Monday, February 2, 2009

Trip Planning Update-The Collision Damage Waiver

It's 25 days and counting for my vacation. I've been researching car rentals. They have ranged from the ridiculous of +$300 USD (less the mandatory Collison Damage Waiver or CDW) to $242 inclusive of the CDW.

The Collision Damage Waiver is just that, a policy you take out when you rent a car and it covers collisions and damages. In the USA for USA and Canadian Rentals, many times your personal car insurance will cover a rental vehicle and if you book and pay with a credit card, your credit card offers this protection.
Guess what, your coverage is NOT valid in the UK.  Some car rental companies are making it mandatory for you to purchase their CDW for the amazing fee of $24USD per day. I averaged out the cost on the three sites I've been trolling for car rentals. It used to be you could Opt Out of the CDW, which I did many a times on my travels in the UK. I did find one site where the rental fee was reasonable for the sized car I wanted. If I could convince my office to enroll the office American Express card in the premium car rental protection program, it would only cost me $24.99,  I could opt out of the CDW and the cost would be just at $200 for the week. I am an authorized user on our office AE, they may go for it, they may not.

I read further on the web site. The one reasonable rental place also reserved the right to charge an additional $7USD per day even with the CDW coverage by AE. So, I enroll in the program, bring proof of coverage and I am still charged an additional fee. I contacted the agency to ask WHY and the response was less than satisfactory. Pretty much, they do it because they can.
I did find a site that gave me a quote that was all inclusive of the CDW, taxes, fees, and surcharges. It's a national company. The caveat was that I had to pre-pay for the rental and still let my credit card be charged a refundable deposit at the time of pick up. Oh did I mention, that even if you pay with a major credit card, they (all the agencies I looked at) want to reserve the right to charge your major credit card or debit card a hold of the equivalent of $1,000 to $1,500 USD. I don't have a credit card with a spare $1,000 USD on it. My one credit card has a limit of $500.
I'll probably do the following. I will probably reserve and pay for the car that is $242 inclusive of all fees and charges and use the AE as the primary card to "hold" the rental deposit. Car rentals have changed since I last booked a hire car in the UK! It still ends up being the same if not cheaper for me to rent a car than to do my traveling via Brit Rail and the Bus.  Past experience has lead me to really read the fine print on each car rental web site, download the rental policies and keep a copy with me when I go to get the car. I also download the rental policies the day I leave in case of any "changes".  I've seen it happen far too many times where the slightly jet lagged traveler is brow beaten into all sorts of un needed extras, like the CDW and other additions. By having this information at hand, I've more than once saved myself wads of cash at the counter,  quoting their own policies that I was following. and very politely let the folks know this consumer comes prepared to do battle with the rental car companies.

25 days and counting!

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