Car rental customers should be aware that the excess-waiver insurance offered by third-party providers is very different from the no-risk cover offered by their car hire company, says the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA).
The warning, issued by the BVRLA, comes in response to the high-profile marketing campaigns launched by a number of car rental insurance brokers, who claim to provide a cheaper alternative to the excess waivers offered by hire companies.
The traditional excess waiver offered by car rental companies enables customers to reduce their liability to a set amount or eliminate it entirely. Unlike an insurance product, it offers a no-quibble, hassle-free guarantee that the customer will not have to pay any extra costs in the event of an accident, theft or act of vandalism, says the BVRLA.
Customers taking out a third-party policy are buying insurance. In the event of an incident, they will have to pay the excess fee charged by their rental company and then try and claim it back from their insurer.
"Claiming on a third-party excess waiver insurance policy takes time and a lot of paperwork, and even then people should be aware that their claim may not be successful," said BVRLA chief executive, John Lewis.
"It can leave people short-changed due to exchange rate differences or even simple deficiencies in paper work.
"These third-party policies also have extensive terms and conditions with some surprising clauses that could see people not having the cover they expected."
Clauses and exclusions
The BVRLA examined the terms and conditions of a number of third-party car rental insurance companies and found some or all of the following exclusions or clauses in their terms and conditions:
• Customers are not covered for ‘losses occurring from driving whilst not on a Public Highway'.
What happens if you have an accident in a car park or on the unpaved road to your holiday accommodation?
• Any claims must be notified within 31 days
• Customers are not covered where a rental vehicle is hired within 150km of their usual place of residence and in one case not even in their country of residence at all
• The following documentation is required to support a claim: original copy of rental agreement; copy of insurance certificate; copies of invoices, receipts or documents confirming any amount paid in respect of the incident being claimed for; front and back copy of driving licence of the person driving the vehicle; original copy of the police report; a copy of the rental company's accident damage report; a copy of the credit card statement showing payment of the damages claimed.
The BVRLA also rejects claims that the car hire industry is ‘pressure selling' its excess waivers by offering them at the rental desk.
"Customers need to recognise that hiring a vehicle is not like booking a hotel room or buying an airplane ticket - they are taking responsibility for an asset worth many thousands of pounds," said Lewis.
"It would be irresponsible not to double-check before a rental begins that the customer is comfortable with the level of risk cover they have chosen."