Michelle told her vacation story when she and her husband hired a minivan, only to discover one morning that its bumper had been damaged.
Michelle advises her readers that if they "don’t want to risk an auto insurance claim, consider getting primary coverage from a third-party company. Shop around for rates. InsureMyRentalCar.com offers waivers for loss and collision damage starting at $17.50 per trip."
Here are some extracts from Michelle's piece:
"Like many rental car customers, my husband and I declined the expensive insurance offered at the counter.
"We knew we were covered through our auto insurance provider. Additionally, the credit card we use covers rental cars. In my mind, if we got into an accident, I would just use the coverage offered by the credit card company.
"But during our recent vacation, we came out one morning to climb into our minivan and found that the bumper had been hit, or so we thought.
"In anticipation of filing a claim with the credit card company, a wave of panic set in as we realized that the coverage was “secondary,” meaning that we had to go through our personal car insurance company first. And you know what that means. In all likelihood — our fault or not — the claim could result in a premium increase.
"It turns out that lots of people don’t know about the secondary-coverage catch. Sixty-five percent of rental car customers are unaware that credit card insurance often kicks in only when damages can’t be first recovered from their auto policy, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by InsureMyRentalCar.com, a provider of rental auto insurance.
"Now, here’s another twist in my minivan mayhem. When I looked carefully at the damage, I discovered it had been there all along. I was feeling across the cracks — there were two — and I discovered black duct tape on the backside of the bumper. Because of the hot temperatures — we were vacationing in Florida — the tape had split. The minivan hadn’t been hit at all during our rental. I hadn’t detected the cracks when we first picked up the vehicle because it was a dark color and, once taped up underneath, there were only hairline fractures. We never saw them.
"Another survey commissioned by InsureMyRentalCar.com found that 23 percent of rental customers found damage on the car that was not highlighted on their checkout sheets. Nearly 29 percent of customers said they were concerned that a rental company would try to charge them for damage that they didn’t cause.
"I always take time to inspect the rental car and to snap photos of any damage I find, no matter how small. Once, when I pointed out a small scratch, a rental agent said: “Oh, don’t worry about that. We won’t charge you for something like that.”
“No, sir,” I said. “Please record the scratch on my paperwork.”
"I did the same thing for this rental. I noticed some scratches, took pictures and made a notation on my rental agreement.
"InsureMyRentalCar.com reported that 4 percent of rental customers think they were wrongly accused of damaging a car. Although 64 percent of people said they always check for preexisting damage, only 19 percent take a photo as proof when there is something wrong. And people often neglect to check the condition of the wheels and tires".
See Michelle's advice in full here.