Your Complete Guide to Car Hire Insurance in the USA

To be able to properly compare car hire insurance packages and prices you need to know what is included. That includes all the acronyms, whether or not they have a value, or are even necessary for your rental. We look at exactly what is, and is not included with your reservation in this in-depth article. The information should help you to understand what you are getting, and enable an informed choice about any optional extras.

Our pre-paid rental vouchers include everything you need to drive legally in the USA with a zero excess. There is an excess of $500 – $800 CAD for car hire in Canada. You may feel that you want a little extra security and that is fine,  if, you make an informed choice.  What we hope to avoid is a panicky acceptance of optional extras because of pressure selling at the desk.

What car hire insurance is included with my Fully Inclusive Pre-Paid Rental Voucher?

  1.  Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)

The one element that most people are familiar with is  Collision Damage Waiver or CDW. This is also known as Loss Damage Waiver or even Limited Damage Waiver –  LDW by some suppliers.
CDW is actually not an insurance but a waiver. It waives your financial responsibility in the event that the rental vehicle is damaged (including but not limited to, bumps and scratches).  You must be driving within the terms and conditions of the rental agreement.  This basically means that you have not been drinking, speeding or driving off road!
CDW/LDW is a standard inclusion of our insurance packages.

  2.  Additional Liability Insurance (ALI)

The next one is  Liability Insurance, often called Additional or Supplemental Liability Insurance – ALI or SLI.
This insurance provides up to $1 Million dollars above the liability insurance included within the normal rental agreement.  The exact amount may vary according to state law. It insures you and all authorised drivers against claims and lawsuits made by third parties.
ALI/SLI is a standard inclusion of our insurance packages.

 3.  Additional Items in the USA:

  • Zero excess
  • Unlimited Mileage
  • Fire/Theft/Vandalism
  • Mechanical Assistance (Dollar, Thrifty and Hertz also include damage or loss to tyres, windscreen, glass and undercarriage as long as not negligent).
  • Customer Facility Charges (CFC) charged by the airport for local infrastructure projects (except Chicago O’Hare)
  • Homeland Security Fees (HSF) charged by the airport to recover costs for Homeland Security
  • Local, State & Airport Taxes (on the items included within your voucher)
  • Road Fees
  • The vehicle will be supplied with a full tank and must be returned full. Alternatively you can pay for a tank of fuel on arrival and return empty
  • The insurance is valid for travel through all states, and also covers you to drive into Canada. You must inform the company on collection if you intend to do so.

What is included with my Premium Package Pre-paid Rental Voucher?

Our Premium package includes all of the above, your initial tank of fuel (return empty) and up to 3 additional drivers.

What is Included with my Young Driver Package Pre-paid Rental Voucher?

Our Young Driver Package includes all of the above, your initial tank of fuel, up to 3 drivers aged 21 – 24, or 3 additional drivers aged over 25, or a combination of both up to a total of 4 drivers.

What is not included with my Pre-Paid Rental Voucher?

1. Personal Accident Insurance (PAI)

Personal Accident Insurance covers accidental death or accidental medical expenses.
It protects you and your passengers both in and out of the vehicle with medical coverage. Your travel insurance is likely to provide superior and cheaper cover for this.
PAI is not a standard inclusion of our insurance packages. The desk clerk may offer PAI on arrival.

2. Emergency Sickness Protection

Emergency Sickness Protection (ESP) is available to all non U.S. citizens who possess a valid non-U.S. passport at the time of rental. It provides certain medical benefits for some sicknesses for the renter and any person who is a member of the renter’s travelling party. Your travel insurance is likely to provide superior and cheaper cover for this.

ESP is not a standard inclusion of our insurance packages. The desk clerk may offer ESP on arrival.

3. One-Way Fees

If a one-way fee is displayed for your trip, you will pay this locally. The fee is in addition to your car hire cost.

4. Enhanced Roadsafe Assistance/Roadside Assistance (RA)

This is currently optional – but it’s use has merit depending on your circumstances. Currently, the following items are not included within standard rental agreements – this list is not exhaustive:
  • Flat Battery (a faulty battery is covered)
  • Damage caused by putting the wrong fuel type in the car (e.g. putting diesel in a petrol car)
  • Key replacement if you lose the key
  • Roadside assistance if you lock yourself out of the car
  • Damage to interior or child seats, caused by your negligence
  • Towing fees, regardless of fault/cause
It is important to remember that mechanical assistance is included as standard within the normal packages. RA in this case refers to ‘human error’ incidents.
You pay RA locally which costs around $10 per day. Local sales tax is added to the total (we generally estimate an additional 20 – 30 percent for any payments at an airport). The desk clerk will probably offer RA on arrival.

Top Up Car Hire Insurance

You can take out a top-up car hire insurance policy to cover the above items. These policies work like travel insurance so you must purchase them before you travel. In the event of a problem you pay locally and claim it back on your return.

Coverage Generally Includes:

A refund of up to £2000 for any physical loss or damage to the Rental Vehicle for which you are responsible under the terms of the Vehicle Rental Agreement, including:
  1. Physical damage to windscreens, tyres and undercarriage.
  2. Towing costs
  3. Up to £100 to cover the costs of locking yourself out of the vehicle
  4. Up to £300 to replace the key of the car if lost or stolen

In Summary

To cover all potential issues for a one-off trip, or trip-of-a-lifetime then either product will be suitable.
Regular travellers may take a different view. For instance, I have been travelling to the USA for over 25 years, and so far (tempting fate here!) I have not had a flat tyre/tire or smashed windscreen. Had I paid $7 per day plus tax each time, I would have paid out a lot of extra money. I am sure at some point I will have to pay out for a broken windscreen or lost keys. But I firmly believe that I will still be in credit on balance!
However, a long road trip around Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, or just across the USA, is likely to take you to some pretty remote areas. In this instance, I recommend thinking carefully about taking out some extra cover.
If you accept and sign for any optional insurance or package, then you are responsible for paying for them. It is very important that you check and re-check what you are signing. If you are unsure at any point you should ask the desk clerk to clarify.
Most desks now have small screens that you page through and initial on screen as you go. Do not rush this process as this is your chance to check everything is correct.