What To Do if You Have a Rental Car Accident

So, you've rented a new car for a dream vacation. While on your getaway, you get into an auto accident...not so dreamy any more, right? Car accidents can happen at any time to anyone under a number of circumstances, even while renting a car on vacation.

Renting cars has become second nature to us. They are no longer just for vacations. We rent cars for work trips, while ours cars or trucks are in the shop, moving or hauling, or when we simply need a different type of vehicle. The problem arises when we get into an accident.

Knowing what to do can be confusing, especially since accidents and insurance is something we don't think about every day. Do the normal rules apply? How is the process different? And what can we do to be prepared?

Follow the steps below to know what to do if you are in an accident with a rental car:

  1. What do you do first?

Like a traditional car accident, the top priority is to make sure that everyone is ok. Call 911 if someone is hurt, and call the police to report the accident. Take pictures of the damage and exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver(s). You may not want to mention that you are driving a rental car up front as the other driver may see it as a window to take advantage of the situation.

Where the process differs from your ordinary accident is who you call next. Give the rental agency a call and let them know what happened. An emergency number is often in the glove box of the car or on your rental paperwork. Then, call your own insurance agent.

  1. Who pays for the damage?

The big question is, who pays? There are a few different parties that could pay for the damage, including you. When you talk to your insurance company, talk about your policy and if it includes collision and comprehensive coverage, which protects the car you rent. You'll also want to confirm what your deductible is. Your deductible is the portion of the damage you are responsible for. For example, if there is $3,000 worth of damage, but your deductible is $400, then you are responsible for the $400.

However, if you purchased extra insurance through the rental car company, they may pay for the damage. Be sure to read the fine print as you may still be responsible for some payment. Nowadays, many credit card companies are offering rental car insurance that takes effect when you pay for the rental car with that particular card. It may just cover the deductible!

You may be liable for "loss of use" from the rental car company if you do not have rental car insurance through your agent. This means you will have to pay the per day charge as if you are renting the car until the car is fixed and ready to rent to the public.

The bottom line is make sure you read the agreements, policies, waivers, etc. carefully so you know what you are liable for.

  1. What can be done to minimize out-of-pocket expenses?

To minimize out-of-pocket expenses, make sure you are amply covered under your insurance policy with collision and comprehensive coverage. Also, look at rental car coverage so you're not stuck with paying for the rental car while it's getting repaired. Getting your policies in order BEFORE an accident occurs is the best way to avoid out-of-pocket expenses!


No one PLANS to get into an accident while renting a car, but when it happens, it's best to be prepared. Make sure you are covered when the unexpected becomes a reality.

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