The insurance cover fine print also deserves more scrutiny. While you may think that most of the bigger car hire companies are insured to the hilt, this is not actually the case. Companies like Avis and Budget selfinsure and they share some of the burden with customers.
“People sometimes ask why we don’t offer allinclusive packages. But we don’t because so many customers don’t want it. And if you don’t want it then this is the risk you are happy with. We self-insure our fleet. We try to go to insurance companies but we’ve found that when they see the damages of all the vehicles during the year the premiums go up, so we rather self-insure,” explains Lance Smith, strategy executive at Avis.
Clients can choose between standard waivers or more expensive super waivers. The more you pay in insurance waivers the less you pay in the event of an accident. Insurance is a must, as the amount you could be liable for, regardless of whether you were at fault, could be well into the tens of thousands of rands, if not more.
You may not always be liable for every dent and scratch but this depends on the car hire company you choose. “We have a fair wear and tear guide which can be available to you. A little dent or scratch is within our tolerance,” points out Smith.
PAYING FOR THE DAMAGES
However, you would be liable for bigger dents and damage. But you can get insurance from just about every car hire company. Avis, for example, has two options: you can either get Collision Damage Waiver, which is a limited waiver and means that, in the event of an accident, the renter is responsible for up to the specified amount as indicated on the rates table (see online) for repair to or replacement of the vehicle or part thereof (or the cost of damage repair, whichever is the lower).
If you choose its Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW), a lower, non-waivable liability will apply. Avis stresses: “Declining either of these options means you are liable for the full amount of damages incurred or the specified liability. Authorisation will be gained to secure the liability amount on your credit card for the duration of the rental.”
As an example, Avis’s rates table shows that if you hired a Mercedes-Benz C Class or similar the total liability is R500 000. If you have Limited Waiver Liability at R135 per day you could be responsible for up to R50 000 should you be in an accident. By paying more for SCDW at R215 per day, you would only be responsible for R10 000.
“Rather take the full insurance option because, if you get into an accident, the car hire company makes no attempt to claim from the wrongdoing driver’s insurance or to get the cheapest quote – it merely debits your credit card with what it says it costs to repair the car. Make sure you have proof of your insurance option,” says Melville.