Most auto insurance policies will still cover you if you are in an accident, even if you’re driving a rental car at the time, and in many cases your credit card also provides coverage. In both cases, it is smart to check before you leave home, because it can save you money.
There is variation between policies, of course, but generally the policy you have will follow you no matter what you drive. That means you’re covered up to your existing policy’s limits even if you’re in a rental car or borrowed vehicle.
There are circumstances under which your own policy will not apply. For example:
- If you are going to be using a rental car for more than 21 days
- If you are leaving the United States (though some insurance companies cover you in Canada)
- If the rental car you’re driving is a very new model.
When traveling outside the United States, check with your credit card company. They usually offer some coverage. Visa, for example, will pay to repair or replace a rental car if it is damaged in an accident or stolen, which is the same coverage you would buy at the rental counter, but Visa’s responsibility is voided the second you violate the agreement (letting someone else drive the car counts) in any way, and won’t kick in at all if you’re renting a truck, van, or luxury car.
MasterCard’s coverage restrictions are nearly identical.
The one advantage of buying rental car insurance: if something happens, you simply walk away, and never have to deal with anything again.