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How to Rent a Car When You Don't Have Insurance

Jim TrummSep 25, 2017

Auto insurance is confusing, even when you’re insuring your own car. But when you’re standing in line at the rental car counter, it seems even more bewildering, particularly when rental car companies offer you different insurance options. So what do you need and what makes sense to have?

Do you need car insurance to rent a car?

No, you do not need to own or insure a vehicle in order to rent a car. At most car rental companies, the only thing you will need is a valid driver’s license and a major credit card. Debit cards are generally not accepted, even if they are on the Visa or Mastercard networks.

There are, however, advantages to having motor vehicle insurance of your own before going to rent a car. An insured driver’s general liability and comprehensive coverages will usually apply to him or her in a rental car. So will medical payments and personal injury protection coverages, in most cases.

It’s important to remember that your coverage limits will follow you in your rented car, which might affect your decision whether to buy additional insurance from the car rental company. For example, if you have comprehensive coverage on a 1997 Toyota Corolla but you are in an accident that totals your rented 2017 Escalade, you may find that your insurer will pay only the Corolla’s replacement value, leaving you to foot the bill for the difference.

What other sources of insurance for rental cars are there?

There are other sources of insurance coverage for rental cars. Some credit cards automatically provide collision damage and theft protection when that card is used to rent the vehicle. Other credit card companies offer plans at extra cost that will provide liability and medical payments coverage. It’s also worth noting that if your rental car is broken into and personal property is stolen from the vehicle, the theft may be covered by your homeowners insurance.

Even though you don’t need auto insurance to rent a car, it’s important to understand what coverages it provides when you’re behind the wheel of a rented vehicle. That way you won’t pay again for what you already have. 

To get a better understanding of what kinds of coverages apply in rental vehicles, talk to one of the insurers listed in our top ten auto insurance companies. Then when you rent a car, you can choose confidently from the different insurance options offered at the rental counter.