Check out these tips for deciding whether to get the extra car rental insurance

Maybe it all started in a movie or as a joke when abusing a rental car. The sentiment, “it’s okay, we got the insurance” is well established in the car-renter collective consciousness. While it’s true this can be reassuring, it doesn’t make the decision as much of a no-brainer as rental agencies might like us to believe.

The fact of the matter is, if you’re already insured, you probably don’t need the rental agency’s insurance – at least not in New York.

The optional offer that doesn’t seem so optional

Whether it’s because of training or simply not thinking to mention it, most agents won’t voluntarily inform you that your current insurance has your rental covered. So, when they ask if you’d like the insurance, it can seem as if they’re asking you to walk a high wire without a net. And they can never refuse to rent the car without additional coverage.

New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood has weighed in on the matter:

“Car rental companies are prohibited from refusing to rent you a car unless you purchase the additional insurance. The coverages are all optional.”

Obviously, that doesn’t mean car renters aren’t required to have their own auto insurance, however.

New York car insurance requirements

Rental companies aren’t law enforcement officers. It’s not their job, nor do they take it upon themselves to see to it that you’re legally insured. But if you get pulled over or are in an accident without enough insurance, you’ll be cited or worse. If you’re visiting from another state, you’ll want to make sure you meet New York’s minimum requirements before opting out of a rental agent’s offer.

These are New York Car insurance liability minimums:

  • $10,000 single accident property damage
  • $25,000 bodily injury for an individual involved in an accident
  • $50,000 for the death of an individual involved in an accident
  • $50,000 bodily injury for two or more people involved in an accident
  • $100,000 for the death of two or more people involved in an accident

Not necessary – but maybe not a scam after all

All crafty sales tactics aside, rental agencies offering to sell you insurance isn’t always analogous to selling snow to an Eskimo. For example, if you damage the car, you’ll still be liable for your deductible –unless you purchase the rental agency’s insurance (at least in some cases). However, always read the fine print; not all protections are the same, and rental agencies offer a variety of insurance policies.

  • Collision damage waiver (CDW). This coverage waives all or partial responsibility if the car is damaged or stolen. If you’re already insured in New York, this coverage isn’t necessary, unless you opted out with your own insurer. If you’re using a gold or platinum credit card to pay, you probably won’t need CDW, however; you’ll want to identify any limitations your card might have on such claims. Always be sure to confirm this benefit in advance with your credit card provider.
  • Personal accident insurance (PAI). Most car insurance policies negate the need for PAI coverage of medical and death expenses for the renter and passengers in the rental car. Furthermore, New York’s No-Fault law requires car rental services to automatically provide this coverage. To sum it up, in New York, PAI isn’t typically necessary.
  • Supplemental liability protection (SLP). SLP is designed to bridge the gap between your coverage and New York’s minimum requirements if there is one. In some cases, rental companies are required to cover this difference through their minimum coverage responsibilities. Don’t jump ship on this one just yet though – SLPs normally provide $1 million in liability protection, significantly more than standard consumer policies.
  • Personal effects coverage (PEC). As the name suggests, if your belongings are stolen from the car, PEC has your back. But if you have homeowners or renters insurance, so may your provider. Nonetheless, PEC can still save the day by paying a portion or all of the difference between your current policy limits and the value of the stolen items.

What to do if you have to file a claim in New York

Hopefully, you won’t have to use your car insurance but it never hurts to be prepared. To find out what to do if you’re in an accident in New York, check out our blog, Oops … I Crashed a Car in New York.”

And if you’re wondering whether to check those extra boxes when you go to rent a car, consider what you have and what you may actually need. We can help make sure you have a personal policy that keeps you covered.