Car Hire Insurance Guide

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  • Tom Otley

    When you rent a car, there are certain basics included in the price you are quoted.

    Use of the car, limited or unlimited mileage and theft and collision damage waiver (CDW) cover will all be in there, but for both theft and CDW cover there will be a significant (ie: huge) excess – quite often over £1000. The car hire company will offer various policies to reduce this excess – see below – but it is unlikely to offer the best value way of doing this.

    In addition, when renting the car online, you might also be offered other extras. Some of these can be paid online, others will be offered to you at the counter. Typically they fall into three groups:

    • Roadside service
    • Super cover (typically which reduces your excess waiver)
    • Personal insurance

    Roadside assistance

    Roadside assistance plus covers what it calls “human errors”. These include locking yourself out of the car, running out of fuel or using the wrong type of fuel, or having a flat tyre. For a flat charge added to the cost of the rental the company (Avis in this example) will come out and sort out the problem with no call-out charge, though you will need to pay for additional items (such as spare fuel or new tyres).

    Super cover

    You will always be offered this either online or at the counter. Super CDW insurance can cost a huge amount – much more than the car hire does, yet these policies often do not cover damage to the wheels, tyres or the interior.

    Instead you should consider buying an annual car insurance policy with a company such as Insurance4carhire, iCarhireinsurance or find one yourself using a comparison site for car hire excess insurance

    Don’t just buy the cheapest – policies differ in what is included – damage sustained by someone running into your parked car, for instance, is often excluded, as is clutch failure. Policies should include the things the car hire company tries to sell you in Super CDW as well as the extras mentioned above. If you damage the car, the rental will charge the agreed excess, which you reclaim when you return home.

    Note that if you refuse the CDW from the car hire company, you will have a large charge (deposit) placed on your credit card for the period you have the car – not a problem unless you have a low credit limit or have already “maxed-out” the card.

    Personal insurance

    You should have this already in the form of your travel insurance. If not, buy some travel insurance.

    Am I covered under my credit card?

    You may be. American Express Platinum card, for instance, will cover you if…

    • You used the AMEX card to reserve the car
    • You declined the full CDW or paid for a partial CDW offered by the rental company.
    • You are the primary renter, and
    • You used the card to pay for the entire rental.

    The important thing (obviously) is to read the small print.

    Renting the car

    When you receive the car, it’s tempting to give it a quick once over and then drive away. This is not a good idea. You need to ensure there is no damage to the car, and if there is, it is carefully recorded – otherwise you will be paying for that damage to be repaired after you return. Take pictures of the car, and any damage it has already sustained, and do the same on your return.


    Don’t just buy the cheapest – policies differ in what is included – damage sustained by someone running into your parked car, for instance, is often excluded, as is clutch failure.

    Clutch ‘failure’ is an interesting one. A lot of companies are favouring automatics as there is less to be damaged by someone who battles with the concept of clutch and gear changing. I battled last month in CPT to get anything bigger than a VW Polo or a Toyota Corolla in manual, since I don’t like automatics. The closest I could get to what I wanted (an Audi A3 or A4) in manual was a VW Golf.

    A clutch is an expendable item with a life span, which can be shortened by bad driving and a lot of town driving, but all clutches eventually wear out (although the one on my current car has about 60k miles on it despite the car being driven by other people). If I happen to be driving a car when the clutch reaches the end of its life, given that it will have been driven by many people prior to myself, is it fair that I should be the one to pay for it? It’s exactly the same with tyres, if there is abuse or lack of care, that’s a different story.

    I had a run in with Avis a few years ago after renting a small van and during the one day I used it, the clutch started slipping and then failed. Not my fault, but they said it was. They backed down when I asked for maintenance records and the date and mileage of the last replacement clutch, but it was a fight I had to take to Avis head office in New Jersey.


    I would also consider the position regarding a potential claim(s).

    Using your own insurance, (which I do in the USA – Amex Plat card) means the hirer is generally responsible for the paperwork and claim – in some cases having to front the cost of the repair through the credit / charge card hold…

    Taking the counter insurance in most instances mean the car hire firms takes the claim over, including fronting the cost and no paperwork needed. In reality, I presume they have bulk repair agreements.

    For rentals of a week or less, I now take the more expensive counter insurance, purely as a piece of mind – if there is a potential claim, it doesn’t affect me….(and I make sure I can clearly see this in the agreement)…

    @ TOM – thanks for creating all these new threads, all are very useful and provide some very welcome information. I look forward to a thread on Travel Insurance.. :))

    Tom Otley

    Thank you for that, and yes, we intend to publish them one by one in the magazine, but also keep them updated on the forum and as online articles.
    We have a list of about 100 we want to do at the moment, so will keep us busy over the slow news period this summer!


    I have the Amex Platinum cover but also take out an annual policy with If there is a charge by the car hire company then you first pay and claim back from the insurance4carhire policy. In my experience they pay out quickly.

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