If You Are in a Rental Car Accident

If you’ve found yourself in a minor fender-bender or a larger accident, first things first, make sure everyone’s okay! Call 9-1-1 if there are injuries.

For the next steps, here are top tips from insurance agents and fellow Americans with past rental car accident experience with words of advice on how to document the damage:

  1. Call the local police or law enforcement agent.

    You may need to file a copy of the police report for insurance purposes and the rental car company might need one as well. Also, keep in mind that you will be held liable and responsible for any traffic violations that occurred.

  2. Contacts to make:

    • Call the rental car company. Check in the glove compartment for the rental car company’s contact information and have your account information ready.

      Don’t have their info or can’t get to it? Here’s a list of major rental car company roadside assistance contact numbers:
      - Alamo: 1-800-803-4444
      - Avis: 1-800-354-2847
      - Budget: 1-800-354-2847
      - Enterprise: 1-800-307-6666
      - Thrifty: 1-877-435-7650

    • Questions to ask the rental car company:
      - What do you need me to do to document the damage?
      - How would you like it documented – Photos? Writing information down?
      - What information do you need? (date, time, etc.)
      - When and how will I get a replacement car?
      - Explain the payments for the crashed car and the replacement car.
      - Ask about any other assistance you might need – hotel?
    • Call your insurance agent. Read our Help – Car Accident section for tips on filing an insurance claim with your agent. They will be well-versed in dealing with the rental car company.

    WHN TIP: Contact your credit card company

    Why? Your credit card may offer rental car insurance coverage.

  3. Document the damage of the accident.

    Even if you don’t have insurance, you should take pictures because it may help the process with the rental car company. Click here for post-accident tips from drivers and law enforcement officials on how to document damage and other important information.

  4. Towing the car.

    If the car needs to be towed to a garage or body shop, be sure to get the exact details of the location and name of the towing company and the body shop. You may be held accountable for these towing and storage fees if your auto insurance policy doesn’t cover it.

    WHN Reader TIP: Tow Trouble

    “Eight days after the accident, I received a call from the rental company asking me where the car was. They demanded that I pay the full daily rate of the rental for the 8 days that the car sat in the lot that it was at I’d recommend that anyone who is in this situation be very clear with the rental car company about the exact location of the car after it is towed, and to watch your credit card statement for daily charges for days after the accident.” Mike, Boston, MA

    WHN Staff TIP: Grab Your Stuff

    Before your car is towed away, check for and remove all of your belongings. Don’t forget to check the trunk and glove compartments!

  5. Keep copies of ALL receipts

    Hotels, restaurants, gas, repairs, everything – these expenses may be covered under your own car insurance policy.

  6. Get extra estimates.

    Just like you would for your own car, you may be asked to get several different estimates for the repairs.

    WHN Reader TIP: Estimates

    When in LA, I was at a Hollywood party and when I left-ran into Britt Eklund's Mercedes and I was driving a tin can Renault. I got three estimates around LA, made copies of them, turned them into my insurance company and with the smashed rental and ended up only paying the deductible of $100 - Robin, Palo Alto, CA

  7. Your own auto insurance policy may not cover everything in this situation.

    WHN Expert Tip: Coverage

    If the vehicle needs repair work, your auto insurance may not pay for rental agency expenses, such as loss of rental income while the auto is out of service, or other “incidental” items such as towing, storage, and administrative costs that the rental company may incur - April Williams, MetLife Auto and Home

    Bottom Line: Document the damage, like you would for your own car. You never know what you might be held responsible for!

    Last Updated: 5/2009