Rental Car Insurance in California: Is It Really Necessary?

Your trip to California is going to be the highlight of the year. You’ll spend time on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, you’ll tour Hollywood and hopefully you’ll run into a celebrity. Your flight is booked and all you need to do is reserve your rental car. When you call to make the reservation, the agent asks if you want to purchase rental car insurance that will cover any damages that may happen while you’re renting the car. You wonder if buying the rental company’s insurance is necessary. Does your regular auto insurance cover rentals? Is there any other way to get coverage?

Below are the different ways you can obtain protection while renting a car. You’ll want to look into each rental car insurance option to see which one is right for you and will protect you adequately while you’re on vacation.

What is Rental Car Insurance?

What rental car companies offers is not so much insurance as it is a damage waiver. The cost of the waiver is $15 to $25 per day, according to Nerdwallet. These waivers protect you from paying for any damages to your rental car. But is a damage waiver really necessary? In some cases, there are better alternatives.

Alternative 1: Your Existing Auto Insurance

rental car insurance in californiaIf you own a car, your auto insurance may cover damage to a rental under your name. Keep in mind that if any damage does occur, you will have to pay the deductible under your insurance. Damage waivers would cover the entire cost. Also, if the damages exceed the limit of your auto policy, you will be liable for those costs. Additionally, things like loss of use while the vehicle is being repaired may not be covered by your policy. Some carriers only cover rental vehicles as a substitute for your primary vehicle while it is out of service, not pleasure rentals. To know exactly what is covered by your car insurance, speak with your agent.

Alternative 2: Rental Coverage Using Your Credit Card 

Some major credit card networks also offer rental car insurance at no additional cost. This provides some coverage of damage-related costs through the card used to rent the car. The amounts covered vary by issuer, and this coverage is usually secondary. This secondary rental car insurance coverage steps in to cover the amounts not covered by your primary auto insurance, if you have it. If you decide to rely on rental car coverage through your credit card, you should clarify the coverage amounts offered to make sure they are sufficient for your needs.

Alternative 3: A Rental Car Insurance Policy

If you don’t want to risk having to file a claim under your regular insurance, you can get a standalone rental car insurance policy. This type of policy is usually at a lower cost than buying a damage waiver from the rental car company. This policy typically starts at around $8 per day. A standalone policy can make sense if you don’t have other car insurance, such as someone who doesn’t own a car. Be sure that you understand the coverage you are getting and the terms before purchasing.

AIS Insurance

If you have a sufficient auto insurance policy, it may make more sense to add rental car insurance coverage to it. To get a free quote on rental car coverage, call (855) 919-4247 and speak with an Insurance Specialist.


The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only. It does not represent contractual agreements, nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here. Such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.

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