The Worry-Free Way to Rent a Car

On the perennial question of whether to take the extra insurance coverage, our advice may surprise you.

Empty parking lot at car rental
(Image credit: ©Tom Paiva Photography/Blend Images LLC)

When you’re standing at the rental car counter, eager to start your vacation, the last thing you want to hear is a sales pitch. But chances are the agent will hit you with a list of add-ons and fees with obscure names that can quickly double the daily rate you thought you were getting. We asked experts what’s worth paying for and what’s just padding the pockets of the rental car company.

Collision coverage. If you have an auto insurance policy for your own vehicle, it usually covers damage to the rental car and other property, plus liability up to your policy’s limits. On top of that, all the major credit card networks offer rental car insurance on some or all of their cards, provided you pay for the rental with the card you used to reserve the car and decline supplemental coverage from the rental firm. Assuming you follow the card company’s rules for triggering coverage—including the length of the rental and the type of car you get—it can fill in gaps once you file a claim with your insurer. So you don’t need the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW)—also known as a loss damage waiver (LDW)—which for an extra $9 to $30 a day covers physical damage to the rental car. Right?

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Miriam Cross
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Miriam lived in Toronto, Canada, before joining Kiplinger's Personal Finance in November 2012. Prior to that, she freelanced as a fact-checker for several Canadian publications, including Reader's Digest Canada, Style at Home and Air Canada's enRoute. She received a BA from the University of Toronto with a major in English literature and completed a certificate in Magazine and Web Publishing at Ryerson University.