Renting a car from a reliable and national rental car provider is often recommended as a way to get a well-maintained vehicle that can handle the rigors of a long road trip. However, even rental cars break down and leave you stuck in an unfamiliar place on the side of the road. Who’s responsible for retrieving the car and who will pay for the necessary repairs or for a new rental vehicle? Depending on your rental company, roadside assistance plan, rental insurance choices, and comprehensive auto insurance coverage, the answers may surprise you.
Call the Rental Company
Start by notifying the legal owner of the vehicle, which is the rental car company. They are best equipped to dispatch a local tow company or send an assistance truck to provide a jump start. It’s also part of almost every rental contract that you’re obliged to notify the company as soon as it’s safe to do so. Call your rental company before calling any personal roadside assistance service or your auto insurance agency. Even if you end up using other services, you should ask about being reimbursed by the rental company before choosing to use any service they’re not responsible for sending. Drivers who paid for emergency roadside assistance as part of their rental package or who chose optional rental insurance for specific emergencies should also wait for a response from the rental company, since they’re providing these services.
Use Your Own Roadside Assistance
When you have a comprehensive emergency roadside assistance plan, the rental company may prefer to let you handle the tow to a nearby location where they can get you into a new car. If you’re in a dangerous situation, such as having the car near a body of water or in danger of catching on fire, call emergency services before worrying about either the rental company or roadside assistance. Using your own plan to tow a car without approval from the rental company definitely voids your chances at getting compensated for any related costs, and it may lead to extra fees from the company, depending on the contract.
Remember Your Credit Card Provider
Almost every roadside recovery plan includes automatic coverage for any cars you happen to rent or even borrow from family and friends. However, some plans may explicitly exclude rented vehicles and require you to carry insurance offered by the car company instead. In these cases, check with your credit card company to see if they offer any extended roadside coverage. You’d be surprised by what’s included for free when you have a card from a major lender.
Watch Out for Charges
So why bother to pay for those optional rental insurance services offered by the rental car company when you already have car insurance and roadside assistance? It’s possible for the contract to stipulate that any mechanical failures occurring during your rental are charged to the credit card you provided when picking up the card. This can result in hundreds or even thousands of dollars of unexpected fees. Check your contracts thoroughly and consider purchasing extra insurance to protect yourself from the costs.
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