cabo thrifty rental car

Rental car in Baja Mexico. Photo: Matthew Mohr via Trover


You finally exit the airplane, gather your luggage and step up to the car rental counter. The car rental clerk is determined to ‘help’ you by offering supplemental insurance coverage. For a moment all manner of troubling scenarios play in your imagination. Someone might sideswipe you in a parking lot. You don’t know the city and could get distracted enough to rear end another car. The inner trauma-drama plays out until you remember that your credit card offers you car insurance. But does it?

oxotic supercar Rachael Garrett

Perhaps rent an exotic car? Photo by Rachael Garrett via Trover

Much depends on which card you are using to pay for the rental. Policies were compared recently by Card Hub in its annual Credit Card Rental Car Insurance Study. Consumer Affairs, a private, non-governmental company, also does research on best practices with car rental insurance. Between the two here’s some of the findings that should make filling out your car rental paperwork much easier and save you money.

pink car rental Cheskie's Gap Life

Why not rent a ‘Barbie Car’ in Australia? Photo: Cheskie’s Gap Life via Trover

Are you covered?
  • The top car rental coverage (in order) is offered by American Express, Visa and Discover with Mastercard a close fourth.
  • Each card covers a different risk but the car, home, life or health insurance policies, you already have plus your credit car could provide all or part of the protection you need. Know too that car rental companies are required to provide minimal insurance by law for every rental.
  • You need to decline supplemental coverage from the car rental company and put the entire bill on your card to get their full coverage.
  • Interested in renting a big SUV? American Express doesn’t cover many of the most popular.
  • Off-roading on the itinerary? Visa and Mastercard cover accidents on dirt and gravel roads ONLY if they are “regularly maintained.”
  • If you don’t have car insurance already or your card isn’t giving you enough coverage, accept the liability insurance and collision damage waiver offered by the car rental company.
escape campervan Emilie Adams

An escape campervan U.S. road trip with Emilie Adams via Trover

After flying for hours and finally getting to your destination, wrapping your head around all the car rental options at the rental desk can be a strain. The best time to go over the particulars is when you reserve your car, long before leaving for the trip. A phone call, scanning an online forum or the company FAQ’s will help the decision making long before you’re filling out the final paperwork.

Whatever you decide, spare yourself anxiety and unnecessary expense. Walk away from the counter, keys in hand, knowing that you’re covered and take to the road with ease.

More car rental insurance information:

car rental insurance tip sheet from Consumer Affairs.

The full Card Hub study including money-saving car rental tips.

I’m linking up with these great link parties. They’re each full of travel inspirations: