I Don’t Have Full-Coverage Insurance. What Do I Do if I Rent a Car?

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You drive your rental car out of the gate and head for your first vacation activity.

Suddenly, a distracted driver almost sideswipes you. At that moment, you realize it: You don’t have a full-coverage auto insurance policy right now.

There are no flashing lights at the rental car counter imploring you to check your insurance. So it can sneak up on you if you’re not prepared.

What do you do to insure your rental car in that situation?

I Don’t Have Full-Coverage Auto Insurance. What Do I Need To Do Before I Rent a Car?

I don’t have full-coverage auto insurance but want to rent a car. What do I do?

That’s what a Clark Howard listener recently asked.

Asked Susan in Colorado: “In the spring my husband and I are renting a car for a vacation. Since our 20- and 21-year-old Toyotas no longer have full-coverage insurance, do we have to sign up for rental car insurance coverage? Or should we contact USAA and get full coverage for a week or month?”

Clark sounded astounded and impressed hearing that Susan and her husband each drive Toyotas that are at least two decades old. He also is in favor of ditching full auto insurance coverage on vehicles that old and sticking to government-mandated minimums.

If you don’t have a personal vehicle — and therefore don’t have any auto insurance — you’re in the same position. The solution may be a surprising one.

“You’ve made the right decision not to have collision and comprehensive [coverage],” Clark says. “You probably have a USAA credit card. Most of the cards they have, have coverage for temporary use of a rental car.

“It’s 14 or 15 days of coverage domestically. And 30 days internationally.”

Using a Credit Card To Insure Your Rental Car

One thing’s for sure. You want to avoid purchasing coverage at the rental car counter. That’s a sure way to get ripped off.

But the answer may be in your wallet.


Credit cards sometimes offer secondary or temporary insurance coverage for rental cars. It’s becoming harder to find those credit cards. But they do exist.

Team Clark credit card expert Nick Cole did an outstanding job breaking down your best options to get rental car coverage through a credit card.

Ask USAA for Help

Back to Susan.

“Even if your USAA policy would not cover the damage to a rental vehicle because you have no collision and comprehensive, the USAA credit card would,” Clark says.

“You may also have another credit card that you carry that covers you for temporary use of a rental car.”

It’s best if Susan can talk to an insurance specialist at USAA. But she should call during the day, Clark says.

“The USAA auto insurance people nights and weekends are dealing with people who have had auto accidents,” Clark says. “Policy issues are best handled during core business hours with USAA.”

Final Thoughts

Not everyone has a full coverage auto insurance policy. Before you get to a rental car counter and get hit with expensive daily fees to cover the possibility of damage, or get on the road with inadequate coverage, consider whether your credit card may have your back.