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Car hire drivers in a spin over insurance

30th June 2011 Print

Many British travellers are confused by car hire insurance which is putting them at risk of high penalty fees says a leading online insurance company,, following the results of a survey it conducted with YouGov.

The survey of 1103 British people who have hired a car, revealed that a sixth (15%) of respondents believed they had driven a hire car without fully understanding exactly what insurance they had and what they were covered for, but in reality the number is significantly higher than this.

A shocking 93% of people did not realise that if their hire car was damaged or stolen in Europe, even if it wasn’t their fault, then they would be liable for the first part of a claim i.e., the excess amount of up to £1500. 94% did not check the small print to find out how much they would be charged if their keys were lost or stolen and 89% did not check it for costs incurred in the event of a short notice cancellation. With many contracts, the hirer can be charged up to £300 for lost or stolen keys and up to 50% of the contract plus costs for last minute cancellations.

When travellers reach the car rental pick-up desk (and have got to the front of the queue), they are often faced with the prospect of an additional bill of around £18 a day* to purchase ‘excess’ insurance (adding approx £252 to the cost of a two week holiday) as well as  additional insurance for key cover and personal belongings. 

The survey revealed that almost a sixth (14% of people) had been scared into buying extra insurance at the car rental pick-up desk, with eight out of ten people (83%) not knowing that they could buy excess insurance from providers other than the car rental company.  And indeed the vast majority, over two thirds (71%) also did not know that this insurance is significantly more expensive than they could buy elsewhere.

There was also widespread ignorance about what excess insurance did and did not cover with eight out of ten people (85%) not knowing that some excess insurance doesn’t include damage to windows, tyres, roof or undercarriage or driving within 150 km of home.

Ernesto Suarez, CEO,, “From misunderstanding the basics of what car insurance covers, to feeling ‘scared’ into buying expensive extra insurance at the car rental pick-up desk, people are clearly baffled by the car hire insurance offered by rental companies.

“The insurance policies available at car rental desks tend to be expensive and frequently not worth the paper they are written on, as they often fail to cover the parts of the car most likely to get damaged, such as the windows, tyres and roof. We believe drivers should stop letting the car hire companies take advantage of them when they are tired, after a journey, and really just want to get their car keys and go, and instead book more comprehensive and cheaper insurance online in advance.”

The confusion is not just for those driving in Europe. Three quarters (75%) of people didn’t know that you need to have CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) and SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance) when renting in the USA or you risk being responsible for the full cost of the vehicle if it’s damaged in an accident, or even risk a six figure claim for compensation if you cause death or injury to a 3rd party in an accident. Nine in ten people (90%) did not know that they didn’t have to buy the insurance offered by the car hire company and could shop around for a better deal prior to travelling protects customers from these  insurance risks at a price significantly lower than that offered by the car rental companies and also automatically covers damage to the tyres, windows, roof and undercarriage. excess policies start from only £2.99 a day or annual cover for £39.99. This is a saving of around £200 for a two week holiday from buying the excess insurance direct from the hire car company. Key cover is available for only £4.99 single trip and £9.99 a year and cancellation cover for only £9.99 a year when bought with an annual excess policy.