Car Hire and insurance
Have been checking out car rental companies for car hire from Los Angeles in October. Rates seem o.k. but unable to get good information on insurance needs. We have taken out travel insurance but are uncertain if this will cover us enough. It seems as though Collision Damage Waiver and Extended Protection are optional, but also very expensive. Do we need either of these. Any suggestions regarding this and the best rental companies etc. greatly appreciated.
Please note I am not an insurance expert, but here's my advice based on my experiences:
What does your travel insurance cover, exactly? That's your first question to answer. Does it leave a deductible for you to pay if a mishap occurs?
As a US citizen, my insurance coverage for my vehicle covers me in rental vehicles, but leaves me with a deductible amount to pay if I sustain damages -- $500 or $1000 are typical deductible amounts -- this means that amount comes out of your pocket first before the insurance pays anything. That's the amount a collision or loss damage waiver would cover for you. You could choose to accept that risk yourself, and save the cost of the CDW, or another choice is to pay for the rental with a credit card that provides the same coverage (a CDW) for you. Diners Club cards, for example, have this coverage included as do many other premium credit cards.
I would check into the travel insurance you've already purchased and see what it covers and what, if any, the deductibles are. If it covers you 100%, and includes adequate liability protection as well as "collision" and "comprehensive" coverages, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages, and medical payments, then you do not need to purchase the CDW or LDW. If it doesn't cover you 100%, then find out what the difference is and whether you are comfortable assuming that amount of risk.
For best rental car companies, I always use the top-line companies, and never the 2nd tier companies. It just isn't worth the hassle, in my opinion. Other people use them and save money -- I figure the higher cost is worth the peace of mind in knowing I won't be ripped off. I use Hertz (most expensive, usually, but usually great customer service, first class), Alamo, National, Budget, Avis or even Enterprise. I often find the best rates with Alamo.
Here's one other thing I do (to save money). At the rental counter, they will ask you if you want to "purchase" a tank of gasoline. If you do, they say you don't have to bring the car back with a full tank. If you take this option, you are throwing money away. You never bring a car back empty -- so there is always a few gallons left in the tank. The agency then sells that same gas you already paid for to someone else, and makes even more money on it. Tell them you'll bring the car back full, and buy your own gas. It's always cheaper this way. As long as you fill the tank up within about 5 miles or so of returning it, it is "full" and you won't get charged for gas when you return the car. Bob