"Should I buy the insurance offered to me when I rent a car? Won't my automobile coverage extend?"
When you rent a car you sign a contract with the rental car company. It is our observation that those contracts can hold you responsible for more than what your automobile policy will contemplate, and your life will become quickly complicated when you have to return a damaged car to them.
You can be held responsible for (1) the value of the loss of use of that vehicle while it is being repaired, and (2) the diminution of its value because it has been involved in an accident -- it's simply worth less when they sell it. The rental car provider may apply any uncovered charges to the credit card used for the rental while you're standing at the counter hoping you can still catch your flight.
They refer to it as a "Damages Waiver" which basically means they offer to "waive" the costs they will incur after a theft, collision, or other damage to the vehicle they make available for rent. On a short term or vacation rental we have taken the position of recommending that you buy the "insurance," or accept the damage waiver. Yes it adds to the cost of your rental, but you have effectively transferred the problem back to them giving you that ultimate peace of mind.
If you are renting a vehicle for business use, or for an extended period of time where the cost of the damage waiver is significant, contact your insurance agent for more specific advice. Credit Cards can also provide certain protections, but typically is offered secondary to the coverage provided by the cardholder's automobile insurance provider so not always the ideal solution and you should examine your protection based on the card that you carry.
Enjoy the summer, safe travels, and approach the car rental counter with eyes wide open!
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Darnielle Insurance is available to answer your questions. We are located at 1320 28th Street West, Billings, MT 59102. Give us a call at 406-652-4180.