The trauma of an accident and injuries is stressful enough. But when your vehicle is totaled or needs to be repaired and you have to get a costly rental car, it’s even more stressful. After a serious accident, the average car stays in the repair shop for two weeks. So it can cost several hundred dollars to rent a replacement car.
However, if your car was damaged in an accident that was not your fault, you should be able to get your rental car paid for. Here’s what you need to know.
Coverage by the at-fault driver’s insurance company
If the other driver’s negligence caused the accident, and he or she has proper auto insurance, then that insurance company should pay for your rental car for a reasonable amount of time. Contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company to secure a vehicle as soon as you can. This isn’t always a speedy process, so you may have to rent the vehicle and get reimbursed later. Also find out if the insurance company has approved rental companies from which they want you to choose.
Note that you can’t rent a luxury sedan if you normally drive an economy car and expect it will be covered. Insurance companies allow you to rent a vehicle similar to your damaged vehicle. However, insurance companies also place dollar limits per day and per accident. So rent a reasonable vehicle to ensure the insurance company covers the full cost. This is especially important to keep in mind if your vehicle will be in the repair shop for a long time.
Find out if your insurance policy covers damage to rental cars before purchasing a collision damage waiver from the rental company. If the insurance company tries to deny you coverage, ask them to give you their reasons in writing. They are required by law to do this.
Reimbursement from your insurance company
It can be faster and easier to get rental car coverage from your insurance company. But you can do this only if you have purchased rental reimbursement coverage. Also called rental car coverage, this optional benefit costs about $1 or $2 a month with most auto insurance policies. Though many people choose to omit this inexpensive coverage, it can save hundreds of dollars in the event of an accident. These policies typically have a dollar limit, so check your policy before renting a vehicle.
Rental reimbursement coverage can also be used if your car is stolen, vandalized, or damaged by severe weather. It cannot be used if your car needs regular repairs or maintenance. Likewise, you can’t use it to rent a car for a road trip to the beach.
• Contact your insurance company and find out what their approved rental car providers are. You can then rent a vehicle from one of these providers. The company will bill your insurance company directly.
• Or you can rent a car from any car company you choose and pay up front. Then you can send the receipts and a claim form to your insurance company. They will reimburse you for the cost of the rental.
Again, when you rent the car, you will be asked if you wish to purchase collision damage coverage. Your rental reimbursement coverage does not include this. However, if your general auto insurance policy includes collision and comprehensive coverage, this will usually transfer over to a vehicle you are renting while your damaged car is getting repaired. Discuss this with your insurance company.
When the other driver doesn’t have insurance
Sometimes, the at-fault driver has no insurance – or inadequate insurance. In this case, obviously you cannot be covered under his or her insurance policy. If you have rental reimbursement insurance, you can use that instead. Alternatively, if you have purchased uninsured motorist coverage and/or underinsured motorist coverage with property damage, your repairs and rental car will be covered under that. Often, drivers try to save money by declining this coverage. But given that 12.6 percent of drivers nationwide lack insurance, it can save you a lot of money in the event of an accident.
If the at-fault driver has no insurance, and you do not have rental reimbursement insurance or uninsured motorist coverage, you’ll probably have to pay for the rental car yourself. In some cases, you may have an alternative option. But in a tricky case like this, you should consult with an expert attorney.
Consult with an attorney
If you have questions about your rental car coverage following an accident, or if an insurance company is trying to deny you coverage unfairly, consult with an experienced accident attorney. The Lamber-Goodnow Personal Injury Law Team offers free, no-obligation consultations for accident victims. We get paid only if and when we achieve a favorable settlement for you.