Spring Break Road Trip What Students and Parents Need to Know About Rental Car Coverage

Do not wait until your child announces that he or she wants to go on a spring break vacation. It is never too soon to know what your insurance policy covers when renting a vehicle. Take the time now to investigate so you will be ready when you need to rent a vehicle.

Your Auto Insurance Rental Car Coverage

Every rental car company offers its own insurance for an additional fee. If your child is listed on your personal auto insurance policy, make a call to your agent to ask if and when they are covered. You will have to decide if your coverage is sufficient or if additional coverage should be purchased.

  • Will you or your child be covered when renting a vehicle in another state or country?
  • Does your policy have collision coverage should an expensive repair be necessary after an accident? Remember, your collision and comprehensive coverages include deductibles before your insurance company pays the rest.
  • Ask about your liability coverage as it applies in worst-case scenarios.
  • Discuss your comprehensive coverage. Will there be coverage for theft, vandalism or animal strikes in a rented car?

Using a Credit Card

Most credit cards, if used to reserve a rental vehicle, automatically come with rental insurance. Investigate the specifics of the credit card to be used and if it will, or will not, complement your existing auto insurance coverage. Your child should be well informed about all the coverage he or she needs before getting behind the wheel of a rented car.

When You Should Consider Buying Rental Insurance

Consumer reporters generally feel that most personal car insurance coverage is sufficient when combined with the coverage on a credit card. Most advise against paying extra for the rental company's insurance. However, Ray Martin, financial advisor on “CBS Money Watch,” has a different opinion you might want to consider.

  • Loss of use. Should you or your student have an accident and the rental car is out of commission, the rental company will lose money while the vehicle is being repaired. Unless your auto policy specifies it will pay this fee, buy the additional rental car insurance coverage when it is offered.
  • Personal effects. Does your child plan to travel with an expensive digital camera, iPod or laptop? Thefts are common during spring break, and whatever items your child puts inside the rental car are at risk. Depending upon your homeowners insurance policy, you may only be covered for losses in excess of your deductible. For a few dollars a day, rental car insurance might be worth it to have this additional coverage.
  • Claim history. Driving an unfamiliar vehicle in a new location increases the risk of an accident. Keep in mind that any claim filed through your personal auto policy could result in a surcharge on your child's driving record. Insurance purchased through the rental company may not have this penalty. Would you want your premiums to go up because of a surcharge, or is it worth it to pay a little extra for rental car insurance coverage?

Remember, as a Safety Insurance customer, you have the option to purchase the Safety Shield or Safety Shield Plus endorsement for your auto policy. Both optional endorsements include coverage for loss of use, and personal effects, as well as many other benefits.

Take this opportunity to have a family conversation about insurance and road safety. Both you and your child will gain peace of mind when you discuss auto insurance, rental car coverage and being a responsible driver during spring break.

Please contact your independent agent if you have any questions on coverage.