Whenever you rent a car, you will likely be offered a “collision damage waiver” which sounds nice, but often almost doubles the rental cost.

This insurance pays for damage to the rental car, even if it’s your fault.

Is it worth it? Like many legal questions, the answer is, it depends. For many people, the response should be a strong “no thank you,” no matter how hard the sell.

Here are a few quick questions to determine whether you should pay for the collision damage waiver:

1) Do you have car insurance? The answer may be more difficult than you think. If you simply have the minimum required liability coverage for Washington State, you do not have “comprehensive” or “collision” coverage. Without these, you do not have coverage for damage to your rental car. To be sure you have coverage, check with your car insurance company.

2) Do you have a credit card? If you pay for your rental car on a credit card, often your credit card will provide this coverage. Check with your credit card company. Some cards provide more coverage than others. Ask what the limits are and consider what the rental car is worth. If you need to make a claim, make sure you file one quickly. Some credit card companies have short filing deadlines.

3) Are you renting outside the USA? Even if you have car insurance, most policies do not cover vehicles outside the USA and Canada. Your credit card may or may not provide coverage. Even if it does, it’s a good idea to get something in writing showing that you really are covered.

These questions only answer whether you should pay for the collision damage waiver. Everyone should have liability coverage. Proof of liability insurance is often mandatory.

If you have any car insurance, you likely have liability coverage. However, if you are traveling abroad, it probably won’t apply. Purchasing separate liability coverage isn’t just a good idea, it may keep you out of jail.

A final word to the wise: even if you pay for a “collision damage waiver,” don’t think that you need to use it. As amusing as it might be to say, “it’s a rental,” as you back into a parked car, making a claim may make buying insurance difficult or impossible in the future.

While you may not always get what you pay for, you’ll certainly pay for what you get. If you understand the coverage, you don’t need to pay for what you don’t need.


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