Renting an automobile is a convenient way to get reliable transportation when you need it. After all, the barriers to renting a car are low. The primary requirements are the possession of a driver’s license and major credit card. How difficult could that be?
On the surface, the car rental process seems to be straightforward and transparent. As you read the fine print of your rental contract, you will find that it contains legal ease that can be difficult for the average consumer to understand.
Before you rent your next car, you need to thoroughly understand how to protect yourself from possible liabilities that can arise. Here are a few actions that you can take to protect yourself when you are renting a car.
Understand Your Insurance Coverage
You should not assume that damages to your rental car will be covered by your personal automobile insurance policy. Depending on the extent of your coverage, all of the damages to your rental car may not be covered.
An important step you can take is to contact your insurance company to determine whether your policy covers loss and damage to rental cars. Ask your agent the following questions to help you know the limitations of your coverage.
- Am I covered for loss of use, damage and theft?
- What is my deductible for damages to a rental car?
- What happens if my personal items are stolen from the rental car?
- Is my liability and collision coverage extended to the rental car?
Read Your Automobile Rental Agreement
The small print and legal language on your rental agreement may tempt you to put off reading the documents until a later time. It is in your best interest to take a few moments to read your rental agreement carefully before you drive away in the car.
Since you will be held responsible for every document that you have signed, pay close attention to the following sections of the rental agreement.
- Vehicle Condition and Inspection Report
- Terms of Rental Regulations
- Additional Drivers Provision
- Base Charges, Surcharges and Fees
- Roadside Assistance
- Loss Damage Waiver
- Limitations of Coverage
Many national car rental agencies publish an online version of their terms and agreement. You can download the agreement and read it before you pick up your rental car.
Get a Return Rental Inspection
Car rental companies offer customers the option of returning their rental cars without getting an inspection. This might be a convenient way for you to return your rental car in a hurry, but it can possibly cause a liability hassle for you in the future.
To prevent the rental car company from assessing additional fees for questionable damages, you should always opt for a return inspection.
Inspect the Car and Take Pictures
Mistakes can be costly. This is especially true when the agent at the rental car company erroneously records non-existing damages on your contract when you return the vehicle.
One way to protect yourself from being the recipient of unwarranted charges is to inspect and take pictures of the rental car. Keep these pictures in your records as proof of the condition of the car and pre-existing damages.
During your inspection, look for and record nicks, scratches, scrapes, missing accessories, dents and chipped paint. This step might take an additional 10 minutes of your time, but it can save thousands of dollars in expenses.
Opt out of the Arbitration Provision in Your Contract
The arbitration clause in many standard rental agreements states that you have to submit any disputes to binding arbitration. Depending on the language of the arbitration clause, you may be signing away your right to sue the rental car company.
The truth is the arbitration clause is intended to protect the interests of the rental car company. Always know your rights to remedy disputes with any car rental company. If permissible, opt out of the arbitration provision of the contract.
Beware of the Collision Damage Waiver
A popular type of insurance that is provided by rental car companies at an additional cost is the collision damage waiver. This waiver provides coverage for vehicle damages, but it does not cover personal injuries caused by car accidents. Before you purchase any insurance, understand the limitations of coverage.
In spite of your best efforts to protect yourself when you are renting a car, some situations such as collisions require the assistance of an attorney. Collisions involving rental cars can be complicated and stressful.
A skilled attorney is your best line of defense to protect yourself from the pitfalls of renting a car.