Car Rental Tips

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Read and understand the contents of the rental contract to ensure you are comfortable with the obligations under the terms of the contract.

Give the vehicle a thorough examination of dents and scratches before you take it out, especially windshield chips. Any damage should be noted on the contract before you leave the lot, even if this means going back into the rental office to make sure the damage is acknowledged in writing. Photograph the car before you take it off the lot and again when you return it. When you return the car, insist the agency confirm in writing there is no damage.

A Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) is an optional service sold by a rental car and peer to peer car sharing companies to cover you in case of an accident or other event that causes damage to your rental car. The waiver covers only the rented vehicle and means that the rental company waives its right to pursue you for damage. Your rental car company may call it a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW), and, even though it is not actually a form of insurance, it may also be referred to as Collision Damage Waiver or Loss Damage Waiver insurance. Keep in mind that a damage waiver only covers rental car damage. It will not cover any expenses if you cause an accident that damages other vehicles or results in injuries.

In Maryland rental car and peer to peer car sharing companies are required by law to provide renters with a notice from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office.  This Notice explains your options when deciding to whether or not to purchase Collision Damage Waiver.  

Pay by credit card because it gives you the ability to dispute invalid charges. Also, your credit card company may offer insurance coverage when renting a vehicle. Check with the company for coverage amounts and any limitations.

Another factor to consider when deciding whether or not to purchase CDW is some potential costs are covered under damage waivers that may not be covered in full, or at all by your insurance or credit card. For example, a damage waiver usually provides “loss of use” coverage when the car is being repaired and therefore cannot be rented out, as well as administrative and towing fees. It also may cover “diminished value” which is the difference in resale value for a car before and after an accident.

If you do damage the car, if possible, get a separate independent repair estimate before you return it so you have an idea what a fair bill might be. You also have a right to see proof that the car was repaired, where and for how much.