Rick Mikolasek February 27, 2013 as published on The Truth About Insurance website



Insurance Q&A: “Does car insurance cover a rental truck?”

This one comes up a lot. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already realized how much even a small move across town can cost you once all of the fees are factored in. And the last thing you want to worry about is insurance.

First off, note that the rules that apply to renting a car are different than those tied to a rental truck. You can read more about the similarities below.  The last thing you want to do is stick your head in the sand and “hope” nothing goes wrong.  And let’s face it; if you don’t have the money lying around to purchase adequate insurance coverage, or are wondering if it’s included, you probably don’t have thousands of dollars to pay for an uncovered claim.

Similar to operating your personal vehicle, there are two main types of losses you need to be aware of (and protected against).

    1. Damage you cause to the vehicle you are operating and bodily injury you may suffer that is your fault – and your stuff being hauled.
    2. Damage to other drivers’ vehicles and bodily injury you cause to others.

These are two completely separate circumstances and the coverage for both is also separate according to your truck rental company and insurer.

We’re going to highlight U-Haul for this post, as they are one of the most widely recognized and available truck rental companies out there.  Most other reputable rental truck companies should have similar programs available. If the company you’re considering doesn’t offer any type of insurance coverage – silence your inner cheapskate and simply move on.

At the end of the day, these “insurance” programs offered by the truck rental companies are another revenue stream for them so they’d be crazy not to offer them.

Am I Covered or Not?

Without further ado, the answer is yes and no. We bet you’re not too happy to read that. The good news is we’ll explain the answer in a way you’ll easily understand, as coverage depends on whether or not you’re asking about item #1 or #2 on the types of losses that may occur.

You’re likely not covered for physical damage you cause to the rental truck or bodily injury you suffer that is your own fault.

Tip: The “other guy’s” insurance will pay for damage to the rental truck and your bodily injury if he causes and is deemed at fault for the accident.

Most personal auto insurance policies exclude coverage for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight over 9,000 lbs.  This is really no different than a personal auto policy not covering a motorcycle, boat or RV.  Your insurer has gone to great lengths to determine exactly how much to charge you for the risk associated with your car and vehicles like it.  Odds are you’re not as safe behind the wheel of a 9,000-pound truck as you are in your Honda Accord.

On the flip side, some personal auto insurance policies do provide liability coverage for you to drive rental trucks.  This means property damage and bodily injury you cause another party may be covered by your car insurance…just not damage you cause to the U-Haul truck you’ve rented.

DISCLAIMER: Contact your insurance agent or insurer to determine the extent of your car insurance coverage. Laws vary by state and individual policies, so it’s best to get the right answer from your insurer or agent directly.

What About Insurance Coverage from My Credit Card Company?

NOPE. This is a flat out “NO.”  Credit card companies will not cough up money to pay for damages you cause to the rental truck if it meets the definition of “truck.”  In fact, many credit card companies cut you off at a pick-up truck or passenger van…not just the 9,000-pound and heavier U-Haul trucks.  Further, as a review of our standard rental car insurance post, the credit card coverage often only serves as secondary coverage to your personal car insurance policy.

What Does U-Haul’s Insurance Program Look Like?

There are a few different offerings from U-Haul. Feel free to visit their site for the legal-speak details, but we’ll provide the basics here.  The type of coverage you can purchase depends on the type of vehicle you’re renting from them.  There are two coverage options for the big daddy type trucks (what most movers tend to rent) and one option for the pick-up size trucks and passenger vans.  For their larger trucks, the difference between the two lies in the option to purchase liability coverage for property damage and bodily injury you cause to OTHERS while driving one of these monsters.

Safemove® – Truck and Belongings (No Liability Coverage)

The Safemove® package allows you to purchase the following options:

    1. Damage Waiver – any “accidental damage” to the rental truck is not your problem here. You may back into a street sign or pole at the gas station…because you’re not used to driving something this big (this is why your car insurer doesn’t cover it!).  There is no deductible associated with this coverage. You simply ram it into a pole and return it no questions asked and no money out of your pocket.

    2. Cargo coverage – this may be a good idea because your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will have limitations on the amount of coverage you have for personal belongings held outside of your residence. Typically, you are limited to 10% of your coverage limits. If you have $50,000 in contents coverage on your home policy, you’ll be limited to $5,000 for “stuff” outside your house, including in that truck.  With U-Haul, you can get up to $25,000 in cargo coverage for a one-way rental, and up to $15,000 in coverage for an in-town rental. But note that there is a $100 deductible and coverage is for actual cash value (with exclusions).

    3. Medical & Life coverage – this is your medical payments/personal injury protection coverage, with a dash of auto death indemnity thrown in for good measure. While you cannot get this option removed from the package, your personal auto policy would likely extend this coverage if you have it.

Super Safemove® – Liability Coverage Added

As discussed, this option simply adds liability coverage to the list of coverage options in the more basic Safemove® program. It’s kind of like full coverage on your auto policy. And this liability coverage is considered primary coverage if purchased.  This means that the first $1,000,000 in liability is covered by U-Haul and not your personal insurance. Your existing car insurance – assuming it extends liability to the rental truck – would not come into play unless the damages you’re responsible for exceed $1,000,000.  This is coverage for property damage and bodily injury you cause to other people while operating your truck. There is no deductible associated with this coverage, which is not too special as there is typically never a deductible associated with auto liability coverage no matter where you buy it.

Coverage for Pick-Ups and Passenger Vans

Since your liability coverage (for damages to others) will likely extend from your personal auto policy to these types of vehicles, the coverage options available for these rentals is more closely related to those available on a standard car rental.  Namely, you’ll have the option to purchase a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), which, for the record, is not actually insurance but rather an agreement between you and the rental company that you’re not responsible for damages you cause to their vehicle.  The good news is that there is no deductible associated with this option either. You do not have to drop a penny of your own money if you return the truck/van with any damage.  More: If you plan to tow a personal vehicle or personal property in a U-Haul trailer, ask about Safetow®.

Wrap Up

It is crucial to contact your current insurance agent or insurer to determine exactly what type of coverage you have on your current auto policy before buying anything from the rental company.  Also, be sure to read the EXCLUSIONS associated with the rental company’s coverage. Many people don’t read and understand the fine print of any type of insurance or coverage, which often leads to dissatisfaction and unexpected costs in the event of a loss.

No policy covers everything – no matter what the TV commercials tell you.

Tip: Other major truck rental companies, such as Budget and Penske, offer similar coverage options, including damage waivers, supplemental liability insurance, personal accident insurance, and cargo insurance. They may just “package” them a different way, or give them fancy names. Navigate carefully.

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