Rental Car Coverage

Should I purchase the Loss Damage Waiver offered by the rental agent when I rent a vehicle?

This is a great question, and one that our customers ask frequently.  Whether you rent a vehicle for personal use while on vacation, or as a substitute while your vehicle is out of commission for repair or service, or for business use while out of town, there comes that time when you’re standing at the rental car counter and the agent asks the inevitable question:  “Do you want to buy our loss damage waiver (or our insurance coverage)?”

Most loss damage waiver (LDW) fees are outrageous.  Sometimes they cost more than the daily rental fee itself.  But are they worth the additional cost?  The answer may depend on your tolerance for risk and inconvenience.  You must decide if the extra cost is reasonable, considering the potential for an uninsured loss should something happen to the vehicle during the term of the rental contract, and the resulting inconvenience of dealing with the rental company and your insurance company to satisfy the rental company’s demands.

First, you should know that the LDW is not actually an insurance policy.  It is a waiver of the rental company’s requirement in the rental contract that you bring the vehicle back in the same condition as when it left their lot.  Most rental contracts make you responsible for any damage to the vehicle, including theft and weather-related damage.  When you purchase the LDW, the rental company is removing that provision from the contract on a conditional basis. 

If you don’t purchase the LDW and the vehicle is damaged, here are some of the costs for which you could be held responsible under the rental contract:

  1. Cost to repair damage to the vehicle, or the full value of the vehicle if it is a total loss
  2. “Diminished value” of the vehicle – the difference between what the vehicle was worth before the accident and what it is worth after repairs have been made
  3. “Loss of use” – the amount of money the rental company loses on rental fees while the vehicle is out of service for repair or replacement 
  4. Administrative or loss-related expenses incurred by the rental company, such as fees for towing, appraisal, and claims adjustment, plus general office expenses for handling the paperwork

Whether all or any of these costs are covered by your personal auto policy depends on several factors.  One big factor is the type of personal auto policy you have purchased.  Insurance companies sell different policies in Texas and the coverage and exclusions are not the same from one company to the next.  Some companies sell a policy that covers damage to the rented vehicle in the liability section of the policy, while others sell a policy that covers damage to the rented vehicle in the physical damage section.  Each type of policy is discussed separately below. 

We encourage you to ask your agent which type of policy you have, because as you will see, the differences are significant.

Reasons to purchase the Loss Damage Waiver when you have a policy that covers damage to the rental vehicle in the liability section:

1.  Your limit of liability may not be sufficient to satisfy the rental company’s demands.

Coverage for damage to the rental car and related costs are provided by the property damage liability section of your personal auto policy.  If the property damage limit of liability is not sufficient to cover the value of the vehicle you rent, plus pay for any other costs the rental company demands, you will be personally responsible for the costs that exceed what your insurance company has to pay.

 2.  Your policy may exclude rented pickups and vans used for business purposes.

If you rent a pickup or van for business purposes, your personal auto policy may not provide coverage at all.  Some insurance companies consider an SUV to be a pickup or van, and may therefore not cover any damages arising out of the use of an SUV rented for business purposes.

 3.  Your premium may go up or your policy may not be renewed if you have an at-fault accident.

You are driving an unfamiliar vehicle in unfamiliar territory.  If you have an at-fault accident while driving the rented vehicle, your insurance company may hold it against you – with a premium surcharge or perhaps even non-renewal.

 4.  Your line of credit may be adversely affected.

If you don’t buy the LDW, the rental company will probably ring up an estimated damage amount on your credit card, pending notification to and settlement by your insurance company. 

 5.  You may suffer a huge inconvenience.

When you have purchased the LDW, you can bring a damaged vehicle back to the rental company, throw the keys on the counter, and walk away.  When you haven’t purchased the LDW, you may have to spend a significant amount of time dealing with the rental company and your insurance company.

Reasons to purchase the Loss Damage Waiver when you have policy that covers damage to the rental vehicle in the physical damage section:

1.  Your policy may not cover damage to the rental vehicle at all.

Coverage for damage to the rental vehicle and related costs are provided by the physical damage section of your personal auto policy – IF your policy provides physical damage coverage on at least one of your covered vehicles.

 2.  Your insurance company may not pay the entire amount demanded by the rental company.

When your policy provides physical damage coverage on one of your covered vehicles, the policy covers damage to a rented vehicle.  The amount payable by the insurance company is the lesser of the “actual cash value” of the vehicle or the amount “necessary” to repair or replace the vehicle, minus your deductible.  In addition, the policy covers “loss of use” with a daily limit (usually as low as $20 per day) and a maximum limit (usually $600), and there is usually a 1- or 2-day waiting period before the policy will begin to pay these expenses.  Because of all these limitations, you may become personally responsible for:

  • § The amount demanded by the rental company to repair or replace the vehicle in excess of “actual cash value” or the amount “necessary” to repair or replace;
  • § The amount of your deductible;
  • § The amount demanded by the rental company for “loss of use” in excess of the daily and maximum limits payable by your insurance company;
  • § The amount demanded by the rental company for “diminished value” of the vehicle, even after the repairs are complete;
  • § The amount demanded by the rental company for administrative or other loss-related expenses.

 3.  Your policy may exclude some electronic equipment.

Your policy may exclude loss to some electronic equipment that receives or transmits audio, visual or data signals.  If you rent a vehicle equipped with a GPS receiver, for example, your policy may not cover it.

 4.  Your premium may go up or your policy may not be renewed if you have an at-fault accident.

You are driving an unfamiliar vehicle in unfamiliar territory.  If you have an at-fault accident while driving the rented vehicle, your insurance company may hold it against you – with a premium surcharge or perhaps even non-renewal.

 5.  Your line of credit may be adversely affected.

If you don’t buy the LDW, the rental company will probably ring up an estimated damage amount on your credit card, pending notification to and settlement by your insurance company. 

 6.  You may suffer a huge inconvenience.

When you have purchased the LDW, you can bring a damaged vehicle back to the rental company, throw the keys on the counter, and walk away.  When you haven’t purchased the LDW, you may have to spend a significant amount of time dealing with the rental company and your insurance company.

 Bottom Line

We recommend that you buy the Loss Damage Waiver from the rental company.

This article was prepared and made available to Hill Insurance Agency LP by the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas, which is solely responsible for its content.  Please read your insurance policy.  If there is any conflict between the information in this article and the actual terms and conditions of your policy, the terms and conditions of your policy will apply.  The Independent Insurance Agents of Texas is a non-profit association of more than 1,800 insurance agencies in Texas, dedicated to helping its members succeed, in part by providing technical resources that explain insurance policies sold to their customers.

Advertisements

Can my child take our insurance to college?

My son (daughter) is leaving home to attend college this fall.  Will my auto and homeowners insurance policies cover him (her) while at college?

Image

This is a great question, and one that our customers ask frequently.

When college students move from home to their home-away-from-home – a rented dorm or apartment – insurance issues can arise and should be addressed before they leave home.

One key question that arises in discussing these issues is whether the student is still considered a resident of your household.  This is a legal question, but your homeowners and auto policies both contain provisions that apply the broadest coverage available in those policies to persons who are legally considered residents of your household.

It is generally accepted that students living away from home while attending college are residents of their parents’ household. Based on previous Texas court decisions, the real test is whether the absence of a person from the household is intended to be permanent or only temporary – whether there is physical absence coupled with intent not to return. This leaves a great deal of room for interpretation. There may be borderline cases that require you to think about alternatives. For example, it may be difficult to consider a 23-year-old graduate student living in an apartment year-round to be a resident of your household.

Homeowners Policy
Your homeowners policy covers personal property owned or used by a resident of your household while the property is located anywhere in the world.

However, most policies limit the amount of coverage on personal property to 10 percent of the amount shown on the policy for personal property, when the property is located at another residence away from the home address.

Look at your policy and find the limit provided for personal property.  Take 10 percent of that amount, and then think about the items your student has taken to college:  clothes, TV, computer, other electronics, furniture, and household items.  How much would it cost to replace all those items if they were all lost at the same time in a fire or other catastrophe?

In addition to the dollar limitation, some policies don’t cover theft of personal property from the student’s residence, except while the student is temporarily living there. This is a definite problem, especially when the apartment is owned, or rented for a 12-month term, and the student comes home for the summer.

Your homeowners policy also provides liability coverage in case a family member is legally liable for another person’s injury or damage to another person’s property.  This coverage clearly applies to accidents at home or away from home, but some policies limit the coverage when an accident occurs at an owned or rented residence other than the family home.  Some insurance companies offer liability coverage at separate residences for an additional cost.

After all of the above information is considered, it’s easy to see there are potential coverage gaps in your homeowners policy when a student leaves home for college. That’s why we recommend that you purchase a separate tenant or renter’s homeowners policy for the student’s residence, whether it is an apartment or a dorm room.  The cost of such a policy is small compared to the benefits it provides.

 Automobile Policy

If your student takes one of your family vehicles to college, the coverage provided by your family automobile policy follows the vehicle anywhere in the United States and Canada.  This includes coverage for damage to the vehicle itself (if you have purchased such coverage on that vehicle) as well as liability coverage for injury or damage to other persons or property.

If your student doesn’t take a vehicle to college, some coverage under your policy may still apply if they are riding in or even driving a vehicle belonging to someone else.

Students Who Are Not Legal Residents of Your Household

Coverage complications can arise on your homeowners or auto policy if your student for whatever reason is not considered a legal resident of your household, as was mentioned in the first part of this article.  We encourage you to discuss your personal situation with us and your attorney.  To be safe, we will likely recommend separate homeowners and auto policies for the student.

This article was prepared and made available to Hill Insurance Agency by the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas, which is solely responsible for its content. Please read your insurance policy. If there is any conflict between the information in this article and the actual terms and conditions of your policy, the terms and conditions of your policy will apply. The Independent Insurance Agents of Texas is a non-profit association of more than 1,800 insurance agencies in Texas, dedicated to helping its members succeed, in part by providing technical resources that explain insurance policies sold to their customers.

When Your Teenager Starts to Drive

My teenager just received a license to drive. Do I need to add him/her to my policy now? Will it increase my premium?

These are great questions that our customers ask frequently.

The short answers are “yes” and “yes.”

Most personal auto policies written in Texas extend liability coverage to anyone using a covered auto with your permission, including children when they begin to drive. However, some policies exclude family members who have not been reported to the insurance company and are not listed as drivers on the policy.

Failing to report your newly-licensed teenager is a dangerous game to play with your family assets. In fact, some companies may consider this to be “insurance fraud” and refuse to pay a claim involving a young driver who has not been reported – especially if the youngster had a license when the policy was first purchased.

Insurance companies expect you to report all drivers in the household and will charge a premium based on the appropriate driver classification. In the case of a youthful operator, that premium will depend on whether the driver is the principal operator of a family vehicle or just a part-time operator.

Be sure to discuss your family’s insurance needs with your insurance agent. After considering your specific circumstances, you and your agent can make a decision regarding auto insurance that is appropriate for your family and your insurance budget.

This article was prepared and made available to Hill Insurance Agency LP  by the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas, which is solely responsible for its content. Please read your insurance policy. If there is any conflict between the information in this article and the actual terms and conditions of your policy, the terms and conditions of your policy will apply. The Independent Insurance Agents of Texas is a non-profit association of more than 1,800 insurance agencies in Texas, dedicated to helping its members succeed, in part by providing technical resources that explain insurance policies sold to their customers.