Price quotes from most Europe-based online car rental brokers include vehicle insurance. This coverage is usually referred to in Europe as Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) and includes theft insurance as well as damage to the car. In North America, the terms are Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and theft insurance. Unfortunately, in the fine print of these quotes one invariably finds that the included LDW-CDW/theft carries a high deductible or "excess," typically from €500 to €5000. This prevents the renter from relying on credit card insurance as that insurance is usually "secondary," meaning the credit card won't provide coverage if the renter has other insurance. In other words, under these conditions and terms if there is damage to your vehicle you pay the deductible.
In recent years, several overseas brokers, no doubt recognizing that North American buyers want "zero deductible" insurance, have begun to advertise "no excess" or "fully refundable excess." They promise that if your your rental car is damaged or stolen, and have to pay a deductible/excess fee to the rental car supplier, the broker will refund your out-of-pocket. Maybe.
Obtaining the Excess Refund
One company that offers excess/deductible refunds is Economy Car Rentals, a cut-rate, online broker based in Greece that books rental cars throughout Europe.
Obtaining an actual refund, however, is at best a hassle and at worst, impossible. In fine print at its website, Economy Car Rentals notes that renters can purchase additional insurance from their suppliers to reduce the deductible amount. This, of course, increases the cost of the rental, usually by at least €10 per day. The website goes on to say that it is not necessary to purchase this extra insurance to cover the excess, "as EconomyCarRentals will refund the charges for theft/damage excess." It then sets forth the requirements for such reimbursement. When damage or theft occurs the renter must:
- Contact the police and "take a written report."
- File a damage report with the car rental company (supplier).
The following documents must be then sent by mail to Economy Car Rental in Greece.
- Police report
- Damage/theft report made to car rental company
- Copy of the rental car contract
- Receipts to prove how much the renter has paid
- Credit card statement showing charges
Another Economy Car Rentals requirement is that the vehicle "never be removed from the place of accident until the police report has been completed." If the accident occurs while the car is parked, the damage must be reported to the police and to the car rental company before the vehicle is moved.
In bold print, the website says the broker will not refund if any required document is missing or if terms and conditions of the website are not followed.
In addition, there are many exclusions to the broker's reimbursement coverage, including: antenna, clutch, gearbox, trays, car lock, door handles, door sills, keys, windshield wipers, glass, mirrors, wheels, tires, upholstery, car jack, hubcaps, lights, gas cap, roof, hail damage, the car's interior and underside.
Excess reimbursement reality: what if there is damage but no accident?
Despite the inconvenience involved in obtaining a refund for excess/deductible paid to a rental company, it is possible in some cases. But in many circumstances, getting your money back will be difficult to the point of impossibility. Here's why.
The vast majority of damage to rental cars in Europe is minor and the renter's responsibility is less than $1,000. Typically, these are scratches and small dents the customer doesn't even notice until they are found by the agent when the vehicle is returned. There is no time then, of course, to obtain a police report. Or how about the traveler who discovers on the morning of departure from Europe that the rental car has been damaged overnight? Once again, there is no time for a police report. Practically speaking, even in cases where the renter is aware of damage and has time to deal with it, convincing the police to visit the vehicle and take a report for a minor scratch, scrape, or dent—especially when no other vehicle is involved—simply may not be possible.
Your Best Option
Book with a company that makes CDW/theft insurance optional, then pay with a credit card that covers collision and theft insurance. Coverage will be zero deductible and will likely extend to many parts of the car not covered by the supplier's insurance. Get a Europe rental car quote.