Travel: The Perils of Renting a Car

1121Two summers ago, I went online to Travelocity or Expedia to rent a car because I was visiting family in England and my husband and I decided to take a motoring tour of the country.  I spotted what looked like a great deal.  My memory is that we could rent a car for about $500 for the 3 weeks that we were planning to tour. It seemed almost too good to be true. We showed up at the rental agency near Heathrow with reservation in hand only to find that when you added taxes, insurance and other charges in, the cost was closer to $1000!  What a nasty surprise!

Last year, my husband and I spent a week doing a motoring tour of northern France.  So I did much more careful research. Here is what I found:
1.    Most credit cards cover the collision damage waiver (CDW) and theft protection (TP), so you DON’T need to buy that insurance when you pick your car up at the agency.  All you need to do is pay with a card that has your name embossed on it, be sure to decline the CDW and theft protection and make sure the other drivers you have listed are authorized to drive.  The credit cards provide numbers to call if you run into difficulties.
2.    You DO NEED liability insurance, which covers the medical expenses of another person injured as a result of an accident involving yourself.
3.    Personal accident insurance (PAI) covers the medical expenses of the occupants of the car including the driver, so if you have a good health insurance plan, you probably don’t need this.
4.    Don’t expect to see this all spelled out for you on Travelocity or Expedia or the other large conglomerations that book rental cars.  If you really want to find out what you are paying, you have to go to the rental car site.
5.    I found that I preferred Avis, because it disclosed all costs to you in a very clear manner, and offered an easy way of opting out of insurance coverage you did not want.  It was the only car rental company I could find that specifically offered personal liability insurance.  The other car rental companies that I checked –  which included Hertz, Alamo, National, Budget – only offered CDW, TP and PAI.

Endnote: There were no nasty surprises from Avis.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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