7 Worst Rental-Car Rip-Offs (and How to Beat Them)

Skeptical Young Couple at Car-Rental Lot (Photo: Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on November 1, 2013. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: car rental, Ed Perkins, scam.

(Photo: Couple at Car-Rental Lot via Shutterstock)

Just about every segment of the travel industry is rife with rip-offs, but the folks who rent cars have risen gouging to an art form. The worst rip-offs are the extras that you often need for your trip and can't obtain through alternative sources. Other bad ones include unconscionably high prices for options that you can avoid and various fees that are added onto base rates rather than included as they should be.


Fortunately, there are work-arounds that will allow you to bypass most of these rip-offs. But you have to be careful—car-rental providers want to overcharge you whenever they can. Here are seven ways to beat them at their own game.

Overpriced Insurance

Is rental-car collision insurance overpriced? Yes. Here's how much: A car-rental company once informed travel agents that it could offer clients an unbeatable rate—$0 per day—provided only that the clients bought insurance.

Even though rental companies sometimes call their policies "insurance," technically, they're not. The policy is really a waiver of the company's right to collect damages from you if you damage the rental. By whatever name, however, the price is outrageously high, at up to $30 per day in many cases. You know it's overpriced when you can buy equivalent coverage from third-party sources—proprietors that make a profit—for less than $10 per day or get it free through your credit card.

Work-Around: Your regular auto insurance may cover you in a rented car, at least within the U.S., although many such policies do not pay for the full list of charges that rental companies add to a collision bill. You're better off using the free coverage automatically provided on rentals charged to most AmEx, Diners Club, Discover, and Visa credit (not debit) cards, and many MasterCards. Except for Diners Club, however, most credit-card coverage is secondary for rentals in the U.S., which means you'll first have to make your claim via your regular insurance; to avoid this situation, you can buy less expensive third-party collision coverage from the big online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia and Priceline or independent sellers such as Protect Your Bubble, or you can convert your AmEx coverage to primary for about $25 per rental.

Read the Entire Story: Seven Worst Rental-Car Rip-Offs (and How to Beat Them).

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