Car Hire Excess Insurance

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Car hire excess insurance is an optional insurance policy that you can buy with your car rental to protect you from the excess costs you would otherwise be required to pay in the event of damage to, or theft of your vehicle.

To help explain it a little more simply, we will take a step back, and explain what an excess is.

When you book a hire car you usually have a level of Collision Damage Waiver coverage, but if you have to make a claim, then you would be required to pay the first part of any claim yourself. This is known as the excess (or sometimes referred to as a deduction).

Car Hire Excess Insurance Explained

Car hire excess insurance is a policy that you can purchase with your rental car booking or you can buy it separately with an independent insurance company. This is an insurance policy to cover the excess amount on your booking in the event that you have an accident. It gives you peace of mind that you will not be out of pocket in the event of something going wrong.

The excess is the amount of money that you would you be required to pay in the event of damage to, or theft of your vehicle. This information is available by clicking on the important information button at each stage of the booking process on Car Booker. You should always read this information before you book your hire car. In the example here, you can see that there is an excess of €900 for any damage to your car, or an excess of €900 in the event of vehicle theft.

Example of the amount of excess on a hire car

Each time you hire a car, the supplier requires a deposit. This deposit is in the form of a hold or guarantee on your credit card. In the example below, a deposit or hold would be placed on the main driver´s credit card for the duration of the rental, from the time you pick up the car, until it is dropped back and checked. Once the car is dropped back and it is confirmed that there is no damage to the vehicle, then the hold on the credit card is released.

Why do I need car hire excess insurance?

Car excess insurance is not a requirement for a hire car, it is an optional extra that you can purchase to give you peace of mind and to protect you should something go wrong. When you book a standard hire car there is a level of insurance built into the price that you pay (see your terms and conditions). On most bookings you will have the following car hire insurance coverage as standard Collision Waiver Damage, Vehicle Theft Waiver and Liability Insurance, however, these are usually subject to an excess or a deductible and can have exclusions. Collision Waiver Damage is normally included but it is subject to exclusions and usually to an excess. Exclusions on this type of insurance often include damage to glass (e.g. windows, windscreen, etc.) tyres, undercarriage, roof and loss of keys. This means that if you have an accident in general, then you will have to pay the excess and the company pays the rest, however, if you have damage to glass, tyres, roof etc, you will be liable.

How does excess insurance on a hire car work?

It works by protecting you against the excess charges that you could incur in the event of damage to your vehicle. It buys you peace of mind, and will save you a lot of money should you have even the smallest amount of damage to your car. Here we show an example of a scenario where you have a small accident, and what happens with excess insurance and without:

Car hire with excess insurance versus without

Let´s say that you are on holiday in Spain for a week, you are driving in a different country on the other side of the road and you have a small accident when you bump into a curb. You damage the tyre and scuff the paintwork. The cost of the repairs is €800. Your excess on your rental car is €700. You are required to pay the €700 (taken from the hold on your credit card). The car rental company will pay the remaining €100. The cost to you is €700.

However, if you had car hire excess insurance, you would still pay the €700, but can then claim it back from your insurance company. The total cost to you is only €49 (€7 x 7 days car rental).

Should I buy excess insurance for my hire car?

Certain insurances are included in the rental car price in Europe. These are called Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) insurance. They provide you with a level of cover, however, they can offer you a false sense of security. In the event of damage, you will be required to pay the first part of the claim yourself, this is known as the “excess”. The excess on a standard rental car can vary from €700 upwards, and this amount increases substantially if you choose a bigger car, for example an eight or nine seater, or an SUV. This excess amount is usually much more than you have actually paid for the renting the car itself. Many times (around 20%) the damage done to a car is not while you are driving it, it can often happen while your vehicle is unattended, for example, you park somewhere and come back to your car and someone has hit the wing mirror and damaged it, or scratched the side. You are responsible for this damage. You will be charged by the rental company for repairs plus the amount of time that the vehicle is not in service and not earning for them. These costs add up quickly.

You may also have no cover for damage to windscreens, tyres or keys etc, which means any level of damage will have to be covered by you. Car rental excess insurance gives you peace of mind for a few euro a day. Without it, you could be out of pocket for more than you bargained for.

How much does excess insurance for a rental car cost?

Car rental excess insurance costs can vary, depending on where you buy it and what level of cover you get. On Car Booker, we work with AXA Assistance and offer an excess insurance policy for €7 per day. This is a premium cover which includes cover for damage and theft, tyres, windows, mirrors and wheels, as well as key cover and personal possessions.

There are many online insurance providers who have policies on offer, just make sure that you are covered for the excess and anything that the collision waiver damage excludes.

Car hire insurance can also be purchased at the point of pick up at the hire desk, however, this is not provided to you by Car Booker and therefore we have no control over the pricing.

What's the best way to insure your rental car?

When you book a rental car, you have five options to choose from regarding insuring your vehicle.

  1. Insure your hire car when you book online
  2. Insure your hire car directly with the rental company at the check-in desk
  3. Insure your hire car through an independent insurance company
  4. Insure your hire car as part of a comprehensive travel insurance policy
  5. Choose not to add any extra insurance to your hire car booking
Best car hire excess insurance options

1) Insure your hire car when you book your car online

When you book your vehicle through a car hire comparison website or a broker, then you can pick the best car deal, and also add insurance to your booking. This is usually an excess waiver policy and costs about €7 per day.

Advantages:

  • The price is usually lower than purchasing at the car rental desk.
  • You can do your full car hire booking with insurance from the comfort of your home and and all at once.
  • You will not experience language difficulties, as any claim would be processed within 30 days of end of your rental, so you can deal with a company in your own country.
  • You will have a separate insurance company to the car rental company, and therefore they will help you fight a charge that you do not agree with, should the problem arise.

Disadvantages:

  • The price can be higher than that from an independent insurer.
  • Should you have damage to your car, you will have to pay the car rental company first and then claim the money back from the insurance company.
  • You will still have to let the car rental company put a hold of the excess amount on your credit card.

2) Insure your hire car at the check-in desk

When you book your rental car online, you have the option to add insurance at this point, or you can opt to buy insurance cover at the rental count. This is usually in the form of a waiver, as opposed to a separate insurance policy. Basically, you and the car rental company agree that in the event of damage to the car, the excess fees will be waived and you will not have to pay.

Advantages:

  • Usually this type of insurance will mean that you do not have to put a hold on your credit card, as it reduces your excess and liability to zero.
  • You will not be out of pocket while you are waiting for a claim to be processed.

Disadvantages:

  • Buying directly from the insurance company is usually the most expensive place to buy cover for your rental car.
  • If you do get charged for something that you don’t agree with, then then you do not have much scope for arguing against these charges.
  • This insurance is usually referred to as Super Collision Damage Waiver, which again is not technically an insurance product, therefore it is not regulated.

3) Insure your hire car through an independent Insurer

When you book your rental car online, you have the option to add insurance at this point, or you can buy your insurance separately from a third-party insurer. There are several products available specifically for car hire. These are usually called “car hire excess protection” insurance policies. There are specific car hire excess insurance comparison websites out there, should you wish to search yourself. You could google something like "insurance 4 car hire" or "car hire insurance uk" or "uk car rental insurance" and there should a lot of choice.

Advantages:

  • These excess protection insurance policies are often cheaper than when you book directly with the car rental company or as part of your booking on a car hire comparison website.
  • You can compare prices from the comfort of your home, and can often opt for an annual policy if you hire cars more than once a year.
  • You will not have language issues as you will have the policy in your own language.
  • Should there be a dispute with the car hire company over costs, the insurance company can argue on your behalf.

Disadvantages:

  • In the event of a claim, you will be required to pay the excess and then claim it back from your insurance company.
  • These insurance policies will not reduce the deposit that you are required to pay upfront, or hold on your credit card, with the car rental company.

4) Insure your hire car as part of your travel insurance policy

When you book your rental car online, you have the option to add insurance at this point, or you can buy a comprehensive travel insurance policy which also includes cover for car hire excess. It is important to note that not all travel insurance policies have this cover, so you will have to ensure that it is included in the policy.

Advantages:

  • You only have to book one insurance policy and both your travel insurance and car rental excess insurance risks are covered.
  • You can compare prices from the comfort of your home, and can often opt for an annual policy if you hire cars more than once a year.
  • You will not have language issues as you will have the policy in your own language.
  • Should there be a dispute with the car hire company over costs, the insurance company can argue on your behalf.

Disadvantages:

  • In the event of a claim, you will be required to pay the excess and then claim it back from your insurance company.
  • Most travel insurance policies come with their own in-built excess, which means that you would have to pay an excess on the travel insurance policy in the event of a claim. This can often be reduced to zero for an extra fee when you purchase.
  • These insurance policies will not reduce the deposit that you are required to pay upfront, or hold on your credit card, with the car rental company.

5) Don’t buy any additional insurance for your hire car

It is also possible to stick with the basic rental car insurance coverage that comes with your hire car.

Advantages:

  • You will not have to pay any additional cost to your hire car booking.

Disadvantages:

  • Your excess will not be protected or reduced in any way. In the event of an accident, you will lose your deposit to pay the excess amount. This can be significantly more than the cost of the car hire booking.
  • You will have to put a hold on your credit card, or pay a deposit, for the full duration of the car hire to the car rental company.
  • The basic insurance packages that come as standard with a hire car are in the form of a waiver and they often come with exclusions. These exclusions include any damage to windscreens, windows, the engine, wheels or the undercarriage of the car. Should you incur damage to any of these, you will be liable for FULL cost, not just the excess amount.
  • As you do not have a separate insurance company to the car rental company, should you incur any charges that you disagree with, then you will have to fight them out with the car rental company on your own.

Checklist for buying car hire insurance

When you think "I want to insure my rental car", then there are a few very important things to watch out for with car hire insurance excess protection.

A good car hire insurance policy should have the following included:

  • Does the policy provide cover for damage the engine, tyres, wheels, roof, undercarriage, windows and mirrors?
  • Are roadside assistance and towing charges included?
  • Does it cover items in the car, such as your luggage and personal possessions?
  • Does it provide cover if anything happens to the keys?
  • Does it cover administration charges that you incur from the car rental company in the event of an accident?
  • Is it a regulated product or is the company itself regulated?

These are all very important questions to ask, and there is a lot of choice on the market, so you can easily find a good deal from a company that includes all these criteria that provide you with good excess car insurance in europe.

Always check your travel insurance policy to see what is included, so that you are not doubling up on coverage for possessions etc. When you get to the car rental desk, be clear about what insurance coverage that you already have, as they may try to sell you more policies. They work on commission and always try to upsell insurance products.

How do I avoid car hire excess charges?

There are only two ways to avoid car hire excess charges:

  1. Buy car hire insurance (excess insurance or full comprehensive insurance)
  2. Find a hire car with a zero excess deal

If you want to avoid any unforeseen charges or costs with your rental car, then you will need to buy an insurance policy. For a small daily amount of money, you can buy peace of mind that, in the event of an accident (even if you are not at fault), you have limited your risk and will not be out of pocket.

You can buy car hire excess insurance from Car Booker when you are booking your car, simply tick the box. Always read the terms and conditions before purchasing any insurance. Our excess Insurance products are provided by AXA Insurance and cost from €6 per day.

Car hire insurance can also be purchased at the point of pick up at the hire desk, however, this is not provided to you by Car Booker and therefore we have no control over the pricing. Read the “What's the best way to insure your rental car?” section if you are not sure what type of car hire insurance you need.

What do I do if I damage a rental car?

Damage to a rental car can happen while driving, or damage could be done while you you’re your car parked somewhere, and are not even in the car. Unfortunately, accidents do happen. If you are unlucky enough to have an accident, here is what you need to do:

1) Make sure everyone is safe

After an accident, it is most important to get yourself and anyone else out of harm´s way and to safety. The only exception to this is if someone is seriously injured with neck or back injuries, then it is advised not to move them. There are some very useful tips her eon the First Aid for Life website.

2) Contact Emergency Services

In the event of an accident, you should always contact the emergency services. In Europe, this is straightforward as you can dial 112 from any landline or mobile phone and will be put through to the local police, fire or ambulance service. This number is always free to call. If you are travelling in countries outside of Europe, it is always worth noting what the emergency number in that country is, however, if you forget, then most car rental company will have this information somewhere on the documentation that you receive when you pick up your vehicle. Wikipedia provide a comprehensive list of worldwide emergency phone numbers which could be helpful if you don’t know what number to call.

3) Exchange Contact Details and Record Details of the Incident

Once the scene of the accident is secure and everyone is safe, you should exchange contact information with the other parties involved in the accident. It is always advisable to take pictures of the incident, that way you have photographic evidence afterwards.

Important information to gather at the scene of an accident:

  • Name of parties involved.
  • Addresses (home and holiday addresses) of parties involved.
  • Colour, make, model and license plate numbers of all vehicles involved.
  • Date and time of the incident/accident.
  • Name of the street where to incident took place.
  • Description of the incident, including noting the weather and street lighting etc.
  • Description of any damage done to any property or vehicle.
  • Description of any injuries sustained by anyone involved in the incident.
  • And again, I reiterate, please take photos, because they are independent proof of what you have written down.

If you happen to cause damage to a parked car, or property and there is no one there, then please leave a note with your contact details on the windscreen.

4) Make contact with the car rental company

You should report all incidents immediately (as soon as is possible) to the car rental company. The contact information will be on your rental agreement that you got at pick up. They will then handle any repairs or recovery of the car, where necessary. They can also organize a replacement car, should you require one. They also deal with the insurance company or with anyone else involved in the incident.

It is worth noting that car rental companies like to sort out any repairs etc themselves, so if you do pay for something to be done to the car without first agreeing this with the rental company, then it is unlikely that you will get any of that money refunded to you. It is always better to speak with them first and then decide on the best plan of action.

How do I claim on my car hire excess policy?

Excess insurance for car hire works on a pay and reclaim basis. That means that if you have an accident and you are required to pay the excess, then the car hire company will take this from you directly. You will then use your excess insurance policy to reclaim the amount of the excess that you had to pay.

When you book a car hire excess insurance policy, you will receive a letter or email with all the policy details. This should explain the exact claims process that applies to your insurance company. However, to help you out, here are a few general rules around making a claim on your excess insurance policy:

Contact the insurance company as soon as is possible. There is usually an emergency available. If you purchased insurance directly from the car rental company, it could be that they are your first point of contact. (Note: you are obliged to contact the insurance company within 30 days of your incident, otherwise you will forfeit your claim)

To claim on your car hire insurance you will need to supply the following documents:

  1. Your excess insurance policy schedule.
  2. Your car rental agreement including any invoices or proof of payment.
  3. A Police report if one was made.
  4. Photographs of the damage to the rental vehicle (before and after images would be even better if you photographed your car at pick up).
  5. The accident report from the car rental company or agency.
  6. Any invoices, receipts or any other documents or transactions that you made in relation to the rent car and the incident.
  7. Your credit card statement showing payment of the excess and any other payments made in relation to the claim.
  8. Your bank account details.

Remember, these are just general guidelines. Please read your insurance policy documents to see if there is anything else that your insurance company expects you to send in order to process the claim. If you have more questions, then refer to our car hire excess insurance section in the FAQs.