Questions Answered: How to Handle an Accident in a Rental Car Comments24 Comments

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When it comes to car accidents in rental cars, the best way to approach handling the situation is to treat every aspect of it as if you’re dealing with your own car that you bought and paid for with your own hard-earned dollars. This approach will not only be appreciated by the rental car provider, but it will also end up saving your pocketbook a lot of grief.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of commonly asked questions in regards to rental car accidents that are answered with best practices, advice, and tips for getting out of a rental car accident financially unscathed.

Q: What happens if I didn’t purchase insurance from the rental car company?
A:
As long as you have your own personal auto-insurance, you should be just fine. In fact, by default any charges would go to your own auto insurance first anyway, putting you in charge of the deductible, until the rental insurance kicks in to reimburse you. However, you can possibly avoid having to pay out-of-pocket for the deductible if you rented the car with a credit card that provides car rental insurance as one of its benefits. In most cases, this benefit will pay for the deductible.

Q: What is the first thing I should do if I get into an accident in my rental car?
A:
Call the police! That’s the absolute first course of action with any accident. You’ll want that police report as documentation for both your rental car provider and your insurance company. Plus, it’ll definitely come in handy if the other party involved in the accident wants to start “telling stories” about what actually happened—a possibly that could be financially detrimental.

Q: Should I take my own photos of the accident?
A:
Absolutely! You’ll want as much documentation as you can get your hands on. Take photos, scribble down notes about the location, time, weather, witness testimony, your own account of what happened (while it’s fresh in your mind), and the other party’s account of what happened (in case it changes later). Both your insurance company and your car rental provider will want to see all documentation.

Q: When should I call my insurance company and car rental provider?
A:
Preferably, right after you call the police and take a few moments to start collecting some details. It’s not a good idea to wait, as they may have specific documentation that they would like you to collect while you’re still on the scene of the accident.

Q: What happens if my rental car needs to be towed?
A:
If you’re discovering this after you’ve gotten off the phone with your insurance and car rental providers, go ahead and give them a call back to discuss the details of the tow. You’ll want to know what’s covered by your insurance company and the car rental company will want to know exactly where the car will be for them to pick it up. If they have to wait to receive this information, they may go ahead and charge your credit card for additional rental days.

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By : Adam | 16 Apr 2013
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24 thoughts on “Questions Answered: How to Handle an Accident in a Rental Car

  1. Michelle

    Ugh a couple of years ago I had to get a rental car for 2 months (some idiot rear ended my actual car), and the first week I had the rental car, someone hit my car when it was parked and drove away. I didn’t buy the extra insurance because I shouldn’t have had to when I only had a rental car because of someone elses’ mistake. I made the guys’ insurance company (the one who originally hit me) cover it.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Wow, a rental car for 2 months?? The insurance process must have dragged on for you to have it that long. I think our insurance here in BC only gives you like a week worth of car rental expenses. That sucks that you had 2 accidents in a week like that with neither being your fault. I really hate dealing with those ones where you did nothing wrong yet you have to waste your time.

      Reply
      1. Michelle

        Well after the first accident, my car was nearly totaled so it took a long time for them to fix it. That’s the main reason why I had it for so long. I wish they would have just totaled it but his insurance company said it was fine.

        Reply
        1. Jeremy

          You’d think the expenses of a 2 month car rental would help with the decision to just write off the vehicle and declare it totaled. I guess his insurance company decided they could still save some money with that route.

          Reply
  2. Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    I would also add to make sure your credit card company sends some sort of proof of insurance if they cover your rental. We had an accident in a rental once and didn’t have proof of insurance in the car. We actually got a ticket but it was waived when we produced the insurance agreement from the credit card.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Good idea Kim. I know lots of credit cards do offer some kind of car rental insurance, but you very well could need actual proof. People won’t just take you on your word.

      Reply
  3. Cat

    This happened to my Dad when we were in Scotland- he met a double decker bus! It didn’t end up costing him too much – not sure if our insurance covered it or if he’d taken the rental company’s insurance.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I have a feeling the double decker bus won. Getting into an accident with a rental car would be stressful enough in your own country, nevermind in a foreign country. That would make it all that much worrisome. Glad it didn’t cost your dad much.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I don’t rent cars much at all, but that’s something I’m going to have to remember to do next time. It’s better to be prepared rather than have to fight it.

      Reply
  4. Grayson @ Debt Roundup

    I always try to keep copies of any agreement I have on me, so that I can produce it quickly. An accident can be a stressful situation, but if you have everything you need, then it can be a little less stressful.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Exactly, you might as well mitigate that stress as much as you can by being prepared. You don’t want that situation any worse than it already will be.

      Reply
  5. Erin (aka BrokeMillennial)

    What a great post! I’ve only had to rent a car once thus far, but I was driving from New York City to DC and paranoid beyond belief about getting into a wreck. Luckily, I made it out without a scratch or ding.

    Glad to have these details for the future though!

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I don’t think I’d be all that paranoid about an accident in a rental car. Since I so rarely get in accidents myself, I’d be pretty carefree. Not having full insurance could change that mindset though.

      Reply
  6. Edward Antrobus

    “A: Call the police!” Good luck with that if you are in Maryland. I was rear-ended in the Chesapeake Bay State back in 2001 and the police informed us that they had the right to refuse coming to the scene if there were no injuries reported. And then the guy “just happened” to not have his insurance card with him and I had to cover the repairs to my car myself.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I think that might apply to other areas too. I have heard of the police saying they would not attend an accident unless it was really necessary. I think the guy not having his insurance would make it rather necessary. I’d lose it on someone if they tried to pull that as I’m sure he did have it in his glovebox.

      Reply
  7. Tanya

    We were driving in Oregon one time visiting family and we hit a deer(rip poor little deer) It completely totaled the rental car we were driving. We had payed for the rental using our American Express card and they have something under there terms that covered all the damages for us. We lucked out on that one big time.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Glad to hear you were ok health-wise and financially. Poor deer though. It is a good idea to put your car rental on your credit card for that extra level of coverage. Of course you have to make sure your credit card does provide coverage as that is not always the case.

      Reply
  8. Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies

    We rent cars infrequently enough that we ALWAYS buy the insurance that the rental car company provides. Had to use it for a pretty significant accident once, and it was such a relief to call and tell them the rental car was in an accident, what should I do – and they said, “Call the police and get an accident report. If the police say the car isn’t drivable, call us back and we will get a car out to you ASAP.” And that was it. I gave them the police report when I returned the car with the front corner of the car completely smashed in but somehow still drivable. They said “thanks” and I never had to do anything else. Ever. That security is worth paying the insurance for when we drive rentals!

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      That sounds way too easy. Dealing with an accident with your own car is definitely a lot more work than that. The last time I rented a car I did opt for the insurance too, but mainly because I just wasn’t sure if my credit card would cover me or not. After that story, the small fee might be worthwhile.

      Reply
  9. Alan@escapingmydebt

    Great tips. Man I am glad I do not rent cars that often and when I do it is usually through my work who would cover any costs. This is not something I would want to have to deal with. Just managing an accident through your own insurance is a hassle enough let alone adding in another one.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      That’s cool that it’s usually your work covering the costs, but that might add a bit extra pressure. Getting into an accident with a car they are renting for you might force them to do some work and pay money to deal with it.

      Reply
  10. The Happy Homeowner

    This is honestly one of my biggest fears when it comes to rental cars. I was terrified of driving in Ireland, and I did end up replacing the hub cap after a freak run-in with a Mack Truck. Luckily it was “only” $80 for the repair and there was no need for insurance claims!

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Driving in a new country is always stressful at first. You usually don’t know what to expect with their driving habits and different road signs. I remember driving in Australia was a bit stressful since it was the first time I had to drive on the left side of the road. I kept expecting myself to forget and end up in the wrong lane.

      Reply

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