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Prepaid rental car insurance

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Be wiser car insurance renewalWhen most people think of credit-card perks, their minds turn to rewards, low interest rates and convenience. However, credit cards provide a number of other basic benefits that help protect cardholders from both monetary loss and unnecessary hassle. Rental-car insurance is one notable example, covering cardholders in the event of vehicle damage or theft with policies driven primarily by the card networks (i.e. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover).

Credit-card rental car insurance therefore has the potential to be quite valuable to travelers who not only recognize its presence, but also understand the specifics of their coverage. After all, roughly 20% of people always purchase supplemental insurance coverage when renting a car, according to Progressive Insurance, while another 20% do so on occasion. And they do so largely because they aren’t sure whether other forms of insurance extend to rental cars.

So in the interest of helping consumers maximize savings while minimizing risk, WalletHub performed an in-depth examination of each major credit-card company’s rental car insurance policy, analyzing the nature of cardholder coverage, identifying the cards with the best policies and ultimately determining whether travelers should pay for any supplemental insurance beyond what’s already in their wallets. The results of this examination can be found below.

1 Main Findings 2 The Coverage You Can Expect 3 How To File A Claim 4 8 Money-Saving Car Rental Tips 5 Detailed Findings 6 Methodology

Main Findings

 

Best Issuer: Citi credit cards have the most favorable rental car insurance policies.

 

Avoid Renting: A truck, open-bed vehicle, exotic/antique car, large van or full-size SUV if you want credit-card coverage, as many cards exclude them.

 

*Perfect Score = 20%, American Express are the only cards that exclude full-size SUVs, please see methodology for scoring.

Coverage Duration: Almost 40% of cards only cover domestic rentals for up to 15 days.

 

Road Conditions: There’s only a 6% chance you’ll get penalized for driving on a dirt/gravel road, but it’s still best to stick to the pavement.

 

Country Coverage: Only Citi, Chase and Discover cards provide global coverage. Ireland, Israel and Jamaica are the most common exclusions among other issuers.

 

Tire & Rim Damage: More than 60% of cards do not cover all rim/tire damage.

 

Loss-Of-Use Losses: Nearly 10% of cards will not reimburse you for loss of use, which can cost upward of $100.

 

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The Coverage You Can Expect

Example of a Standard Policy Best Policy
Sign-Up None required, but you must decline the rental company’s supplemental coverage None required, but you must decline the rental company’s supplemental coverage
Type Of Coverage Covers costs stemming from damage to or theft of rental vehicles Covers costs stemming from damage to or theft of rental vehicles
Coverage Amount The cost of repairs, the vehicle’s book value or the vehicle’s purchase price, whichever is lower. Up to $100,000
Maximum Coverage Duration 30 days 31 days
Vehicle Exclusions Certain popular SUVs and antique, exotic or luxury vehicles, vans, trucks, pick-ups, motorcycles, recreational or off-road vehicles Off-road vehicles
Type-Of-Road Exclusions Accidents occurring on dirt and gravel roads are covered Accidents occurring on dirt and gravel roads are covered
Country Exclusions Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, and New Zealand None
Loss Of Use & Personal Insurance Deductible Both Covered Both Covered
Towing Costs Covered Covered
Tire & Rim Damage Covers damage as a result of theft, vandalism or vehicle collision Covers damage as a result of theft, vandalism or vehicle collision
Claims Process & Limits Call card issuer’s benefits administrator; no claims limit Call card issuer’s benefits administrator; no claims limit
Full Policy Details American Express Rental Collision Policy Citi Rental Collision Policy

Business credit cards seem to offer similar benefits. However, business cards seem to have policy details slightly enhanced (e.g. covering 31 days instead of 15 days rentals) and a few cards even offer the policy as primary coverage instead of secondary.

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How To File A Claim

Issuer Phone Number Online Support
Freeway car insurance review U.S: 1-800-338-1670
Outside U.S : 1-216-617-2500
Here
Go compare car insurance nz U.S : 1-800-592-4089
Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1468
Here
Car insurance in ct laws U.S : 1-800-348-8472
Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1164
Here
Etiqa car insurance kuantan U.S : 1-800-348-8472
Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1164
Here For Visa
Are teens covered under parents car insurance Sapphire Preferred: 1-888-320-9961
Freedom: 1-888-320-9656
Slate: 1-877-445-4153
Here
Type of car insurance group 866-918-4670 Here
Car insurance sterling heights michigan 1-800-347-0213 N/A
Car insurance fraud florida U.S : 1-800-348-8472
Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1164
Here
Student car insurance florida Visa: 1-866-200-9866
American Express: 1-888-884-6643
Here For Visa
Car accident not my fault but no insurance Visa - U.S : 1-800-348-8472
Visa - Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1164
American Express: 1-855-830-3727
Here For Visa

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8 Money-Saving Car Rental Tips

Based on our findings in this report as well as our knowledge of the insurance landscape and our overall money-saving expertise, WalletHub’s editors recommend taking the following steps to minimize both the cost and liability associated with renting a car. Be safe out there!

  • Call your insurance company and find out if rentals are covered under your standard policy. Older policies may not offer this coverage.
  • Call your credit card issuer and ask what limitations apply to the car rental coverage provided by your particular type of credit card.
  • It might be wise to accept the liability insurance and collision damage waiver offered by the car rental company if you do not have personal auto insurance and your credit card does not provide sufficient coverage.
  • Long-term rentals might not be covered by your existing auto insurance, as time limitations may be imposed by your policy.
  • Your personal auto policy – if it even covers rentals – only applies when the vehicle is used for personal use, so if you’re traveling for business check what other options are available for you.
  • Rent a car of similar value to your own car in order to increase the likelihood that your existing coverage is also adequate for the rental car.
  • Sometimes, when your existing policy does not offer coverage for a particular type of rental car, you can ask about the possibility of adding an insurance rider for a small fee.
  • If you are not a car owner but drive from time to time, you might want to consider purchasing a non-owner auto insurance policy.

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Detailed Findings

Credit-card rental car insurance policies were previously evaluated at the network level, but we decided to examine coverage at the card level in 2016 after discovering discrepancies among offers on the same network and/or issued by the same company. Where no policy differences existed, cards were grouped by issuer or network for the sake of simplicity.
 

Cards Total Score Vehicles Excluded Clarity on Exclusions Coverage Duration Type of Road Exclusions Country Exclusions Loss of use and deductible on your auto insurance Towing Damage to tires and rims Activation Claims Process Info Accessibility
Max Score 100.00% 20.00% 5.00% 15.00% 5.00% 5.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
All Citi Cards 95.50% 20.00% 5.00% 15.00% 5.00% 5.00% 20.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 3.00% 10.00%
USAA Cards 89.50% 15.00% 5.00% 15.00% 5.00% 2.00% 20.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
All Chase Cards 89.50% 15.00% 2.00% 15.00% 5.00% 5.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 7.50%
Wells Fargo Visa Cards 87.00% 15.00% 2.00% 12.00% 5.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
U.S. Bank Cards 87.00% 15.00% 2.00% 12.00% 5.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
Capital One Visa Cards 87.00% 15.00% 2.00% 12.00% 5.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
All Barclay Cards 86.50% 15.00% 5.00% 12.00% 5.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 3.00% 8.50%
All American Express Cards 84.50% 10.00% 5.00% 15.00% 5.00% 2.00% 20.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
All Discover Cards 83.00% 15.00% 5.00% 15.00% 5.00% 5.00% 12.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 5.00% 8.50%
Wells Fargo American Express Cards 81.50% 15.00% 5.00% 15.00% 5.00% 2.00% 12.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa 81.50% 15.00% 2.00% 9.00% 5.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
All Other Bank of America Cards 80.50% 15.00% 2.00% 12.00% 5.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 3.50%
Capital One MasterCard Cards 80.50% 15.00% 5.00% 9.00% 3.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 3.00% 10.00%
Bank of America Better Balance Rewards 74.00% 15.00% 5.00% 9.00% 3.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 3.00% 3.50%

 

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Methodology

WalletHub reviewed the publicly available online car rental policies of all the credit cards currently being offered by the 10 largest issuers, excluding student and co-branded offers, and collected the information needed to answer the following questions: 1) What vehicles are excluded?; 2) What other exclusions do the policies have?; 3) What is the quality of the coverage?; 4) How does one activate the benefit?; 5) How should claims be filed?; and 6) How easy it is to obtain complete policy information?

Where policies were unclear, we contacted the issuers directly and requested clarification. All issuers responded to our questions and confirmed the accuracy of our data.

Each card’s policy was scored using the following criteria:

1) What vehicles are excluded? – Worth 25% total
A. Vehicles excluded – Worth 20%

  • If no exclusions apply - 20%
  • If regular exclusions apply (i.e. exotic, expensive, or antique cars; trucks; vehicles with open beds; and large vans) - 15%
  • If SUVs are not covered - 10%
  • If there is a large number of exclusions - No points

B. Clarity on exclusions – Worth 5%

  • If a full definition of excluded cars is provided (i.e. value and characteristics) - 5%
  • If a partial definitions of excluded cars is provided (i.e. just value or just characteristics) - 2.5%
  • If no description of excluded cars is provided - No points

2) What exclusions do the policies have? – Worth 25% Total
A. Coverage Duration – Worth 15%

  • If the coverage duration is for 30 days and above - 15%
  • If the coverage duration is between 20 - 29 days - 12%
  • If the coverage duration is between 19 - 10 days - 9%
  • If the coverage duration is between 10 - 5 days - 3%
  • If the coverage duration is under 5 days - No points
  • *If a card provides 2 types of coverage, we averaged the 2

B. Road Type Exclusions – Worth 5%

  • If Dirt and gravel roads are covered - 5%
  • If Dirt and gravel roads are partially covered - 3%
  • If Dirt and Gravel roads are not covered - No points

C. Country Exclusions – Worth 5%

  • No country excluded - 5%
  • Up to 2 countries excluded - 4%
  • Up to 4 countries excluded - 3%
  • Up to 6 countries excluded - 2%
  • Up to 8 countries excluded - 1%
  • Over 8 countries excluded - No points

3) What is the quality of the coverage? – Worth 30% Total
A. Rental Company's Loss Of Use & Your Auto Insurance Deductible – Worth 20%

  • If loss of use is covered - 20%
  • If the deductible portion on your auto insurance policy is covered - 12%
  • If the deductible from your auto insurance and loss of use not covered - No points

B. Towing Expenses – Worth 5%

  • If towing is covered - 5%
  • If towing is not covered - No points

C. Damage to tires and rims – Worth 5%

  • If damage to tires and rims is always covered - 5%
  • If damage to tires and rims is covered only when the result of theft, vandalism or vehicle collision - 5%
  • If damage to tires and rims is not covered - No points

4) How does one activate the benefit? – Worth 5%

  • If activation is standard (cardholders charge the entire rental car purchase on their credit card and decline supplemental insurance/Collision Damage Waivers (CDW) offered by the rental company) - 5%
  • If activation is more complex than the standard - No points

5) How should claims be filed? – Worth 5%

  • If filing a claim requires standard documentation ( i.e. a copy of the accident, a signed claim form, a rental agreement, an itemized bill and a receipt or statement showing to which card the rental was charged to) - 5%
  • If claims require up to 2 documents on top of the standard documentation - 3%
  • If claims require 3 or more documents on top of on top of the additional documentation - No points

6) How easy it is to obtain complete information about the policy? – Worth 10%
A. How easily can one find the info? - Worth 3%

  • Information is prominent within card landing page - 3%
  • Information is not prominent within card landing page; or it is prominent but users need to log in to see the full disclosure - 1.5%
  • Information cannot be easily found on website - No points

B. How easy it is to read the info? - Worth 1%

  • Information is presented in normal size font - 1%
  • Information is in small size font - No points

C. How complete are the policies provided? - Worth 4%

  • Full policy provided - 4%
  • Part of policy provided - 2%
  • Benefits briefly described - 0.5%
  • No key details provided - No points

D. How open and transparent are issuers about the policies? - Worth 2%

  • Transparent about policies - 2%
  • Not transparent about policies - No points

The card with the most accumulated points received the highest score. The maximum number of points is 100%.

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The question arises every time you rent a car: Do I really need rental car insurance?

Many rental agencies offer damage waivers for about $15 to $25 a day, selling peace of mind along with expanded coverage. But these waivers are often no better than the coverage you already have with your favorite credit card.

Depending on where you rent, the rental company’s liability for injury or property damage may be anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000. This could still leave a big bill for you to pay, but your credit card may also step in — sort of. All four major card networks offer rental insurance, but vary substantially in benefits and requirements.

In some cases, car-rental customers may want to purchase full coverage from the car-rental company to avoid the hassle of making a claim or reporting an accident to their primary insurer and the credit card issuer. Make sure you’re comfortable with that process before relying on your credit card’s secondary coverage.

You can also get primary coverage for your car rentals with these two credit cards:

Cheapest car insurance companies in arizona Learn More The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the Nerds’ favorite travel cards, so it helps that it offers primary rental car insurance at no extra cost. You’ll earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. Plus, the card has one of the most valuable sign-up bonuses on the market: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

It has an $0 for the first year, then $95 after that, and doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee.

Car insurance laws uk Learn More If you’re a loyal United flyer and often rent cars, the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card might be the right choice for you. It offers 2 miles per dollar spent on United tickets and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases, plus a decent sign-up bonus: Special offer: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card has a $95 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. You and a companion traveling on your reservation will also get your first checked bag free when you pay with the card, saving you up to $100 per roundtrip.

What to know about credit card rental coverage

Before we review the rental car insurance benefits offered by each network, you should know that:

  • Generally, your credit card offers secondary rental insurance. This means that it will only pay for the cost of certain damages not covered by your regular car insurance policy.
  • As the cardholder, you must book the rental car with your credit card under your name to receive coverage. Only carrying a card that offers rental car insurance isn’t sufficient.
  • Typically, you must refuse the coverage offered by the rental car agency to receive rental car insurance benefits from your credit card. We’ll discuss exceptions to this general rule below.
  • This article applies to consumer credit cards. While many business credit cards offer rental car insurance, coverage levels could be substantially different from the benefits described below.
  • Cards in the same network may have varying levels of coverage. Some issuers don’t offer rental car insurance at all, while others set terms that differ from the network standard. Call your bank or check your card’s benefits statement to learn more about your specific card’s benefits.

Nerd note: Much of the information discussed in this article is a compilation of resources available online. However, some of it was obtained through phone calls to customer service hotlines. It’s important to contact your card’s issuer to verify its coverage policy before you rent a vehicle. Here are some important terms to know before you call:

  • Loss of use: The cost of renting another car while the original is out of commission.
  • Fully utilized: Generally, this term describes when 80% of a rental company’s cars are in use. A card network may cover loss of use only if the auto rental company’s fleet is “fully utilized.”
  • Diminished value: The amount that the rental car’s resale value decreases. This cost is usually relatively small, unless you manage to significantly damage the car without totaling it.
  • Antique cars: Usually defined as a car made at least 20 years ago or one that has been out of production for 10 years. All networks exclude coverage of such vehicles.
  • Vans: As a general rule, personal-use vans that seat eight people or fewer are covered. However, some waivers specifically exclude certain SUVs, and almost all exclude cargo vans.

Benefits by network

Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover all provide rental car insurance above and beyond what your primary insurer and rental company will offer. Here’s a quick overview of each network’s benefits and limitations:

Visa: Visa is often touted for its excellent rental car insurance benefits, mostly because it’s widely available for cardholders. Unlike many other networks, it offers rental car insurance on all of its cards — standard, Signature, rewards, the works. However, it limits its rental car coverage period to only 15 consecutive days domestically and 31 consecutive days abroad.

MasterCard: Its benefits are similar to Visa’s. However, rental car insurance is not offered on all cards, and it limits its coverage period on all rental cars to 15 consecutive days or fewer. According to customer service, it’s available only on Platinum, Gold, World and World Elite cards.

American Express: American Express is the only network to offer premium coverage for a small fee. It offers free secondary coverage up to $50,000 ($75,000 on The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Delta Reserve Credit Card), but will offer primary coverage with a higher limit and protection against injury and property damage if you choose it.

Discover: Discover’s coverage is limited to a handful of cards. Unlike the other three networks, Discover doesn’t cover loss of use fees, only collision damage up to a $25,000.

Network-by-network comparison

Visa and MasterCard

Both Visa and MasterCard emphasize that their terms vary by issuing bank. Again, check with your particular card’s issuer before renting your vehicle.

Benefit Visa MasterCard
Offered on All cards Gold, Platinum, World and World Elite
Rental period 15 consecutive days domestic/31 abroad 15 consecutive days
Must decline rental insurance? Yes Yes
Vehicle value Not specified $50,000 or less
Includes Physical damage, theft, loss of use*, towing Physical damage, theft, loss of use*, towing
Excludes Injury, liability, property damage, taxes, damage to other vehicles, diminished value, tire wear and tear
Primary or Secondary? Secondary Secondary
Drivers covered All authorized drivers
Vehicles excluded Expensive, exotic or antique cars, trucks, pickups, RVs, motorcycles, ATV’s, limousines and certain vans
Excluded countries Ireland, Northern Ireland, Israel, Jamaica Maybe Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica (Contact your vehicle rental agency before traveling)
Excluded SUVs/vans Vans with more than 8 seats Sport utility trucks (i.e. Chevy Avalanche, GMC Envoy, etc.), full-size vans
Max coverage Not specified $50,000
Max loss of use* Not specified Not specified
Report/file claim within 45 days 30 days
Source Visa MasterCard benefits and a call to customer service

*To be compensated for loss of use, the rental company must prove that the fleet is “fully utilized.” Most rental agencies won’t bother, so your chances of getting this benefit aren’t very high.

American Express

American Express has various exemptions for students, Californians and Floridians, see below for the details.

Benefit American Express Basic American Express Platinum American Express Premium
Offered on All cards The Platinum Card® from American Express and other Platinum-branded AmEx cards, Delta Reserve Credit Card All cardholders can purchase
Rental period 30 consecutive days from the same rental company, or 30 consecutive days out of a 45-day period within the same geographic location (75-mile radius) from any rental company 30 consecutive days from the same rental company, or 30 consecutive days out of a 45-day period within the same geographic location (75-mile radius) from any rental company 42 days (30 in Washington State)
Must decline rental insurance? Decline full coverage, can accept partial collision damage waiver
Vehicle value <$50,000 <$75,000 Not specified
Includes Physical damage, theft, towing, storage, loss of use Physical damage, theft, towing, storage, loss of use, certain medical expenses for accidental personal injury, AD&D, personal property Physical damage, theft, towing, storage, loss of use, certain medical expenses for accidental personal injury, AD&D, personal property
Excludes Injury, liability, property damage, diminished value, taxes, wear and tear
Primary or secondary? Secondary Secondary Primary (accidental personal injury and personal property benefits are secondary)
Drivers Covered All authorized drivers
Vehicles excluded Expensive, exotic or antique cars, trucks, pickups, cargo vans, custom vans, full-size vans, vehicles used for commercial purposes, antique cars, off-road vehicles, RVs, motorcycles, etc. Trucks, pickups, cube vans, box trucks, leased vehicles, customized vehicles, antique cars, limousines, off-road vehicles, motorcycles, RVs, etc.
Excluded countries Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Australia, Italy, New Zealand
Excluded SUVs/vans Full-size sports utility vehicles (i.e. Chevy/GMC Suburban, Tahoe and Yukon, etc.), vans with more than 8 seats N/A
Max car coverage $50,000 $75,000 $24.95 plan: $100,000
Max medical expenses per person N/A $5,000 $24.95 plan: $15,000 per person,
Accidental death and dismemberment: $100,000
Max personal property damage or theft N/A $1,000/person, max $2,000 $24.95 plan: $5,000/person, $10,000 max
Max loss of use Not specified
Report/file claim within As soon as reasonably possible/60 days
Source AmEx AmEx AmEx

American Express Exemptions

Students: A Personal, Gold or Rewards Plus Gold cardholders who are enrolled in an accredited four-year college or graduate program in the United States, and are receiving student benefits provided by card membership, are ineligible.

California: Maximum coverage costs $17.95 for:

  • $100,000 car damage
  • $250,000 accidental death and dismemberment
  • $15,000/person medical expenses
  • $5,000/person property damage, maximum $10,000 overall

Florida: Property damage is capped at $15,000 per person, $25,000 overall.

Discover

Benefit Discover Discover Escape
Offered on Discover® Motiva Card, Discover® Open Road Card, Discover® More® Card Escape by Discover® Card
Rental period 31 days, 45 for employees using business credit card 31 days
Must decline rental insurance? Yes Yes
Vehicle value <$50,000 <$50,000
Includes Collision or upset only Physical damage, theft, towing
Excludes Theft, any damage not due to a collision, injury, liability, property damage, taxes, damages to other vehicles, wear and tear, loss of use Injury, liability, property damage, taxes, damage to other vehicles, diminished value, tire wear and tear
Primary or secondary? Secondary Primary (under certain conditions)
Drivers covered All authorized drivers
Vehicles excluded Expensive, exotic or antique cars, trucks, pickups, RVs, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, mini-buses
Excluded countries Valid in any country that accepts Discover Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Australia, Italy, New Zealand
Exclude SUVs with more than Doesn’t specify seat exclusions, but doesn’t cover all vehicles Sports utility trucks, vans with more than 9 seats
Max coverage $25,000 $50,000
Max loss of use N/A N/A
Report/file claim within File claim in 90 days 30 days
Source Discover Discover

Image via iStock.

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If you’ve ever rented a car, you’ve probably been warned by salespeople at the counter about the possible consequences of walking away without buying their company’s rental car insurance. Put on the spot, you might not feel confident about exactly what your current auto insurance covers. And that’s what rental companies are counting on — along with their commissions for selling you the coverage.

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Want to be prepared next time you’re renting? We can help you understand whether you need rental car insurance and how to get it before you get to the rental counter.

Rental car insurance or your own auto insurance?

Here are the typical insurance options from rental car companies, along with how to determine if you already have coverage within your own auto insurance policy. Coverage from your own policy applies when you are using a rental car for personal, nonbusiness purposes. The rules may be different for business use of a rental car. Check with your insurer or employer for details about coverage when using a rental car for business.

Crashes and car theft

At the counter: A loss-damage waiver (LDW), also called a collision damage waiver (CDW), gets you off the hook for any damage to the rental vehicle or theft of the car. It’s technically not insurance but rather a waiver that says the rental car company won’t come after you.

Your policy: If you have collision and comprehensive coverage on your own policy, it generally will extend to a rental car. However, you will still be on the hook for your deductible.

Damage you do to others

At the counter: Supplemental liability protection will pay for damage you do to others’ vehicles or property. A typical limit is $1 million. If you have no auto insurance (for example, if you don’t own a car), you should buy this.

Your own policy: Your own liability insurance will cover you when you’re driving rental cars. If you have really minimal liability coverage on your auto policy, you could buy the supplemental protection to boost your coverage. But if that’s your situation, you’d be smarter to increase your own liability coverage anyway.

Injuries to you

At the counter: Personal accident insurance covers medical costs for you and your passengers if you’re involved in an accident. This includes ambulance, medical care and death benefits.

Your own policy: If you have health insurance, this coverage would largely be redundant. Similarly, if you are interested in death benefits, you should have a life insurance policy. Personal accident insurance also is not needed if you have personal injury protection or MedPay through your auto policy.

Your stolen stuff

At the counter: Personal effects coverage pays for your belongings if they’re stolen from the rental car, up to a set dollar amount.

Your own policy: Your homeowners or renters insurance will cover your possessions if they are stolen, even away from home. To make a theft claim, you’ll need to file a police report, and your deductible amount will apply.

The credit card safety net

Credit cards often provide coverage for rental cars, assuming you have used the card to pay for the rental and the rental is in your name. You’ll automatically have this coverage if it’s included with your credit card — no need to call or sign forms. But it is secondary coverage, meaning your own auto insurance policy will pay out first. NerdWallet assessed credit cards that offer good rental car insurance.

If you don’t have auto insurance and are going to count on credit card coverage, call your credit card issuer to confirm the details.

Buying rental car insurance on your own

There are companies that sell standalone policies for rental cars if you don’t want to buy insurance at the counter. You generally need to decline the rental company’s coverage to use these.

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Insure My Rental Car

Insure My Rental Car offers loss damage waivers covering up to $100,000 in damage to your rental vehicle. You can purchase coverage for anywhere from a day (starting at $7.50) to a year (starting at $93.99). The policy provides primary coverage so you don’t need to use your own auto insurance first. Policies also extend to rentals outside the United States.

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Allianz Global Assistance

Allianz Global Assistance sells a Rental Car Damage Protector for $9 a day that pays out up to $40,000 for damage and loss. It’s primary coverage, so it pays out before your own auto insurance, and includes 24-hour emergency assistance.

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Protect Your Bubble

For $7.99 a day, Protect Your Bubble, from Assurant, covers your rental for damage or theft. It also includes coverage for personal effects and is good worldwide. For another $2.99 a day you can add 24-hour roadside assistance.

Updated Dec. 9, 2015.

Amy Danise is an editor at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: adanise@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @AmyDanise.

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