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Let me tell you a horror story about credit card rental insurance.  A few weeks ago I needed a rental car.  Enterprise was located right around the corner, so I figured I would give them a shot.  This was my first rental car, so I wasn’t exactly sure how this process worked. But to my surprise, I was in my rental in under 20 minutes.  Perhaps that was part of the problem.

I normally drive a 2003 Ford Mustang. While I requested a car of similar size, Enterprise only had three vehicles available: a Ford F150, a Dodge Dakota pick-up truck, and some mini-van the size of an 18-wheeler.   After considering my options, I should have walked away.  I’ve never driven a big truck before, and living in a sky-rise with a tight parking garage, it would be a terrible idea to take any of these.  Regrettably, I asked for the smallest of the three vehicles, which was the Dodge Dakota.

Because of the cost, I don’t carry collision and comprehensive coverage on my car insurance policy. But having just received my new Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business, I knew I had rental car damage waiver protection. So in filling out the paperwork on this truck, I waived the extra $19.95 a day damage insurance offered by Enterprise.  I moseyed on back to my apartment complex, only to realize that this pick-up truck was indeed too large for my parking garage.  I tried to maneuver the truck into my parking space, and even though I thought the dimensions would work … they didn’t.  I ended up getting stuck to the cement post to my left.

The only way out was to rev it, so that’s what I did.  You might say that my 20 minute rental of a Dodge Dakota was now a wee-bit crumpled. Looking at it made me sick.  I drove the car out of the garage and returned it right back to Enterprise.  They filled out a quick form, looked at the damage and told me they would call with an estimate the next day (two weeks later, I have not heard from them).  If I were to judge, I’d say there’s about $2,000 worth of repairs needed.  Ugh.

But not to worry. I immediately called Visa to get the claim form filled out.  After providing the very helpful CSR with my information, she let me know that I do not qualify for coverage.  What was that?  Well wouldn’t you know it; certain cars and trucks are NOT included in rental car insurance coverage.  Taken directly from Visa’s website:

Excluded worldwide are: expensive, exotic, and antique automobiles; certain vans; vehicles that have an open cargo bed; trucks; motorcycles, mopeds, and motorbikes; limousines; and recreational vehicles.

And from the MasterCard website … just in case you think I’m getting a raw deal:

Excluded: All trucks, pickups, full-size vans mounted on truck chassis, campers, off-road vehicles, and other recreational vehicles; trailers, motorbikes, motorcycles, and any other vehicle having fewer than four wheels; antique vehicles

Seems like anything that’s not a sedan or compact car is excluded. Sadly, that knowledge would have gone a long way in getting me off the hook for this four digit expense I’m about to incur.  Instead, I wait for a dreadful phone call to learn how much this overpriced estimate is going to be. And there’s not a gosh darn thing I can do about it.

I guess the moral of this story is that you should never assume your insurance policy covers you in certain scenarios.  Whether it’s auto, health, home or life insurance, make sure you know the ins and outs of your coverage. And even if you think you’ll never get into an accident, plan for it.  Don’t be the $2,000 idiot I was and assume you’re covered.

UPDATE – I just received the estimate in the mail from Enterprise and the damage to the car plus administrative fees and loss of use for 10 days is going to cost me $3,700.  Ugh.

Article comments

jim says:

I wouldn’t have guessed they’d exclude trucks. Good to know.

DR says:

Surprised me, too.

If you look at the list of exclusions, there are basically 2 types of vehicles that are mentioned–work-type and fun-type. The credit card companies probably realize that nobody rents a HD pickup for fun so the odds of something happening to require a claim are increased. The same goes for the other type of vehicle, the fun kind. They feel that if someone is going to rent a luxury import or an ATV the odds of something happening are a lot higher than if a Mercury or Buick were rented. Of course, it’s good that others now know this, but it’s too bad that it had to come at your expense!

kerry says:

Do not pay (or negotiate) the loss of use fee. I was with a named car rental group for mnay years and that “fee” was a tool used to ensure our car was repaired (or if the renter or insurance as not cooperating we would add it on). Ultimately, any rental facility just wants the vehicle fixed.with no hassle.

Ron says:

Spent more than 6 years as a Body Damage Manager with the Rental Car industry. Couple of comments: WHEN the RCI’s buy factory, they pay 10% over cost, not a penny more. More often that not they buy aftermarket aka as CAPA parts to further lower the costs. A prime example was a recent repair that was done for a RCI. Booked at $1795.00, actual check was written for $495.00. Ask for and require a copy of the estimate, and break it down.

sheepy says:

Don’t pay it without questioning it! If you happen to have a friend who is an attorney, have them make a call to find out if this can be negotiated down. I worked in the industry for many years, and I saw a lot of customers taken advantage of.

Len Smith says:


1. I am sorry you had this trouble.
2. Thanks very much for writing this up. I read it (perhaps from a link at MSN.com??) purely by accident. However… Yesterday I rented a truck from Budget. They gave me the insurance waiver form to sign, and (remembering your story) I said no, I want the insurance. $29.95 later, I was protected. Two hours later, the truck was in a ditch holding up a power pole. The *towing* bill was over $1400, and I bet the repairs will be five digits.
3. I am writing because I want to pay $100 of your bill. Please give me a snail mail address or another way to get the funds to you. This is not a scam (the email address in this post is real — send me an email and I will give you my phone number).

Your advice saved me many thousands of dollars. Thanks very much!


Jess R. Davis says:

Great post, you’re absolutely correct.

Hadley says:

Woah, that is ridiculous. They exclude way too many vehicles. Does your regular car insurance cover rentals? I will have to check my policy – the insurance that the rental car companies offer always seemed like a quick way for them to make an extra buck or two. Thanks for the post!

Hadley says:

I wonder if the insurance the rental car companies offer for $20/day has any similar stipulations, or if they try to scam people by offering it on cars it doesn’t even cover. It is frustrating when insurance companies trick you into a false sense of security.