When I rent a car, am I covered under my auto policy?

Some rental car companies will offer to sell you insurance when you rent a car on vacation. Should you buy it? Here’s what you need to know before you pay for their coverage.

Do you have auto insurance?

If you do, call your agent to see what it covers when you drive a rental car. Policies differ, but some cover damage to the rental car from a wreck or theft. Keep in mind that if you use your policy, you’ll have to cover your deductible.

What if you don’t have auto insurance?

If you don’t own a car, you probably don’t have auto coverage. In that case, you’ll be responsible for any damage to the vehicle, so you might want to buy insurance from the rental company.

What if I get hurt in an accident?

If your auto policy has personal injury protection or medical payments coverage, it will cover your injuries. Health insurance, if you have it, will also cover some of the cost. If you don’t have either, adding the rental company’s insurance might be a good idea.

What if I keep valuables in a rental car?

Do you have home or renters insurance? Those policies may have some coverage for personal property stolen from a rental car. You’ll have to file a police report and cover the deductible.

Can my credit card company help?

The credit card you used to rent the car probably comes with some coverage. It’s secondary coverage, though, so you’ll have to use your auto insurance policy first.

What else can I do?

If you don’t have auto insurance but you drive a lot when you travel, consider buying rental car insurance. Or you can buy coverage for vehicles you don’t own (called non-owned auto coverage). That way you won’t have to buy a new policy each time you rent a car.

The rules are different for business travel. Check with your employer about rental car coverage.