The car rental industry in the US made around $45 billion in 2019.
That equates to a large number of rental cars on our roads every day.
If you’re unfortunate enough to get into an accident when driving a rental car, it can be a confusing time. After all, it’s not actually your car, so who is going to pay for the damage? What do you need to do, and who do you need to contact?
Read on as we take a look at what to do after a rental car accident as well as helping you understand just who is going to pay for it all.
What to Do Immediately After a Rental Car Accident
If you’re in an accident in your rental car, there are a number of things you should do right away. Once these priorities have been taken care of, you can then start to think about less immediate concerns.
Check Everyone Is Unhurt
If you’ve been in an accident, then matters like insurance and liability can take a back burner until you’re sure that everyone is ok.
Check yourself first; if you’re in shock, you may not have noticed that you’ve sustained a serious injury. Once you’re sure that you’re unharmed, check on any other passengers in your vehicle. If anyone has sustained an injury, then call 911 immediately.
If any other vehicles were involved in the collision, then check that the driver and passengers in those vehicles are also unharmed. Check and see if there is a risk of fire or explosion; move away from the vehicles, ensuring that you keep away from other traffic.
Exchange Contact Information
If the accident involved another vehicle, then any insurance claims will depend on who was at fault for the accident. At this stage, the most important thing to do is to exchange contact information with the drivers of any other vehicles involved.
Try not to provide any more information than you need to; they don’t need to know that you’re driving a rental car. It’s also not a good idea to admit responsibility for the accident at this stage.
You should also try to gather as much evidence as possible at this point. If you have your phone with you, take photos of the damage to any vehicles involved in the accident. If you’ve damaged any other property, make sure to get photos of this damage too.
The more evidence you have, the easier things will be when it comes to an insurance claim.
The Next Steps
All of the previous steps need to happen at the scene of the accident. If they don’t, it will be too late. Everything else can be done away from the scene.
Contact Your Rental Company
Get in touch with your rental company as soon as possible.
You will usually have a contact number in your paperwork, attached to the keys, or even displayed somewhere on the rental vehicle. Give them a call and explain what has happened. Ask them how they would like you to proceed; they will use often their procedures that you will need to follow.
It would help if you also read through their terms and conditions in case there’s anything they’ve forgotten to tell you.
Contact Your Insurance Company
You should also let your auto insurance company know about the accident. Depending on the type of policy you have, it may cover you for some aspects of the accident.
Ask them exactly what is covered by your insurance policy, what evidence they need, and what you need to do in order to submit a claim. You may need to file a report with the local police.
Deal With Your Car
If the car is still in working condition, then don’t forget that it’s still under your rental agreement. You’ll need to return it to the rental company at the end of your rental period.
If it’s too badly damaged to drive, then you’ll need to get it towed. Your car rental company may arrange this for you, but if not, you’ll need to call for roadside assistance to get it taken to an auto shop or back to the rental company.
Who Pays After the Accident?
Now that you’ve got all of those steps out of the way, it’s time to work out exactly who is going to pay for what. You may find yourself covered by one or many of the options below.
The Other Party
If a third party caused the accident, then things are usually fairly straightforward. Any damage caused to your rental car will have to be paid for by the other driver’s insurance.
The Car Rental Company
When you rent a car, you will almost always be offered the option of taking out additional cover. The additional policies that a car rental company offers can include collision damage waiver, liability coverage, personal accident insurance, and personal effects coverage.
Check your policy details to find out exactly what is covered, or speak to your car rental company, who will be able to explain it to you.
Your Car Insurance
Your personal car insurance policy may also cover you even when you are driving a rental car.
Take a look at your policy to find out exactly what your insurance covers, or get in touch with your insurance provider, and they can assist you. If you have taken out additional cover with the car rental company that duplicates what you already have with your personal car insurance policy, then your personal policy will often be the primary coverage.
Your Credit Card
If you pay for your rental car with a credit card, then your credit card issuer may also provide some car rental insurance.
This will usually be secondary insurance, meaning that your personal policy or car rental insurance will pay out first. It could be that your credit card issuer will cover some deductibles you need to pay, however.
One important thing to note is that most credit cards do not offer liability coverage.
What to Look for When Buying Car Insurance
As you can see, by far the simplest way to ensure that you have adequate insurance when renting a car is to take out a good quality personal auto insurance policy. You then won’t need to take any additional insurance with your car rental company, avoiding any extra costs.
When purchasing your car insurance, there are a number of things that it can include. Some of these may be required by your state, whereas others will be optional extras.
This is something that is required by almost every state in the country.
Liability coverage protects you if you cause damage to property or injure another person. The insurance company will pay out for many of the costs that are incurred. Property repairs and medical bills are incredibly expensive, often far beyond what you can afford from your own savings.
That’s why liability insurance is vital.
Personal Injury Protection
This covers you, passengers, and pedestrians in order to pay for medical expenses incurred due to an accident, even if it wasn’t your fault.
Many PIP policies will also include cover you for lost wages if you’re unable to work due to your injuries.
Collision insurance helps to pay for your car if it’s damaged in an accident. This is something that’s vital if you’re going to use a rental car as you may be liable for repairing or replacing the car if you damage it.
Collision insurance doesn’t include personal effects coverage, so it won’t protect you if any of your belongings are damaged or stolen from your vehicle.
Comprehensive cover gives you peace of mind that you’re protected under the vast majority of circumstances.
It covers loss due to theft as well as vandalism or other damage to your car. You’re even covered if you damage your car striking an animal. Comprehensive cover is really the belts and braces that ensures you’re as well covered as you can be.
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Top 5 FAQ’s About What To Do After A Rental Car Accident
How do I take care of costs if I don’t have insurance with the rental company?
There are a few different options you can consider based on the events of your accident. If the accident was caused by a third party, the other driver’s insurance will pay for the damages to your rental car. If the details are unclear or if you caused the accident, your personal auto insurance may include coverage even when you’re driving a rental. If you paid for the rental with a credit card, your card company might also offer some insurance coverage.
What if the Rental car is too damaged to drive?
Even if the car is destroyed, it’s still under your rental contract. This means you’ll be responsible for making sure it’s towed. When you contact the rental company to explain the details of the accident, ask if they take care of calling a company they prefer. Note that insurance might cover this cost as well.
What if the rental car is paid for by a company account?
You should still proceed in the same way to ensure everyone is safe and the rental company is notified about the accident. If you don’t know whether the rental includes insurance, get that information from the rental company. After learning how to proceed with turning in the car, contact your employer to share the details of the accident and learn whether the rental is covered under the company’s commercial auto insurance policy.
Will my rates go up after I file a claim for a rental car accident?
It’s possible. If you use your personal auto insurance policy to cover the rental car, then your rates will likely go up. However, if you purchase extra coverage from the rental company, you might not be off the hook. If the rental car insurance serves as secondary insurance, your regular insurance will have to pay out first, which might have the same impact on your rates.
Am I responsible for damage that occurred before the accident?
No. In fact, it’s a good idea to thoroughly examine a rental car before you leave the lot to note any existing scratches or damage. If the vehicle has existing damage, take photos for reference in case there’s a dispute.
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