Sunday, December 14, 2008

An Empty Promise to Myself

Every time I rent a car (which admittedly, isn't that often), I remind myself to look into the LDW and insurance options before the next time I rent a car.

I know that whatever credit card I use covers me to a point, but I also know that car rental employees are somehow not doing their job if they aren't trying to sell me additional coverage. And they make it sound like the world will collapse if I don't take the LDW or whatever it's called. They always confuse me. Is there some value to what they are selling or is it a total racket? I have no idea. I smile, decline the coverage, and hope nothing hits my cheesy little rental.

I'm renting a car at Christmas, as part of my scheme to end up in Bolivia. No, I'm not driving to Bolivia. I'm taking the BoltBus down to Washington DC and renting a car there. I'll drive that to my mother's for a few days, then drop it off at National Airport (no "Reagan National Airport" for those of us who grew up in the shadow of "National," nosirree) on the 27th before flying to Peru via Miami. Neither of which is Bolivia. It's complicated.*

So this morning, I am perusing credit card websites. Apparently, "Terms and Conditions Apply." And it's "Subject to Change Without Notice."

My, how helpful.

Now I remember why I never worked this out before. It takes hours. Maybe even days.

Maybe I'll work on this some other day. Sure, that's it. Some other time.

Before the next time I have to rent a car.

*Actually, not that complicated. 30,000 frequent flyer miles gets me to Lima. 50,000 gets me to La Paz. I had 30k. Once I get to Lima, I have a paid flight to La Paz via a LAN South America Airpass, which is insanely cheap compared to direct flights. See? Easy.


Pville Peg said...

In VA we call it CDW (Collision Damage Waiver). It's not entirely a scam -- if you had an accident or damaged the vehicle and it was entirely your fault, without that coverage you'd have to pay some substantial bucks out of your own pocket before the required rental car insurance would kick in. So, if you have no other insurance, you probably should accept the additional coverage.
The place I would look for the other insurance that covers collision damage for next to nothing is not the credit card company, but to your personal car insurance. You do have insurance on Henry, I'm sure, so call that company and ask if you are covered when you rent a car. Most car insurance will cover you when you rent a car (although, NJ may be different). In that case, paying more for the rental car company's extra insurance is definitely a waste of money.
By the way, most business's commercial package insurance includes rental car insurance, so if employees rent cars when traveling on business, they should also decline the collision damage coverage.

Marie Javins said...

You'd think I'd have insurance on Henry. But you'd be wrong. Henry technically belongs to Lynn, from when he spent a lot of his winters farther south.

So I am a car-less person with no auto insurance and no employer paying for me.

I signed up for American Express Premium Car Rental Coverage. That might be enough. Maybe.

Stuart Moore said...

I don't have a car, so I just use American Express when I rent -- in fact, it's the whole reason I still have a gold card. A couple of years ago, I had an Enterprise rep try to sell me insurance anyway, claiming that it was very hard to get AmEx to commit to a claim and that if something happened, I "couldn't get on my plane" until they did. I asked her "Are you going to keep me here by force?" and she basically said no, but they'd charge the cost of the car to my card (which would be a funny thing to try, actually).

She probably had a point, but I refused the coverage anyway. Like most insurance matters in this country, it's a crapshoot.

Marie Javins said...

I have personal experience with Amex being bitchy about paying. When I was living in LA in 1995, my rental car was stolen! Marc Siry drove me to the police station where we reported it and sat around for a long time.

The car was recovered, but no one would reimburse me for the charges...I had to pay for whoever towed the car to the impound yard, then had to pay for storage of the car for the few days the police kept it until someone though to notify the rental car company, who took their time notifying me.

The rental car company said "You have to collect those fees back from American Express." Amex said "We have policies for accidents and if it had been stolen and stayed stolen, we'd have paid for it, but we're not paying for THIS."


And yet, still I refuse the CDW/LDW and stick with the Amex coverage. Because I am clearly a romantic, clueless case who believes in hope against all evidence that it's foolish. Quixotic.

Stuart Moore said...

Ouch. I had trouble with Amex once too, but it was really because of Alamo, whose claims reps kept leaving the company and leaving their voicemail active. So both Amex and I left message after message for people who weren't there anymore, and nobody would deal with the claim of "damage" which they had no photographic evidence of, and which I hadn't noticed when I returned the car. Alamo turned it over to a collection agency and I finally had to pay it off just to make it all go away. Never again with Alamo.

Marie Javins said...

I'm trying hard not to draw conclusions from the fact that we both threw up our hands and paid out of pocket.