For non-US residents, renting a car can be a confusing and difficult process. US insurance policies and litigious attitudes present a quagmire of confusing options and rules. Here is a list of the basic do’s and don’ts- and how at Explore Rentals we are happy to rent cars to international visitors.
Primary Coverage Insurance Required:
Q) What is it and why?
A) What this means is that YOUR insurance will act as primary in the case of an accident. Primary, meaning pays first. Most international travel insurance policies do not provide primary coverage for rental cars. They only offer secondary or tertiary coverage, as in they will pay the deductible (excess) but not actual damage to the vehicle. This is generally no good for me (the rental car company) and you, the renter.
Q) What is the included insurance on the rental cars?
A) Explore Rentals ensures our rental fleet commercially, like all other rental car companies, to the industry standards of state required liability minimums. What this means is that you are completely legal, but do not have great coverage for things involving collisions, like hitting a deer or snow bank (our most common incidences). This is why we require the renter have some form of insurance that acts as primary coverage in case of a collision; it limits your risk- and our risk.
Q) Why is this so difficult for international renters?
A) Americans and their insurance companies are insanely litigious. It is easy for most US-nationals because as individuals we have full-coverage insurance on our personal automobiles that extends primary coverage to rental cars. Your personal auto insurance in the UK, Australia, Japan, or wherever you are from likely wants nothing to do with a car accident in America. Some international personal and corporate insurance policies extend primary coverage to rental cars in the US. If you have one of these policies, you will know it.
Q) What are my options to get primary coverage insurance?
A) 1) Purchase an international travel insurance policy that provides PRIMARY rental car insurance coverage in the US. This is often expensive, but also can be more affordable to those individuals renting cars for extended periods of time. You will need to present proof of your primary coverage insurance prior to driving away.
2) Accept the Physical Damage Waiver. This is not recommended. For more information go here> Physical Damage Waiver Explained.
3) Purchase RCP Insurance. Renter’s Collision Protection insurance. This is available at the beginning of your rental or at the time of booking. Price is $19/ day. Which is not cheap, but it is our cost. RCP provides collision coverage for up to a maximum payout of $20,000, with a $250 deductible (excess). Example: you hit a deer, it causes $1,500 worth of damages to the car. You pay Explore Rentals the $250 deductible and do a little extra paperwork (like accident reports), we get the car fixed, you go home; no-harm-no-foul.
Note: RCP is the best solution we have found, but it is not a perfect system. Example: Last year an international renter fell asleep at the wheel and drove the car off the road in Yellowstone National Park. Although it looked like fairly minimal damage, he drove over a number of stumps effectively ripping the guts out of the Outback. Fortunately, he was fine. Although he had RCP, we ran into a number of issues which made it an unfortunate event. 1) The car had to be towed out of YNP to the repair center- at his cost. RCP does not cover towing, and this was a long tow. 2) The car was a total loss. RCP paid out the full amount ($20,000 total), but the car was worth more than $20k, so we had to bill the renter for the difference. 3) We (Explore Rentals) had to cancel multiple weeks of already booked rentals during the time it took to receive insurance settlement and replace the vehicle- so we had a significant loss of revenue (let alone the upset renters we had to cancel on) so we were forced to charge Loss of Use- which RCP does not cover either. In conclusion, this was a crappy situation for all involved.
Q) How do I avoid crappy situations?
A) 1) Purchase RCP insurance. This reduces exposure to $250.
2) Make the booking with a premium credit card that offers secondary coverage to auto rentals in the US. You will likely need to check your card coverage, but it is possible without paying any additional amounts. This secondary coverage MAY cover the potential loss of use, towing, and other charges.
3) Purchase travel insurance that provides some US rental car coverage. Secondary or tertiary insurance can help with the worst case scenario, and you will want health insurance coverage for the US anyway while you are traveling.
Statistically speaking, what are the odds of an accident?
- 2.4% of our renters incur an accident during their rental period.
- 90% of those accidents, damage has been over $250.
- 45% have been the result of ice/ slippery conditions, 25% have been contact with an animal, 15% backing up into a stationary object, 10% have been bad judgment, 10% miscellaneous.
- Average repair amount to a vehicle: $1,700.
- Very fortunately, we have not had an accident involving another vehicle or someone getting hurt- and we would like to keep it this way!
Nobody wants or tries to get in an accident, but it happens. At Explore Rentals we require international renters provide proof of insurance that provides primary rental car coverage in the US, or they purchase the RCP insurance. This is to protect you, the renter, and us, the company.