After having an accident with or otherwise damaging a rental car, the most important thing is your safety; you should move out of the way of traffic and into a safe area.
You’ll need to report the incident, exchange information with any other parties involved, and either drive or tow the vehicle to a repair shop.
Once the scene of the accident is clear, you can begin processing insurance claims and settling any necessary payments for the repairs.
To find out more about what you should do if you crash or damage a rental car, we contacted rental counter representatives at each of the major U.S. rental agencies (including Avis Rent a Car, Budget, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, SIXT, Thrifty Car Rental, and Turo). We also viewed their policy documentation online.
Who Pays for Rental Car Accidents or Damage?
Rental agencies insure their cars, and the rental company’s insurance may cover at least a portion of repairs and associated costs after an accident or damage incident.
Your responsibility for the repair costs will vary depending on several factors:
- What your personal insurance (if you have it) covers
- Whether you purchased any additional protection plans
- Whether you were at fault for the accident
- The rental agency’s policy on damage liability
You may be responsible for any amounts that exceed the vehicle’s coverage or even up to the total cost of any damage or loss of the vehicle.
However, note that most personal car insurance covers rental cars, and additional protection plans like CDWs, personal accident coverage, and roadside assistance can reduce your out-of-pocket repair costs (as previously reported).
What to Do After an Incident
All of the rental agencies we contacted told us that after an accident or damage incident, the renter should file reports with the rental company, the insurer(s), and the local authorities.
It’s also a good idea to take detailed, clear photos of all damage to the rental vehicle and any other vehicles involved at the site of an accident.
Informing the Authorities
First, call 911 or the local non-emergency police number and file a police report so you have formal documentation of the incident.
You don’t need to do this for minor damage to the vehicle — only single- or multiple-vehicle accidents.
If the incident involves more than just your rental vehicle, be sure to get all other parties’ contact and insurance information, including their full name, address, and phone number.
You should include this information in the police report and keep a copy of it for the rental company’s accident/damage report.
Notifying the Rental Agency
Whether or not the vehicle is drivable, call the rental agency’s roadside assistance hotline or the specific rental location to start a report.
If the car isn’t drivable, an associate will arrange to tow it.
In the table below, you’ll find the contact details for each rental agency’s roadside assistance program.
There may be a copy of a blank accident report attached to your rental agreement or in the vehicle’s glove box; you may also be able to download a copy online or complete your report over the phone.
After notifying the local authorities and rental agency, you can begin the process of filing claims.
Whether you have personal insurance, rental agency protection plans, credit card coverage, or other rental car protection, the rental agency’s third-party claim administrator may work directly with your plan administrator to collect payment for any eligible repairs or charges.
However, you may also need to file a claim directly with your plan administrator. A representative for the rental agency can help you determine whether you need to call your insurer or submit any claims yourself.
After reporting the accident, it will usually take around 30 to 60 days for the rental agency to investigate your claim and repair or salvage the vehicle, though processing time varies for each individual incident.
You’ll usually receive a bill for any remaining charges you owe (beyond your insurance or protection plans’ coverage limits) after the repair or salvage process is complete.