The rental car industry in the United States is a multibillion dollar industry, with millions of rental cars in circulation. And a good portion of that market share is controlled by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car, first founded in 1957 in St. Louis, is the 21st largest private company in America, according to Forbes, with over a million rental cars in its fleet and more than 7,200 offices across the country.
Enterprise rents cars to people in all sorts of different situations, including travelers at airports as well as those whose cars have been damaged or stolen. And with all of these Enterprise Rent-A-Car vehicles on the road, it should come as no surprise that if you are planning to rent a car from Enterprise, you should give some consideration to the issue of insurance.
Rental Car Accidents
Of course, no one ever rents a car intending to get in an accident. (Well, maybe a few insurance fraudsters do, but this article isn’t for them.) Rental car accidents are particularly embarrassing, because you have damaged someone else’s property which you promised to keep in good condition.
To top it all off, many drivers of rental cars have already been in one accident, and they are driving the rental car because their regular car was damaged. To get in two accidents in such a short span of time… that might just feel like the universe has it in for you.
But rental car accidents do happen, and more often than you might think. For one thing, you have no familiarity with the car you are driving, and getting behind the wheel of a new and unfamiliar car is always dangerous.
Even if the rental car is the same make and model as the one you are used to driving (and often it is not), all sorts of little things might be different. The accelerator and the brakes, the turning radius, and the control panel may all have subtle differences from what you are used to.
Taken altogether, these little changes add up and combine to throw off your muscle memory and put you just a little bit out of your element when you are behind the wheel of a rental car. This can increase the risk of an accident.
Add this to the fact that, if you are renting a car on vacation, you are likely driving on new and unfamiliar roads, and may also be tired, plus all the regular dangers of driving, including poor road conditions, careless drivers, and distractions, and you will see that the risk of getting in a rental car accident is not small.
So, when you borrow a rental car, don’t discount the possibility that you may need insurance!
You Are Responsible for Your Rental Car
If you rent a car, whether from Enterprise or another rental car company, then you are responsible for maintaining that rental car in the same condition in which you got it. It’s right there in the rental contract.
If you fail to return the rental car in the condition in which you received it, then you will be billed for any damages to the car. This can be expensive; even small scratches can end up costing a couple of hundred dollars!
This is why, when you rent a car, it is important to give the car a thorough examination. Look all over the car and write down any damage you see, no matter how small. Enterprise will likely give you a form to fill out on which you can note damage, and you should do so as thoroughly as possible.
Although Enterprise probably won’t try to deliberately defraud you, they can and do make mistakes, so it can also help to get evidence of your own. Get a copy of the damage report before you get behind the wheel of the rental car, and take pictures of the vehicle, so that no one can say that you caused damage if you actually didn’t.Torklaw Rental Car Tip - Get A Copy of The Damage Report Click To Tweet
Trust us, you’ll thank us later.
When it comes to accidents, Enterprise does offer several insurance options for its customers. You can read about these types of insurance on the Enterprise Insurance Information Page.
Enterprise insurance includes:
- Personal Accident Insurance and Personal Effects Coverage, which cover medical bills, death costs, and personal effects;
- Supplemental Liability Protection, which covers third-party liability claims;
- Roadside Assistance Protection, which covers the costs of various roadside incidents which might require you to call a tow truck; and
- A Damage Waiver, which (although technically not insurance) decreases liability for an accident.
In offering these types of insurance to its customers, Enterprise is not alone. Most other rental car companies provide the same types of insurance, so if you are renting from another company, they will likely offer you a similar set of options.
All of these types of supplemental insurance are optional, and you may choose to rent an Enterprise car without purchasing any of these.
So, what should you do? Well, in most of the articles that we post on here, our advice is to get as much insurance as you possibly can. But this time, we’re not so sure. Rental car insurance isn’t always necessary, and many (but not all) Enterprise customers can forgo it completely without putting themselves at risk.
Other Insurance Policies Which May Cover You
Why might you not need to buy Enterprise insurance? It is possible that you already have car insurance which will cover a rental car, and you don’t even know it yet.
Before buying Enterprise insurance, check these possible sources of rental car coverage:
Your Own Insurance
There is a good chance that your own car insurance policy covers damage to rental cars. Many policies offer rental car insurance, but not all. We don’t know your personal insurance plan, so before deciding whether or not to buy the Enterprise’s insurance, you should carefully read your own policy, or perhaps call your insurer and confirm whether it really does cover a rental car.
If it does, then you’re in luck; you can get away with not buying Enterprise’s insurance.
Credit Card Insurance
What if your insurance doesn’t cover rental cars? The next thing you should do is check your credit card policy. A lot of people don’t know this, but some credit card companies actually provide rental car insurance coverage, so long as you pay for the rental car with your credit card.
If your credit card policy covers the costs of the rental car, then you can still get away with not buying Enterprise’s insurance.
Limits and Stipulations on Credit Card Insurance
Although all of the big credit card companies (including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover) offer rental car insurance, credit card coverage isn’t always perfect.
For one thing, you almost always have to use the credit card in question to pay the full cost of renting the car if you want to be insured. The credit card has to be under your name, so no using a family member’s card!
Also, in most cases the credit card coverage only applies if you do not buy any supplementary insurance. This means that you most likely won’t be able to buy Enterprise insurance and still expect your credit card coverage to work.
And there’s another problem: the credit card’s insurance may be incomplete. For instance, credit cards often cover only collision damage to the rental car, and may not cover liability, so you might receive no coverage for any injuries or damages to other cars besides the rental.
Many credit cards only provide secondary insurance coverage, which means that they will only pick up the tab after your car insurance company’s limits are extended (although there are a few credit card options which do provide primary insurance). Credits cars also frequently exclude luxury vehicles like Ferraris, or even large rentals such as SUVs or pickup trucks, from being covered.
Your rental car insurance may not work in some foreign countries, and the insurance likely will not cover a rental for an extended period of time. (The precise time limit varies, although no rental car insurance lasts much longer than 30 days.) And there are even weirder stipulations: for instance, in some cases the insurance may not cover an accident if it occurs on a dirt road.
Finally, the precise nature of the benefits may differ between personal and business credit cards. Business credit cards do sometimes have rental car insurance, but they often require that cars rented on a business card be used for business travel. Different cards on the same company and network may also have different benefits.
If you’re relying on a credit card for your rental car insurance, you should be aware of any of these possible stipulations, and plan accordingly.
TORKLAW’s Rental Car Advice: Plan Ahead!
In sum, credit card insurance can be useful, but it can also be thorny. The only real advice that we can give you is to figure this all out before you rent a car.
You don’t want to be in the position of renting a car assuming you were insured, getting in an accident, and then having to retroactively figure out which insurance policies covered what, and how much you’re going to have to pay out-of-pocket.
Be particularly careful to ensure that you have liability coverage, because this is the kind of insurance that your policies are most likely to leave uncovered.
So do yourself a favor, and take a look at your auto insurance and credit card policies before you decide whether or not to get Enterprise insurance!
What to Do If You Are in a Rental Car Accident
If you’ve found yourself in a rental car accident, you must take the same steps that you would take in any other car accident. We’ve talked about these steps in previous articles, but it’s worth going over them again here:
First of all, make sure that you and your passengers are safe. Get over to the side of the road, if possible, but if you can’t get out of traffic, then turn on your emergency blinkers. If possible, set up cones, warning triangles, or emergency flares behind your car, to let other drivers know that there has been an accident.
If anyone is injured, call 911, even if the injuries don’t seem severe. Some injuries after an accident can be more serious than they first seem, in part because of the adrenaline coursing through your system and in part because some injuries can have delayed symptoms. Don’t attempt to move any injured people, unless absolutely necessary to get them out of the way of traffic.
To avoid facing hit-and-run charges, you should stay at the scene of the accident, and call the police if there is significant property damage or injury. If it’s only a minor fender-bender and no one is injured, you may not need to call the police, but you will still need to file a report eventually, and a police report at the scene can help your case.
Get the name, contact information, and license and insurance information from the other driver of drivers, and get the contact info of the passengers and any witnesses you can find. It’s not legally required to get witnesses’ contact info, but they can help your case a lot later.
Other than the formalities, try not to spend too much time talking to anyone; don’t get angry, but don’t apologize, either! This can be used against you later. You should also take pictures of the accident, if you have a phone on you, because these too can come in handy. If police respond to the accident, make sure to request a copy of the police report; Torklaw will help you order a free copy.
Once you have left the scene of the accident, there will still be some extra paperwork and other formalities to fulfill. You will need to contact your insurance company and let them know that an accident occurred. Since you are driving a rental car, this will be the insurance company which covered your rental, whether it be your regular insurance, credit card, or Enterprise insurance.
You will also have to keep detailed medical records and medical bills, to confirm the extent of your injuries so you can receive the proper amount of damages later. You should get an independent estimation of the property damage costs, and you may also have to fill out some additional paperwork with your state DMV.
This is where your obligations begin to diverge in a rental car accident. You will have to inform Enterprise that an accident took place. Enterprise should have left an emergency number in an easy-to-access place in the car, such as the glove compartment or the well. Tell the Enterprise people what happened, and ask them what you should do next.
Whether or not you will need to invoke your rental car insurance depends on whether or not you were at fault. Of course, if the other driver was at fault, then the matter will be treated like any other accident, and their insurance will pay for the damages.
Typically, in these cases, Enterprise will deal with the other party’s insurance. In some cases, however, they may charge you directly, which will transfer the burden of dealing with the other party’s insurance onto you. In these cases, it’s good to have a lawyer to help you through the process.
If you were at fault, however, then the burden will without a doubt come to rest on you, and whatever insurance policies you have.
What If I Rented from Another Company?
In this article, we’ve talked about Enterprise insurance. However, although Enterprise is the largest rental car company in America, there are many other rental car companies, including Hertz (and its subsidiaries, Dollar and Thrifty) and Avis.
Much of what we’ve written in this article will carry over to other rental companies. However, there are bound to be some differences, both in the types of insurance that these companies offer to their customers, and in their response to customer accidents.
Of course, even within Enterprise, the company’s practices will hardly be uniform. This is natural for a company as big as Enterprise, and so individual agents and offices will handle things differently.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s rental insurance isn’t for everyone, but it is for some people. If you go to an Enterprise office to rent a car, the salesman will probably try to convince you that you need to buy the insurance. On the other hand, some savvy consumers will try to convince you that Enterprise insurance is a quasi-scam.
The truth, as it so often is, probably lies somewhere between those two extremes. We at Torklaw wouldn’t endorse buying Enterprise insurance in every situation, but we certainly wouldn’t discount it, either. To be sure, Enterprise insurance is probably less necessary than a wily rental car salesman may lead you to believe, but this does not mean it is always useless.
Some people do not have their rental vehicles covered by their personal insurance or credit card, and for these people, Enterprise insurance is often the best option. Enterprise insurance may also be necessary for those renting large trucks or other vehicles not typically covered by credit card insurance.
Also, if you have a deductible that is higher than that of Enterprise, then you may find it prudent to buy the Enterprise insurance even if your personal or credit card insurance does cover rentals, just so that you can save on your deductible if you do get in an accident.
There are a lot of factors to be considered here, and ultimately we can’t tell you with absolute certainty whether or not to buy Enterprise’ insurance. The answer depends on what’s right for you and your situation, and how much risk you are willing to assume.