyone to get this insurance due to the commission that would be earned.
So, Senior Consumer Beware!
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