JASON TCHIR | The Globe and Mail
My daughter is getting married in B.C. and many guests are coming from Europe. I’ve spent several days trying to determine what insurance is provided by the rental company. I did not expect it to be a nightmare . Having talked to Enterprise, Avis Canada and the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), I’m totally confused as to what is included. The IBC says cars come with a minimum of $200,000 third party liability insurance and some companies have $1-million. The rental companies say absolutely no insurance is provided and renters need to buy their collision damage waiver (CDW), third party liability and personal accident insurance at the counter. — Mick, Vancouver
“The customer is usually responsible for the full value of the rented automobile regardless of fault,” says Craig Hirota, Member Services Manager with the Association of Canadian Car Rental Operators (ACCRO) in an email. “Plus additional costs such as loss of use, administrative fees, diminishment of value, tow and storage fees, etc.”
The only thing included with a car rental is the mimimum $200,000 third party liability required by law in B.C. for all vehicles. It covers you for up to the limit if you’re at fault in an accident that caused property damage, injury or death. But it doesn’t cover damages to the car.
For a daily charge — on Avis’s website, it starts at $29 — car companies offer damage waivers that cover all, or part, of the costs of damage to a rental vehicle.
But you might not need to buy that waiver if you have enough insurance coverage with your credit card to cover the cost of the rental car — as long as you used that card to pay for the rental. Not all credit cards automatically cover rental car damage.
You might also have coverage for Canada and U.S. rentals with your Canadian car insurance. For example, in B.C. some Insurance Corporation of British Columbia policies offer rental car insurance automatically — and you can also purchase it when you need it for $10. But only if you’re a resident.
You’ll notice we’re using the word might — you’ll have to check with the rental company, your credit card company and your insurance company to see exactly what you’re covered for.
“Typically, personal auto policies from Europe may not transfer to a rental vehicle — therefore, any damage or loss of the rental vehicle is the customer’s responsibility.” says Lisa A. Martini, spokesperson for Enterprise Holdings, which owns National, Enterprise and Alamo. “The European renter is protected for damages or injuries caused to someone else or someone else’s property at a minimum of $200,000 per occurrence.”
Damage to a rental vehicle might also be covered by travel insurance.
Renting and raving
Even if you buy the damage waiver, you could still be on the hook for repairs. In B.C., there were reports Budget charged renters for repairs even though they’d purchased loss damage waivers. In one case, the waiver was voided because the renter broke the law — he got a traffic ticket in a collision. It was all there in the fine print.
Enterprise’s Martini says the waiver is “subject to the terms and conditions of the rental agreement.”
“Read the fine print,” she says.
Rental companies also sell supplemental liability protection (SLP), personal accident insurance (PAI) and personal effects coverage (PEC).
SLP gives you extra liability coverage. For example, a Budget Avis Group spokesperson said their B.C. cars come with $1-million in third party liability but renters can purchase an extra $4-million in coverage.
PAI covers you if you’re injured or killed in accident. PEC covers some personal belongings.
Again, you might already have coverage for both of these in your existing travel or home insurance.
“It’s really important to do your research ahead of time — there’s not much time to decide when you’re there,” says John Karapita, director of public affairs for the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association. “That’s why its important to be armed with this information.”