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Rental car use poses insurance risk

It’s that time of year again. The family gives dad the sad puppy eyes, hoping he’ll take the family on a well-deserved vacation. Where, though? Way the heck away from here is all mom wants. The great war begins and everyone demands where the family should go. After days of mom’s silent treatment, dad puts his foot down, reminds the family who runs the household and tells it like it is. “I make the decisions around here and we’re going where mom wants to go.”

The family finally arrives by airplane at its destination — the snowy Colorado Rockies. It’s midnight with icy roads and dad heads straight to the rental car counter and throws down the credit card. He’s asked if he would like the physical damage waiver for $20 more a day.

“I already have auto insurance. Do I need this coverage?” Of course, dad is facing the sharpest knife in the drawer – the Harvard graduate of all rental car clerks – and is thoroughly advised of what he is turning down and how it may affect him even if he has his own insurance. After the 15-second insurance lesson, dad decides to pass on the waiver. Icy roads don’t scare this Florida boy.

So what did dad just do? Does his own auto insurance really protect him? The answer is yes and no. It depends on the policy he purchased and if he spoke with his agent prior to his trip to make sure. Most auto insurance policies will cover the damage that may occur to a rental car while on a trip. But that’s not the real concern. It’s when the rental car agency sends you a bill for lost revenue while the car is being repaired that one realizes he should have purchased the waiver. One’s own auto insurance doesn’t cover this.

This is a typical question I receive this time of year. I want clients to know that rental car use does pose a risk and no one should take it lightly. The typical clerk behind the counter usually doesn’t care what you do and seldom helps you make an informed decision. Your local representatives for Enterprise, however, are an exception and usually do a good job helping people. I have to say something nice, mom says.

For those of you who think using a “corporate credit” card relieves you of personal responsibility, beware! If you personally sign the contract, you are personally responsible for the car, rather than the business for which you work.

Andy Gregory, co-owner and president of Des Champs & Gregory, Inc., can be reached at (941) 748-1812.

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