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A rental car insurance horror story

Don't assume you're covered when you rent a vehicle. That could be a very costly mistake.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 8, 2011 12:37PM

This post comes from Michael at partner blog The Dough Roller.


The Dough Roller on MSN MoneyLet me tell you a horror story about the car rental insurance that comes with your credit card.


A few weeks ago I needed a rental car. Enterprise was located right around the corner, so I figured I would give them a shot. This was my first rental car, so I wasn't exactly sure how the process worked. But, to my surprise, I was in my rental in under 20 minutes. Perhaps that was part of the problem.


I normally drive a 2003 Ford Mustang. While I requested a car of similar size, Enterprise had only three vehicles available: a Ford F150, a Dodge Ram Dakota pickup, and a minivan the size of an 18-wheeler.


After considering my options, I should have walked away. I'd never driven a big truck before, and living in a sky-rise with a tight parking garage, it would be a terrible idea to take any of these.


Regrettably, I asked for the smallest of the three vehicles, which was the Dakota.


Because of the cost, I don't carry collision and comprehensive coverage on my car insurance policy. But having just received my new Capital One Spark Business Visa Card, I knew I had rental car damage waiver protection. So, in filling out the paperwork on this truck, I declined the extra $19.95-a-day damage insurance offered by Enterprise.


I moseyed on back to my apartment complex, only to realize that this pickup was indeed too large for my parking garage. I tried to maneuver the truck into my parking space, and even though I thought the dimensions would work, they didn't. I ended up getting stuck to the cement post to my left.


The only way out was to rev it, so that's what I did. You might say the Dakota was now a wee bit crumpled. Looking at it made me sick. I drove the truck out of the garage and returned it to Enterprise. They filled out a quick form, looked at the damage and told me they would call with an estimate the next day. (Two weeks later, I have not heard from them).


If I were to judge, I'd say there's about $2,000 worth of repairs needed. Ugh.


But not to worry. I immediately called Visa to get the claim form filled out. After I provided the very helpful customer-service representative with my information, she let me know that I do not qualify for coverage. What was that? Well, wouldn't you know it: Certain cars and trucks are not included in rental car insurance coverage. Taken directly from Visa's website:

Excluded worldwide are: expensive, exotic, and antique automobiles; certain vans; vehicles that have an open cargo bed; trucks; motorcycles, mopeds, and motorbikes; limousines; and recreational vehicles.

Post continues below.

And from the MasterCard website, just in case you think I'm getting a raw deal:

Excluded: All trucks, pickups, full-size vans mounted on truck chassis, campers, off-road vehicles, and other recreational vehicles; trailers, motorbikes, motorcycles, and any other vehicle having fewer than four wheels; antique vehicles.

Seems like anything that's not a sedan or compact car is excluded. Sadly, that knowledge would have gone a long way in getting me off the hook for this four-digit expense I'm about to incur. Instead, I wait for a dreadful phone call to learn how much the estimate is going to be. And there's not a gosh darn thing I can do about it.


I guess the moral of this story is that you should never assume your insurance policy covers you in all scenarios. Whether it's auto, health, home or life insurance, make sure you know the ins and outs of your coverage. And even if you think you'll never get into an accident, plan for it. Don't be the $2,000 idiot I was and assume you're covered.


Update:  I just received the estimate in the mail from Enterprise and the damage to the truck plus administrative fees and loss of use for 10 days is going to cost me $3,700. Ugh.


More on The Dough Roller and MSN Money:

Dec 8, 2011 5:06PM
This story might have been more shocking had you had an accident with another vehicle. Instead of causing all the damage yourself by cramming the truck into a small space. Parking Fail.
Dec 10, 2011 10:20PM
The writer sounds like an novice when it comes to driving.  There should be no problem adjusting to the different sized cars or trucks that he was offered.  A mini-van is not a very large vehicle, and indicates that the writer is probably not a very good driver and should take a taxi.
Dec 10, 2011 6:54PM

Guys, read the article.  He's not blaming Enterprise or Mastercard.  He's even calling himself an idiot.


He says very clearly that he declined the coverage based on what he thought Visa/MC covered.  He found out he was wrong - from the article (emphasis mine):


"I guess the moral of this story is that you should never assume your insurance policy covers you in all scenarios. Whether it's auto, health, home or life insurance, make sure you know the ins and outs of your coverage. And even if you think you'll never get into an accident, plan for it. Don't be the $2,000 idiot I was and assume you're covered."


He admits he was wrong and was just trying to share with people that they should be sure and read their coverage instead of making assumptions like he did.  That's pretty good advice, I think.



Dec 8, 2011 2:34PM

That is a big catch on visa/mc rental coverage.  And you have to decline the cdw from the rental outfit too.  And the accident can't happen "off road", whatever that means.  I presume that does not mean for example in a parking lot.  And make sure and get an accident report from the cops no matter what.


Another alternative which I have signed up for, but have not used is from american express.  It is not free, but very reasonable especially if you are renting a pickup truck, which they cover.  Once you sign up and rent a vehicle, decline the rental company's cdw and use the amex card for the rental (most car, suv's or pickup trucks) you pay a flat $25 or so fee for the entire rental.  The other thing is that this coverage is primary, unlike the visa or mastercard coverage that is secondary to your own coverage that you might have with your regular car insurer. 


Outside the U.S. being primary or secondary would not matter as most car insurance companies in the u.s. do not cover rentals outside the u.s. But in the U.S. this is nice because if you do cause damage using the amex coverage, you keep your insurance company totally out of the claim as the amex coverage is primary.

Dec 8, 2011 6:46PM

The exclusions from your credit card is rotten, but be sure to watch out for those concrete walls. I hate how they move closer to your vehicle when you try to park. Crafty little guys.

Dec 10, 2011 11:58PM
This story is fake. You can bet a car rental agency wrote this to scare people into buying their insurance. I use to work as a rental/sales agent for a period of one year. The emphasis being put on SALES Agent. These are all commissiond people working for around 8 bucks an hour. They make their money selling fuel, upgrading to a better car and most of all insurance. While there are some people who rent cars definitlely should purchase some type of protection most will fined that their insurance companies will cover them. I am really surprised that the agent dod not tell this person who wrote this article that this particular type of vehicle was not covered by his credit card or the possibilty that it wasnt. Especially if it was from Enterprise. This is where they make their money. He or she would have jumped all over it to make extra money. See i used to work for a sister company of Enterprise.  They use all kinds of tactics to sell you insurance. Most of it being not giving you all the information. Loss of use is the biggest crock and one of the biggest scare tactics used by agents. I had an opportunity to watch some of these agents at work and I couldnt believe half of what these people said to get customers to buy insurance. Certainly if you dont have any type of prtection or coverage you should buy it. But before you go on vacation or rent a car for any reason check with your insurance company as to what they do cover.
Dec 10, 2011 7:30PM

A car rental and insurance company's worst customer nightmare.


"I moseyed on back to my apartment complex, only to realize that this pickup was indeed too large for my parking garage."


Fail from this point on


It takes a special kind of idiot to then force a vehicle into to small an opening into the garage anyway, because they think, wrongly as it turns out, insurance will pay for their stupidity.





Dec 10, 2011 11:19PM
Maybe instead of going somewhere to rent a car you should have been going to a driver ed class. The writer states that he got stuck on a cement post on his left. Call me crazy but that's the side the driver's seat is on and size has nothing to do with it considering you can see everything out of the side window. Simple case of an I D ten T error.
Dec 10, 2011 7:19PM

I can't believe that you could not get the dakota in the parking space. Was it a motorcycle spot? I used to have a dakota Quad cab(that means 4 doors) and it was not any wider than my 2000

Chevy Impala. If you were stuck against a pole, than you shouldn't even have a license. Why would you Rev it up? You wouldn't do that to your own car. I guess you figured what the hell, I have insurance to cover it, By the way, it is not a dodge ram dakota, It was either a Ram, (full size truck) or a Dakota (compact size truck) No wonder the credit cards don't cover these, with drivers like you, I wouldn't either. By the way, they put mirrors on the side for a reason, to look in them to see if you are going to hit something.

Dec 11, 2011 1:05AM

So, first off, you didn't bother to read the full policy of your card and just assumed you would be covered?   And then you managed to improperly park one of the smallest trucks on the market, getting it stuck against a pole, and then figured flooring the gas pedal would somehow magicly right the situation?


Ok, first off, stop blaming the size of the parking garage on your inability to park a small vehicle (unless of course each parking space is designed for a Smart car).  After you take accountability for your actions, TAKE A BUS OR A CAB down to the DMV and voluntarily hand in your license.  You shouldn't be driving, and you got everything that was coming to you. 

Dec 10, 2011 7:17PM

Learn to drive and you will be fine......

Dec 10, 2011 9:43PM

...sooooo, the moral of the story is that if you don't know how to drive don't rent a vehicle?


What did you think was going to happen?  Insurance companies are not non-profits.

Dec 10, 2011 4:38PM
Kind of sucks, but if you couldn't tell you were about to hit a concrete wall while parking the truck you shouldn't be driving in the first place.  If you insist on continuing to drive you should get all the insurance possible because this will not be last accident you find yourself in. 
Dec 10, 2011 11:32PM
That really does suck.
But I am the bearer of truth, facts, reality and I guess bad news ( a heads up)
Unfortunately you have bad judgement and judgment in a few ways.
Just to name a few to think you will never need collision and or comprehensive, wrong.
A vehicle type you have never driven before and you pretty much knew it was not going to be easy to park in your space. Bad.
Then you didn't just try to squeeze it between poles, you smushed it between poles not being able to judge the vehicle nor taking a few seconds to see if it were actually going to fit, and not stopping before it actually did damage.. ):
To me though that whole situation ridiculous.

Dec 10, 2011 11:18PM
Sounds like the moron could not drive, plus did more damage to the rental because he assumed that the insurance would pay for his intentional , further damage by revving it higher to get unstuck.
A minivan the size of an 18 wheeler? No such thing....
The author is obviously a moron who can't drive!!

Dec 10, 2011 6:39PM
I read this account as a renter gone wrong.  I am hearing he made mistake after mistake and did not want others to have the same problem he had.  He didn't try to shift responsibility, just mourn his losses.  He sounds a bit young and lacking in the way the real world works.  I learned this stuff too.  I was rear-ended in a rental and had good insurance but not the rental car rider.  It was a nightmare before I got things straightened out.  I now have different insurance and speak to my rep before I rent a car.  Don't want any after the fact surprises.
Dec 8, 2011 5:06PM
you don't owe loss of use unless they can prove every other vehicle of that style was rented out while that vehicle was out of commision.  I would fight that.  They have to prove they incurred a loss to get paid for it.  Loss of use was set up for personal autos to pay for  rental why your vehicle was down.  The chances of that they can prove they lost bussiness due to it being out of action is almost impossible.  I would also ask for a reciept from the shop that did the work.  To provide proof that work was done and it took that long to do it.  Call your states insurance commisions office for consumer help.
Dec 10, 2011 8:37PM

This author is an idiot and deserved it. Congrats, moron, trying to get a large vehicle in a small garage, and ruining it. And congrats on revving the engine to jam it loose and making the damage worse. A SMART person would have called a tow service and gotten rolling jack out there to move it laterally off the pole without damaging it further. You could have limited the damage to a small dent or even just some paint work. But no, you had to rev it and jam it into the pole worse while getting it out.


It's also your fault for not reading your Visa's insurance clauses and paying for Enterprise's insurance. You earned this one.

Dec 8, 2011 5:27PM
I see this all the time.  Too many people are unsure of what kind of coverage they have.  People always assume they're covered only to get mad at the rental company when they find out they're not.  This is not about "oh they're so evil for charging me to fix their car that I damaged".  This is about personal accountability.  We should ALL know what kind of coverage we have.  Some insurance companies that will cover your rental car have the same exclusions - they won't cover large vans or moving trucks - but of course, that's not the customer's responsibility to know that.  the rental agent should know that.  Just like your doctor should know what you eat every day and your lawyer should know what crimes you commit everyday.  I don't feel bad for this guy at all.  This isn't a horror story, this is the story of a guy who didn't know what he was covered for, chose to save a few bucks and now has to pay for it.  My parents always told me a small known loss (insurance) is SO much better than a huge unknown loss.  And yes, I worked in that industry ages ago. 
Dec 11, 2011 1:11AM

I have been an insurance adjustor for just shy of 10 years and this is my take.

if it is not a standard coup or sedan, get the CDW

if it is bigger than you are accustomed to driving, get the cdw.

if you are in the car due to an insurance claim, have the rental set us as a direct bill to the insurance company AND confirm that by doing such the rental co has waived all claims for admin fees , loss of use, div, ect.. if not, get the cdw.

if you do not have comp AND collision on your car, get the cdw

if you are using the car for business, have your COMPANY rent and pay for the car with you as a LISTED DRIVER, NOT the RENTER!!!!

if the car is a luxury or highline auto, get the cdw

if it is a moving van, get the cdw

if you belong to a membership organization that has special agreements with rental companies for the members, be sure to follow ALL the rules to get the special protections such as waiver of the admin fee's, loss of use, DIV, ect.


why? because most policies have exclusions for things such as admin fees, div and loss of use ect, and the exclusions are different from state to state. then you go and rent in a state away from your home and now there are 2 sets of rules and things get complicated fast.


And the issued does not have to be a listed exclusion, the vehicle may not match the definition of an automobile or car under your policy.


so do with this as you may, and do not think of this as legal or coverage advise, just a few words from someone who has done this for a living.



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