By Rachel McCann, Middendorf Insurance Associates

A common question I answer each summer is “I’m going on a trip and renting a car. Do I need to purchase the rental agency’s car rental coverage?” What should you purchase and what can you forgo? The answers depend on how your personal automobile insurance policy reacts. Not all policies are the same.

The first thing I do is determine if the client’s personal automobile policy would potentially come into play should there be an accident. Is the trip business or personal? Most personal automobile policies won’t cover incidents involving a vehicle used for business purposes. Then I find out where the trip is taking place. Your personal automobile policy likely covers you in the United States and its Territories only. If there is any travel to Mexico, I will instruct you to purchase their insurance. Even if your policy states that it provides “limited Mexico coverage” as most do, you should assume that the Mexican government will not honor this.

Once I determine their personal auto would respond, I suggest the client take a photo of their automobile ID card with their phone. This will allow them to have all the necessary information at the rental car kiosk and also in the event of an accident.

There are several parts of the personal auto policy that will extend to your rented vehicle: Liability, for damage you cause to any persons or fixed objects; and Physical Damage, damages to the rented vehicle. Be sure at least one of your personally insured autos has physical damage or you may not have this available for a rented vehicle.

Lastly, your policy also may provide Loss of Use and/or Diminished Value. Loss of Use will cover the “down time” charged to your contract if the rented vehicle is involved in an accident and not able to be rented to another party. Diminished Value is the amount of value lost due to it being involved in an accident. Loss of Use and Diminished Value have been around long enough that your agent should know if covered by your carrier.  If not included in the policy, I advise the client that they are lacking important coverage. I will add that many credit card companies now include some form of car rental coverage, so a quick call to them may help as well.

It’s always a good idea to contact your insurance agent each time you rent a vehicle. Personal automobile policy contracts can change, and your agent is the best person to help keep you on top of your current coverage. By checking into your available coverage prior to your trip, you will know in advance how your policy responds and what additional insurance may be needed allowing for a relaxing holiday!

Rachel is a Personal Lines Insurance Agent at Middendorf Insurance Associates in Clive Iowa. She has been in the personal insurance industry since 1987, and licensed since 1989. Her passion is helping prospective and active clients understand the importance of their insurance policy and how it is designed to help them. She may be reached by calling 515-252-1414 or emailing her at

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