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Car insurance : Three travel tips for your rental car insurance

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If you’re driving a rental car this summer, watch out: you might not have the insurance coverage you think you do.

While most states require drivers to carry minimum coverage on their own cars, no such requirement exists for rental vehicles. Rental agencies typically offer optional coverage for an additional fee, but your existing auto policy often extends coverage to include rentals.

Such was my assumption when, on a recent family vacation to Spain, we declined the optional insurance.

But driving on the unfamiliar, twisting and narrow streets of Europe is a very different challenge, carrying a higher level of risk than a leisurely jaunt to the Hamptons.

On the first full day of our trip, my meticulous husband dented the side of the new Renault while trying to maneuver out of a ridiculously tight parking garage space. I said, “Well, thank goodness we’ve got insurance.”

But something told me to double check. So I called our car insurance company and, sure enough, our existing policy covered domestic travel (including Mexico and Canada), but not international.

As I hung on the phone considering my options, the insurance representative noticed we also had a MasterCard with them. After some quick research, he found to our immense relief that our credit card indeed would cover damage to the rental car, though not any injuries or damage to other property.

Armed with that backstop, 10 days later we turned in the Renault and braced ourselves for an interminable wait and the inevitable repair estimate sticker shock.