Beware of Unwanted Rental Car Insurance Charges

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Even if you say you don't need rental car insurance, the extra charges may be applied anyway. You can avoid them with a careful eye.

Dollar Rent a Car and Thrifty don’t always drop rental car insurance when you ask, The New York Times says.

When you rent a car, companies typically offer insurance coverage for the rental, so you won’t be liable in case anything happens to it.

Many people don’t realize their own auto insurance or credit card may cover the rental automatically and thus pay extra for it — as much as $24 a day, the Times says. (Always check the fine print first, though, because models can be excluded and not all policies and cards provide the coverage.)

Even people savvy enough to decline the coverage don’t always save money, though. Sometimes that coverage has been left on after customers ask for it to be removed, several customers told the Times. The problem is, they sign the rental agreement anyway. When they find out later and dispute it, the company just points to the signature. That’s been good enough for credit card companies to take their side.

One consumer lawyer says he’s received more than 100 such complaints in the past 18 months. Some people are suing. A Dollar spokeswoman told the Times that the company doesn’t charge customers for services they don’t want. Thrifty is a sister company.

A lawsuit is a lot more work than doing due diligence to avoid unwanted charges up front, so here’s some advice: Don’t take the rental car agent’s word for it. They may smile and nod, and make an honest mistake in not removing it. (Although it’s worth noting some do make commission for extra services like insurance.)

It’s often called a “loss damage waiver” or “limited damage waiver,” not insurance. Look for that on the agreement before you sign. Make sure it’s not checked, and no charges for it are listed. Ask about any abbreviations or terminology you’re not sure about. This holds true for any binding agreement: Trust, but verify.

Stacy Johnson

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