Who Offers Non-Owner Car Insurance in DC?
November 17, 2015 1:52 PM   Subscribe

We are urban homeowners who don't own a car, relying on various car sharing services around town. But we travel, and when we travel we often rent cars. Every time we rent cars, we end up having to pay $15/day for liability insurance. How can we become insured drivers without owning a car?

Our homeowners insurance is through Amica, who also do auto policies, but they don't offer non-owner policies. They referred us to Progressive.

We called Progressive, and they don't write non-owner policies in DC. They referred us to a local independent broker.

After a tip we called Amica back to ask about an umbrella policy ... but those attach to car policies, not homeowners policies, so that was also a no-go.

We then tried Geico, and they first referred us to Progressive, and then said the same thing about a local independent broker.

Today we called a local independent broker, and they said they'd do it through Progressive ... and then called us back after finding out that Progressive only underwrites non-owner policies in DC by court order (which we don't have, because we haven't done anything wrong and gotten ourselves into an SR-22 situation). The local broker's other auto underwriter, Erie, doesn't do non-owner policies either.

We've had two people recommend USAA, but we don't qualify for USAA.

Stuff like Insure My Rental Car and Allianz only covers the CDW/LDW, not liability, and we've already got robust CDW protection through our credit card (which doesn't do liability, natch).

So. $15/day isn't so bad on its own, but we have ten days of planned car rental before the end of the year, and a sixteen day long reservation already made for next year, so we'd like to quit paying that if we can. Can we? What are we missing?
posted by fedward to Travel & Transportation around United States (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Some credit cards will do something like this, so long as you use that card to pay for the rental.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:54 PM on November 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Not to threadsit, but our credit cards don't do liability either. CDW/LDW yes, liability no.
posted by fedward at 1:57 PM on November 17, 2015

I assume you've checked your car share services don't offer this, or have a preferred rental Corp that might offer it?

It's a hail-mary, but I think our local carshare offers liability.
posted by clvrmnky at 2:16 PM on November 17, 2015

Have you tried AAA? My friend used to have something like this through them, after he sold his car, to use for occasional driving.
posted by car s at 2:23 PM on November 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I use State Farm for this in DC. It is more than you might think: we pay $250 per six months. A few years ago, I got another quote - I think from Nationwide - and it was even higher. But in addition to saving the daily fee from traditional rentals, it also gives more protection for car-sharing (that is, we have more coverage than the default that comes with the car-sharing contract).
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:30 PM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

an umbrella policy … but those attach to car policies, not homeowners policies

I don't know your particular situation in DC (I'm not in DC), but my umbrella policy is attached to my homeowner's policy, not to my car insurance. Maybe it's worth looking again at umbrella policies.
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:34 PM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know about DC in particular, but I have mine through AAA in California. Better World Club also offers it, but it was sadly way more expensive than AAA. (I've paid $120-200/yr for mid-level coverage, with the major price difference coming from a change in city/zipcode.)

That said, state minimum liability is included with car rentals in many (most?) states, from what I can tell. (In California, it's not.) But perhaps you will feel better with more coverage anyway.
posted by ktkt at 2:37 PM on November 17, 2015

Best answer: Fireman's Fund offered this. They've since been bought out (twice), but Ace (and now Chubb) might still. It probably won't be cheap, though.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 2:51 PM on November 17, 2015

We are car owners with full coverage car insurance- when we had an accident in a rental, the car insurance covered the damage but not the "out of service" fee. $15/ day < $100/ day. We take the rental agency's insurance every time now. I'm not sure this is going to work the way you hope.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:51 PM on November 17, 2015

My non-ownership policy is bundled with USAA. I know they've opened up their banking services to non-members, less sure about their insurance services.
posted by politikitty at 3:38 PM on November 17, 2015

PorcineWithme, could you please explain (seems important). Your regular auto insurance would not pay the out-of-service fee, so it was out of pocket for you? What did your insurer say when you tried to submit the expense to them?
posted by michaelh at 3:44 PM on November 17, 2015

@PorcineWithMe: My insurer, Geico, has confirmed more than once they do not cover/reimburse out-of-service fees. Like you, I buy the coverage for that.
posted by justcorbly at 3:47 PM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sorry to keep on the out-of-service question, but trying to do the math suddenly seems complicated. My insurance policy, for example, has this exclusion and I find very similar wording at other insurers (the term to google seems to be 'loss of use' not 'out of service'):
Loss to, or loss of use of, a "non-owned
auto" rented by:
a. You; or
b. Any "family member";
if a rental vehicle company is precluded
from recovering such loss or loss of use,
from you or that "family member",
pursuant to the provisions of any
applicable rental agreement or state law
If I'm parsing that right, it's saying they won't cover loss of a rental or loss of use if the rental agreement doesn't allow collecting that money? That seems almost pointless to mention. But if they're saying they don't cover rental losses, period, I know that's not true because obviously auto insurance covers the actual loss of the rental car, or else Enterprise would never let you drive off without purchasing insurance that actually does something for their car.

Second, how's that $100/day calculated; do some rental companies provide a figure like that? I read Enterprise divides labor hours by 4 and multiplies by the daily rental, e.g. if you crash a $25/day Corolla and it takes 20 hours to repair, the loss of use fee would be 5*25 or $125. That could work out to $125/day if you crashed it right away, or $17/day if you had it for a week, hardly more than the insurance. It doesn't really seem tied to the actual length of rental.
posted by michaelh at 4:18 PM on November 17, 2015

Your credit card will cover loss of use, if and only if your primary coverage does not cover it and the rental company will substantiate the charges by showing a fleet usage log that indicates it actually caused them a loss due to no other cars being available. Most of them fold when the insurance company asks, though, because that almost never happens.
posted by wierdo at 4:27 PM on November 17, 2015

My card company has told me that failure to produce documentation of loss of use costs to an insurer does not mean they won't bill the customer.

It seems a muddle, with the variables involved.
posted by justcorbly at 4:44 PM on November 17, 2015

Our insurer does NOT cover the 'out of service' fee charged by the car rental company. I used $100 as an example. In our particular case, it was 13 days that the car was out of service (being repaired which is BS, but whatever, I can't prove that it's BS and our insurer doesn't care as it's not their problem)and the rental fee was $119 per day, so......yeah, we had to pay that as our policy does not cover it. Our credit card ALSO did not cover loss of use, though I'm sure that there are some out there that do. Our crash was with Sixt and our insurance is Geico and yes, we've tried everything and it's been a ridiculous cluster.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:55 PM on November 17, 2015

Best answer: I probably spent 40 or 50 hours researching this very issue in New York. Call your credit card company (and if you have more than one, from more than one provider, call them both), and ask them to send you a list of rental car benefits. In most cases, they cover collision, which is only activated if you pay for your entire car rental with that credit card.

Liability is the sticky wicket, and the insurance quotes I was given here in New York were absurdly expensive. On a tip, I finally looked up "liability rental car NY law," at which point I found the attorney general's page, which advised on all points of auto rental insurance, and learned that the state of NY requires rental agencies to pay minimum liability FOR you. This fact is not advertised (and it sure should be), and rental car agencies will still give you the Hard Sell, but if you read over the voluminous fine print accompanying the rental contract (which you can see online beforehand), you can find it.

Now all that said, I don't know if D.C. has any required liability coverage, but I do know for sure that Maryland does, so you might just do a search to make sure D.C. doesn't have some equivalent.
posted by Violet Blue at 10:27 PM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

OY! I am in the same state as others here. Urban homeowner, rent cars for ~20 days per year.

I too have researched this.

1) NO credit cards cover liability any more.

2) Violet blue has it, but the mandated liability coverage in NYC is ABSURDLY low (like, 50k/100k) - and all the rental companies provide the bare minimum for free. If you don't mind being bankrupted when sued if your accident incurs liability (regular 6 figure judgements are issued in the case of serious-or not so serious accidents!), fine, but if you are a homeowner, they can come for your house.....

I have researched this for NYC/queens and got several quotes as umbrella/non-driver insurance, these are all annual prices!! (Some of these are not competitive with regular car insurance fyi....)

State farm: $1350 250/500k - add another $250s year to get to $1MM via umbrella policy
Travelers: $1200/yr 250/500k coverage
Adirondack: $1050/yr 250/500k.
Geico: $700 yr 250/500k

none of which have the amount of liability you need (250k/500k is too low!) - most car rental places are $500k/1M I think.

I asked about "do you have a cheaper per day policy or maximum number of days policy" to all of the above providers. All said "no".

Basically:As it stands, If you rent for less than 45 days a year, it's worth ponying up the $15/day. Sorry.

I really hope someone steps in on this; if the market gets big enough and the risk pool increases, then someone could come up with a custom insurance product; it would be awesome if they got to $5/10 per day with some sort of annual fee..... STARTUPS AND CAPITALISTS ARE YOU LISTENING?

Don't even get me started re: Zipcar. and carsharing.
posted by lalochezia at 8:55 AM on November 18, 2015

Best answer: Thanks to all for the replies so far, but extra special thanks to Violet Blue, who gave me enough of an incantation that I could go dig. (Side note: in my digging I discovered that the guy who started this all a few years ago, at an Enterprise in Seattle's U District, broke Washington state law.)

Turns out in most (but not all) states and the District of Columbia, the rental car companies are required to meet state/District minimum liability requirements at no charge. DC's relevant law is Title 31, Chapter 24 (unofficial, easy to read, easy to link; the official one has no deep links), which sets the minimum at 25/50/10 and also requires uninsured motorist coverage at 25/50.

FWIW California and Texas are specifically mentioned as exceptions to this by Avis (again, hard to link, but go to the FAQ and select "U S A", "Protections/Coverages", and then "Automobile liability and property damage policies"):
CALIFORNIA: Automobile Liability and Property Damage Protection is not included in the rental rate. The customer may provide automobile liability insurance through a personal insurance policy or may purchase Additional Liability Insurance.

TEXAS: Automobile Liability and Property Damage Protection is not included in the rental rate. The customer may provide automobile liability insurance through a personal insurance policy or may purchase Texas Automobile Rental Liability Insurance.
I found several other sites that mention California, and I guess that matches up with the availability of non-owner insurance from AAA that is known to exist in California.

So, in (most) states where the rental car company is required to provide minimum liability insurance, the add-on is definitely supplemental and has two primary benefits, one of which doesn't apply to us as non-owners:
  1. It raises liability limits to an amount that should prevent personal bankruptcy in the event of an accident;
  2. It makes the rental car agency's insurance primary for the rental, which is generally a change for people who do already carry liability coverage (unlike us). If you do have liability coverage and you do not elect for the supplemental coverage, and you subsequently get into an accident, your own liability coverage would pay out first, with the rental car agency's liability coverage (in states where it exists) only paying out if the loss exceeds the limit of your personal coverage.
In a few states (Missouri and Utah are listed in Avis' FAQ) the required minimum insurance only applies when the renter has no insurance at all (like us); in California and Texas there's no compulsory minimum included in the rental at all, and thus a renter would be legally required to pay for liability insurance at the time of rental.

Also just to address a few points mentioned by various people above:
  • Our primary credit card for this purpose is a Chase Sapphire Preferred, which does have primary CDW coverage but (as has been mentioned several times) no liability;
  • The independent insurance broker in our neighborhood sells Chubb products but said their only auto insurance underwriters were Progressive and Erie, so I guess Chubb maybe doesn't underwrite auto policies in DC?
  • My family has had many negative experiences with State Farm over the years, so I'll consult with my wife on whether she wants to deal with them in order to reduce our exposure by increasing our insurance for each rental, but I'm disinclined to give them any business.

posted by fedward at 10:11 AM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Also also on further review, while some umbrella policies may attach to homeowners' policies and not auto policies (or maybe require both) we were specifically told by Amica that their umbrella policies attach to their auto policies. And we do not meet USAA's eligibility requirements for insurance.
posted by fedward at 10:15 AM on November 18, 2015

I'm insured through Geico and this prompted me to check my coverage. I had to log in to access the FAQs but under "Does my auto policy cover a rental car for vacation/pleasure?" it states:

Yes. The comprehensive, collision and liability coverages on your auto policy will extend to the rental car (at the same limits/deductibles that you currently carry) provided the following conditions are met:

•The rental period is 30 days or fewer
•The rental is a private passenger vehicle
•The rental is used for personal use in the United States, Canada, or U.S. Possessions
•The rental is rented in your and/or your spouse's or eligible partner's name
•The rental is being operated by you, your spouse/eligible partner or other relatives in your household and the operator is an authorized driver on the rental contract

Important Notes:
•You do not need to purchase the Collision Deductible Waiver from the rental agency; however, in the event of a loss to the rental car, you will be responsible for paying your policy's collision deductible.
•The expenses to rent a car would not be reimbursed by GEICO.

posted by loquat at 10:18 AM on November 18, 2015

Sorry, I suffered a temporary lapse in reading comprehension. I apologize that my previous response isn't really relevant to the "non car owner" portion of the question. And PorcineWithMe has a good point about the unanticipated costs that go with rental car coverage. The "out of service" fee is pretty intimidating!
posted by loquat at 12:00 PM on November 18, 2015

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