Should You Buy the Rental Car Insurance?

As I posted about previously, we recently returned from vacation in Southern California.  As part of our vacation package, we opted to get a rental car while we were there.  Rental cars can be pretty reasonably priced but it’s always shocking to me how different the prices are from one company to another.  We ended up renting a car from Avis for a total of 9 days for about $220 (I have absolutely no loyalty to rental car companies.  I shop by price).  For $24 a day, we figured that it would be worth having the convenience of a car so that we could explore a few different places.  We knew that we wanted to visit Hollywood, Huntington Beach and San Diego and since we were staying in Anaheim, the costs of transportation without a rental car would add up very quickly.

We knew that the cost of a shuttle to and from Disneyland each day would cost us about $10 each day.  Since we purchased a 3 day pass, that was $30 total.  We also knew that we wanted to drive to San Diego one day.  Since there really wasn’t a viable transportation option to get from Anaheim to San Diego, that pretty much sealed the deal on getting a rental.  We took a little comfort in the thought that we were only spending about $190 on the car when considering the offset of the Disneyland shuttle, but we knew were definitely paying a premium to have a car.

When we arrived at the rental counter in the airport, I wasn’t surprised to see that the rental agent had a few questions for me.  I will say that I was a little surprised at the sheer number of questions he had though.  Included in the questions were the following: Did we want to rent a GPS device?  Nope.  We brought a cheap GPS device from home (and it worked out PERFECT).  Did we want the deluxe insurance that would basically let us take the car off roading, jump it off a cliff, spray paint it purple, participate in massive riots where the car ended up getting flipped upside down and set on fire, and then return the car with no questions asked, and no liability?  No thank you.  Do you want the reduced insurance that would still protect you from loss of use in the event of an accident, even if your insurance covers the damage?  No thank you.  And the final question (not insurance related) was whether we’d like to prepay for a tank of gas at their $4.23 price for fuel?  No thank you.  (I think the “gotcha” on this one was that they charge you for a full tank ahead of time so that when you come back with a half tank of gas, you still paid for a full tank).

In the end, I actually started feeling a little guilty (notice I said “a little”) that I said “No” so many times.  I could picture this rental agents monthly statistics that show him not getting the percentage of “up sells” the company expects, but I certainly wasn’t going to pay for anything that was unnecessary.  I knew ahead of time that my personal automobile insurance covered my use of a rental car, and I also knew that my American Express card offered another level of protection.  Since I don’t normally buy three levels of insurance, I knew this wasn’t the time to start.  If you know your credit company covers your rental car insurance, it’s really a no-brainer. In any case, when you rent a car, I’d highly recommend checking with both your insurance company and your credit card company to find out how they can protect you in the event of an accident, or damage to your rental car.