Your bags are packed, your flight’s on time, your trip is right on schedule. You’ve planned everything down to the last detail so as to enjoy a stress-free trip away from home and work. Then you arrive at your destination, with bags at your feet, standing at the car rental booth where the car rental agent is working overtime to get you to buy the insurance coverage option on the rental. Should you cave and purchase it or not?

Several times through the years, we’ve had clients call us right from the car rental booth at the airport to ask for our advice. And our advice is this: If you have “full” coverage on your insured car with us and you are a named insured on that policy, then your short-term car rental will be covered exactly the same as the car we insure for you on your policy back in Bellingham. This is true as long as your regularly insured car is being parked and your short-term rental can be considered a temporary replacement for it.

Your Massachusetts auto policy actually defines “your auto” as the vehicle listed on your policy (obvious) but also any short-term rental to replace the vehicle listed on your policy (not so obvious.) This extension of coverage would also apply to rental cars that you operate because your vehicle is in the shop for repairs or has been stolen.

One notable exception to this rule is that your short-term rental has to be within the USA, US territories (Puerto Rico, for example) or Canada. Another important point is that the rental has to be a personal-use vehicle. Renting a big box truck from U-Haul with commercial plates would not be covered. In recent weeks, a few of our auto insurers have told us they will now extend coverage to long-term rentals in cases where our customer is giving up the use of their insured car for several months while
the defective Tanaka airbag in their vehicle is being replaced. This is unique because it’s allowing the extension of coverage for a long-term rental.

We state that this “courtesy” coverage that travels with you is no better or worse than the coverage on your car back home. It has deductibles and exceptions to coverage that would apply just the same as if you had an auto accident or claim back home. If you choose to buy the car insurance rental option, do it because you want to avoid any deductible or out-of-pocket expense on your stress-free trip. That is essentially what the rental car insurance option provides to you. Rental car companies are sticklers for whom you name as potential drivers of the rented car. Be exact in your naming of drivers with them.

If you are traveling to a busy city with crime just around the corner, that insurance option might look like a pretty good idea. Other than that, I think you ought to take a pass on the insurance option and go start your vacation. We hope you have a wonderful trip.