Renting a car. Which insurance do I want?
December 9, 2016 8:08 AM   Subscribe

I don't have my own car, so no insurance there (I have health insurance, period, no other kind). I also don't have a credit card, and am going with Enterprise as they are willing to work with that without running credit. In order to be protected as I drive a 14h round-trip, what insurance should I tack on? It's been a long time since I bought any (and I haven't rented a car in ten years). Advise please?
posted by notquitemaryann to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Plan for a worst-case scenario: you want insurance that will cover completely replacing the rental car, completely replacing any other cars involved in an accident, and medical care for both you and the people in that other car. Oh, and make sure you're also protected in case your rental car needs to be towed/repaired, whether due to an accident or a simple breakdown. It may seem like overkill, but paying for that much insurance is better than losing your house!
posted by easily confused at 8:22 AM on December 9, 2016

These are the 4 kinds of insurance they offer.

The Damage Waiver does what it says - if the vehicle gets damaged, it waives Enterprise's right to make you pay for those damages. This includes fixing the vehicle, towing, storage, loss of use, etc.

Personal Accident Insurance is for if you or any passengers are harmed in an accident. You may not strictly need this one if you have good health insurance - you can talk with your insurance company about this.

Supplemental Liability Protection - pays out if you are in an at-fault accident and damage someone else or their car or possessions.

Roadside Assistance Protection - pays if you get locked out, lose your key, or need someone to bring you gas. IME, a rental car lockout costs about $50 out of pocket.

At the minimum, you should strongly consider the Damage Waiver and Supplemental Liability Protection.
posted by muddgirl at 8:22 AM on December 9, 2016 [8 favorites]

Besides selecting damage wavier and supplemental liability, my advice would be to call the branch after making your reservation, explain that you don't have a credit card and will be renting with a debit card instead. Double check that it's ok with that branch, and check how much and how long the hold that they will place on your account is. Prepare for it to be at LEAST $500 + the cost of the rental, and for it to last at least 3 days after your reservation ends.

I know you didn't ask, but my advice would also be "get a credit card". Having a credit card around and available is useful in all sorts of circumstances, including rental of other items. There are many cards that are free to own, and you're not under any obligation to use them, except when it makes your life easier.
posted by Phredward at 8:57 AM on December 9, 2016

You don't need insurance that will pay for everything in a worse case scenario: You want to have the insurance that will allow you to pay for everything in a worst-case scenario. Remember that especially for car rental insurance, you are paying much more than the expected value. (In contrast, when you get regular insurance, there is only a small mark-up because it is a more competitive market.)

If you are relatively rich, then then replacing the car or paying for damage would not be an overwhelming burden, and you don't need damage protection.

If you are relatively poor, then you are less likely to need liability - you don't have significant assets to protect.

If you are more risk averse, you should buy the insurance anyway. If you are willing to bear a little risk (and remember, the chance of getting in an accident is extremely small) to save some money, don't buy any insurance.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 9:04 AM on December 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm somewhat risk averse. In my mind, a 14 hour round trip drive is one of the more dangerous things any of us do on a somewhat regular basis. The vehicle you're driving has the capacity to do a lot of damage. The other vehicles on the road also have the capacity to do a lot of damage to you. I would buy all of the insurance aside from roadside assistance if you're not getting coverage through anything besides your personal health insurance.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:17 AM on December 9, 2016

What insurance you need depends on the state. In many states, the agency's liability insurance covers you if you don't have your own. In others, it does not, in which case you legally need to buy the liability coverage they offer. Everything else is optional.

There do exist third party insurers, by the way. They are generally targeted at people coming from overseas whose personal insurance doesn't cover them here. It's generally cheaper than paying Enterprise's ridiculous insurance rates.

BTW, they are highly unlikely to be the only ones who take debit cards. I've used a debit card with Avis and Dollar in Florida. Avis held only the expected charges. Dollar, OTOH, held $200 plus the expected charges.

If you are buying all the insurance, make sure to get a good upgrade out of it, though. Act like you don't really want it and make them give you something for it, unless you really do prefer driving a Fiesta or whatever. The counter people get paid a rather large commission on those add-ons, so you're doing them a favor by paying for them.
posted by wierdo at 10:20 AM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Because you have no auto insurance, probably buy all 4 coverages muddgirl mentions. You need coverage to pay Enterprise's costs in case of damage, you need coverage to pay to repair/replace the vehicle(s) involved in an accident you cause, and you need coverage to pay both your medical expenses after an accident and those of anyone else involved.

Check you health insurer for limits on coverage of care for your passengers and/or people in other vehicles.

Expect this to double the cost of the rental, perhaps more.
posted by justcorbly at 7:55 AM on December 10, 2016

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