Flat tires & 7 more gotchas car rental insurance benefits don’t cover

by on Mon July 21, 2014 • 4 Comments
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Chase has just added Primary car rental collision damage coverage to the benefits of the flagship Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which is good news.

It means you won’t have to file a claim with your own insurance policy in case you suffer damage to an eligible rental car you book using the card, and you can decline the rental car company’s ‘optional’ collision coverage if you’re so inclined.

And while the coverage is top-tier for a credit card, it’s not comprehensive.

MileCards.com wants you to be aware of these common gotchas that your credit card car rental benefit often won’t cover, whether your card is with Chase, American Express, Citi, or others.

Here’s a rundown:

That SUV upgrade

With American Express you won’t be covered if you are upgraded to or rent a full sized SUV like a Chevrolet/GMC Suburban, Tahoe and Yukon, Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Toyota Land Cruiser, Lexus LX450, Range Rover or full-sized Ford Bronco.

And these SUVs are floating around a lot of rental car lots, especially at National, which lets you pick any car in the Emerald or Executive aisle.

Chase says ‘most’ SUVs are covered, so it’s not as strict as Amex, which is nice, and most others only exclude SUVs that have a truck-bed like a Chevy Avalanche.

But if you paid with Amex, beware of upgrading to this shiny Tahoe that received a glowing review from CarRentalReviews.com.

It also it has an MSRP of over $50,000, which means you might not be covered by most other plans as well, as you’ll find out next.

‘Expensive’ cars

While Chase will cover you for most but the most exotic vehicles (think Lotus, Ferrari, Rolls Royce), American Express and most others like Citi will not cover cars with a $50,000 or more retail value when new.

Which includes some of the BMWs and Mercedes that float around a lot of Avis and Hertz lots today, so be careful. And it includes some not so exotic cars like that Chevy Tahoe above.

Flat tires

It’s not considered damage to the vehicle, so you’re on the hook if your car rental company decides to charge you for the replacement. And that’s wildly inconsistent. Some won’t charge you because at their bulk rates, it costs less than $100 to take care of it, and it’s part of doing business.

But others aren’t so pleasant, and you could be hit with a bill days, weeks, or months later for things like tire itself, labor cost, and ‘time’ the rental was out of service.

There are some horror stories of hundreds of dollars.

For this reason, it’s really important to do a quick walk-round of your vehicle before you leave the rental lot. Look for over or under-inflated tires as a warning sign, and if anything looks off to you, ask for another car. It’s your right.

And if you need a little Tire 101, here’s what proper tire inflation looks like.

An unlocked car

Forget to lock your car? Get something stolen from it or find it damaged? You’re out of luck if that shows up on the police report. And make sure you don’t lose your keys either. If your car is stolen and you can’t produce the keys, well…you might as well have stolen the car yourself.

A stuck vehicle

This happened to a man during the Colorado floods of 2013. He was helicoptered out, his car was stranded, and the rental car company tried to charge him for all the days it was away from the lot.

It can also happen if the cops tow your car away, even accidentally.

Damage to other cars or people

This one is pretty basic, but you’d be surprised how often people forget it. For damage to things besides your rental car itself, you’ll have to rely on your own auto insurance liability coverage, or if you don’t have it, get a policy from the rental car company, or get a ‘non-owner’ auto insurance policy in your name.

If you don’t own a car already, don’t mess this one up.

If you do own a car, you’re probably reasonably covered, but will be out your deductible.

Pre-paid coverage

Sometimes when you rent a car, collision damage coverage is already priced into the rental. It’s almost always listed as a line-item.

But you should decline it if you’re renting a car that can be covered by your credit card benefits in a place where it’s not required by law.

This is usually in Europe.

The gotcha happens if you pre-pay your car rental, for example with Auto Europe, and choose a package that includes insurance coverage.

The catch is often that coverage includes a deductible, which you will be on the hook for if you accept it. This coverage is designed for Europeans, whose cards usually don’t include any insurance coverage.

The exception is if you are renting in a country like Italy where this coverage is required by law. Chase will cover you for the deductible in that case, so no need to decline the mandatory coverage there.

But Amex won’t cover you for anything in Italy, Ireland, and others. With other cards, country exclusions vary. But Ireland and Israel are common no-gos.

Vans and pickups

Helping a friend move? Make sure he picks up the tab for the car rental agency’s insurance coverage. Because cargo vans aren’t covered by any credit card policies, even if you rent them from a company like Hertz or Avis.

Pickups trucks are also excluded. The only exception is if you pay for the $24.95 per rental ‘Premium’ coverage American Express provides to cardholders.

Should you buy the rental car company’s coverage?

That’s up to you.

It’s expensive – at least $15 per day in many cases just for the collision and loss coverage. And what it gets you is coverage for things like flat tires and no exclusions for the price / type of vehicle you’re driving. But it doesn’t include things stolen from the car or damage to other vehicles or things.

The chances are slim you’ll have to pay for a flat, and if you do is it really worth having to pay $15 a day just to prevent paying for it?

Maybe better to be prepared rather than to avoid the cost altogether.

And as for losing things you leave in your car…

It’s something to think about covering when you’re traveling through between cities in Italy and have all your luggage in the car. Actually, in Italy some theft coverage is baked into the cost of your rental because it’s mandatory there. But for a weekend trip to Los Angeles, it’s probably not worth the expense.

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4 thoughts on Flat tires & 7 more gotchas car rental insurance benefits don’t cover

  1. pam

    Has anyone used the baraclay arrival plus world elite mastercard to rent a car in ireland? I am getting confilicting answers .Does this card cover CDW in Ireland. Has anyone used this card and have positive or negative experience?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Pam – The Ireland agencies will want to see a proof of coverage. You can call the number on the back of your card and ask for the benefits line. The benefits administrator can then send you a letter noting the coverage is valid, which you can present at the rental car counter. The U.S. based rental agencies like Avis and Hertz tend to me more familiar with this.

      Reply
  2. Jerry Schlotter

    I was screwed by Visa who made it impossible to get paid for a rental car damage. They keep wanting more and more info and documents. Anyone who thinks credit cards will protect you is stupid.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Mike- Double check with Arbella but you shouldn’t need to get extra liability insurance. For collision coverage, Citi will cover whatever deductible you have with Arbella in case of a collision. Just make sure you’re not renting an SUV, luxury car, truck, or other of the gotchas above. And of course, it is only for the ‘covered reasons’ for your Citi card’s policy. But in general the most common issues are covered with that combo if you follow the rules in your card benefits guide. Always best to call and inquire about that before making a rental as details can change.

      Reply
    2. Jerry Schlotter

      If you are in the US and have personal car insurance you usually do not need any car rent ins. Credit cards say they will protect you but will make it impossible to make a claim, esp. Visa

      Reply

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