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When I rent a car, should I purchase the collision damage waiver insurance that's offered to me?

You may already be covered under your own automobile insurance policy for collision damage that occurs when you're driving a rented car. The best way to find out for sure is to call your insurance agent or insurance company representative.

Many auto insurance policies automatically cover collision damage to a rented vehicle. Other policies cover the damage only if you purchase an endorsement from the insurance company. Such an endorsement provides additional coverage for your auto and is attached to your main policy.

Even if your auto policy provides collision coverage for rented vehicles, be careful about the policy language. Read the policy carefully and go over it with your agent. The language is very specific about who is covered and who is not. The policy will also specify what types of vehicles are covered, in which geographic locations they are covered, and for what purposes they should be used for the coverage to apply. For example, one policy may cover collision damage to a car you rent only if the vehicle is a private passenger automobile that you rented in the United States or Canada. Other restrictions could be that the auto has to be driven by you or a member of your family who lives in your house. Companies can further restrict coverage by requiring that the auto be driven only for personal--as opposed to business--use.

If you rent a vehicle that your own auto policy does not cover (e.g., a truck), there is probably a way to insure it temporarily. Check with your agent well ahead of time.