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Things to Know About Car Insurance and Rental Cars Before Starting Your Road Trip

Before starting your road trip, DISB offers some things to remember about car insurance and rental cars before for your summer road trip.

Before Leaving on Vacation

Make sure your insurance identification card is in the car. Double-check that phone numbers for your insurance company and agent are listed on the identification card. If not, make note of these numbers to keep with your ID card and bring it with you.

If You’re In an Accident

  • Remain calm.
  • Check for any injuries and administer first aid, if necessary.
  • Contact the proper authorities and inform them of any injuries. Regardless of the circumstances, report the accident to the police.
  • Record the name, address and phone number of the other driver. Always write down the make, model and license plate number of all vehicles involved.
  • Collect the names, addresses and phone numbers of all passengers and witnesses.
  • Take photos of the accident scene, if possible.
  • Do not admit fault.
  • Ask the investigating officer how to obtain a copy of the police report.
  • Notify your insurance agent or company immediately.

What to Expect After the Accident

Rental Cars

If your car was damaged due to another driver’s negligence, the other driver’s insurance company should pay your rental car costs for a reasonable length of repair time. If your car is totaled, many companies will pay for your rental as a courtesy, but they are not required to do so.

If you are filing a claim with your own insurance company, the cost of a rental car will only be covered if you paid a premium to include rental reimbursement coverage in your policy. Most polices have a dollar limit for rental payments, so check your policy.

Things to Consider about Insurance Renting a Car 

Car rental companies offer several different insurance options that your existing policy may already cover. They typically offer the following products at the counter:

Collision Damage Waiver is also referred to as a Loss Damage Waiver. If you have comprehensive and collision coverage on your own car, you will likely not need this additional protection. (Comprehensive insurance covers vehicular damages caused by accidents such as fire, theft, wind, hail or a run-in with a deer, vandalism, or theft. Collision insurance covers the cost of repairs or the actual cash value of the vehicle, if damaged in a crash or rollover.) This protection can cost an extra $10-$20 a day.
 
Liability Insurance covers medical expenses and damages to another person’s property as a result of a car accident caused by the insured’s negligence. If you are adequately insured on your own car, you may consider forgoing this additional liability protection. This supplemental insurance can cost $7-$14 a day.
 
Personal Accident Insurance offers coverage to the renter and passengers for medical bills resulting from a car crash. If you have adequate health insurance and disability income insurance, or are covered by personal injury protection under your own car insurance, you will likely not need this additional insurance. It usually costs about $1-$5 a day.
 
Personal Effects Coverage provides for the theft of personal items inside the rental car. If you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy, it generally covers this already. If you frequently travel with expensive jewelry or sports equipment, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a floater under your home or renters insurance policies so the items are fully protected when you travel. Generally, this coverage costs $2-$5 a day.

More Car Rental Insurance Tips:

  • If your current policy doesn’t offer coverage for a rental car, see if an insurance rider can be added for a small fee.
  • If you lack personal auto insurance and your credit card does not provide benefits, it might be wise to purchase the liability insurance and collision damage waiver at the car rental counter.
  • Keep in mind that if it is a longer-term rental (e.g., a week, a month or more), there might be limitations on the coverage your existing auto insurance policy provides. Check with your insurance company or agent for details.
  • If you don’t own a car, you might want to consider purchasing a non-owner auto insurance policy, because it provides benefits in addition to coverage for a rental car.
  • Carefully review your auto insurance policy and check with your credit card issuer about auto insurance benefits. Many credit cards include some level of collision and theft protection. In most cases, these benefits are secondary to your personal auto insurance or the car rental company’s insurance, meaning the credit card company will only pay claims after other insurance coverage has been exhausted. 

Uninsured Drivers

If an uninsured driver caused the accident, then your insurance company will pay for damage to your vehicle if you have collision coverage or uninsured motorist property damage. If your damage is repaired under your collision coverage — be aware you will still have to pay a deductible.

Repairs

Even if your claims adjuster recommends a specific body shop, you may choose to have your car repaired at the body shop of your choice. To avoid confusion, notify the claims adjuster about your repair shop before any of the work is done.

If Your Car Is a Total Loss

If the damage is extensive, and the claims adjuster determines the cost to repair your car is greater than the value of your car, the insurance company might choose to declare your car a total loss. When this happens, your insurance company has the option to take the title for your vehicle when it issues payment on your claim.

The insurance company will use the Kelley Blue Book to value the car. The insurance company is required to pay what your vehicle was actually worth at the moment before the crash. The claims adjuster will check to see what a car like yours (same make, model and year) is worth in your general geographic area. It is also a good idea for you to independently research the value of your car before agreeing to a settlement with the insurance company.

Ramifications of Filing a Claim

An accident filed with your insurance company might cause your rates to rise. Premium increases are more likely when the accident is your fault; however, an insurance company might also raise your premiums if you have more than one not-at-fault accident within a policy period. If you have questions about a rate increase following a claim or you are involved in a claim-settlement dispute with your insurer, contact DISB at (202) 727-8000 or disbcomplaints@dc.gov to file a complaint.  

More Information

Call DISB at (202) 727-8000 or email us at disb@dc.gov if you have any questions about information on this page.