Three Ways Rental Car Companies Try to Scam You

renting a car Did you know rental car companies make around 10 percent of their revenue on all the extras they sell you? Yep: prepaid gas fill-ups, toll transponders, rental car insurance, etc. You have the power to resist! Don’t let them push you into buying unnecessary rental car insurance, or any other extras or add-ons. Read everything you sign carefully, and get the total charges in writing. Here are three common upsells and scams to avoid when you’re renting a car.

They try to make you buy rental car insurance you don’t need.

Rental car agents are masters of manipulation. “We really recommend getting the supplemental liability insurance,” they’ll say. And the personal accident insurance. And the personal effects coverage. Check all the boxes, and you could find yourself paying an extra $50 per day for rental car insurance.

Here’s a little secret: You probably don’t need any of it. Here’s why.

  • Supplemental liability insurance is simply extra liability insurance to cover damages to other people’s property as well as medical costs for injuries you’re responsible for. If you have a regular auto insurance policy, you should be fine. Don’t listen to the rental car agent when he or she says your regular insurance won’t cover you — that’s just not true.
  • Personal accident insurance includes medical, ambulance and death benefits for you (the rental car driver) and your passengers. But your own health insurance, car insurance and life insurance most likely have you covered.
  • Personal effects coverage covers the theft of possessions from the rental car. But if you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy, you’re probably already covered for any personal items stolen from your car.
  • The collision damage waiver/loss damage waiver means you’re off the hook, financially, if your rental car gets damaged or stolen. This is useful coverage, especially if you’re renting a car overseas. However, your credit card may give you this coverage automatically — call the company to find out. If it doesn’t, it’s still much cheaper to purchase a collision damage waiver from a travel insurance company than to pay the rental car company’s exorbitant rates.

They send you a bill for damages you didn’t cause while renting a car.

NerdWallet writer Gary Alt received a bill for $858.70 a full two months after renting a car. The reason? The bottom of the front air dam was scratched, the company said — a ridiculous claim, according to Alt. He challenged the claim, and the company dropped it.

If something like this happens to you, Alt advises forcing the company to prove it’s your fault. Request they send you time-stamped photos of the damage that were taken just before you drove the car off the lot, to prove that the damage wasn’t already there. Also ask for time-stamped photos taken when you returned the car. You can ask for a list of rentals for that specific car from the time you returned it to the date when the company sent you a bill for the damage. If 20 people have rented it in that time, how do they know you damaged the car?

Also, protect yourself from this rental car scam by taking your own photos when you pick up and drop off the car. Take tons and tons of pictures, both interior and exterior, and don’t forget hard-to-see spots like the underside of the bumper.

They try to upsell you at the counter.

collision damage waiver “I see here you reserved the compact car, but all we have left on the lot is a Ford Fiesta. You’ll have a hard time fitting your bags in the trunk, so I suggest upgrading to a compact. I can put you in a Focus for just $10 more a day.”

Stand firm! As many customers have reported, some rental car agents will straight-up lie and claim a beater car is waiting for you on the lot. When you’re renting a car, resist attempts to upsell you on a larger car, or any add-ons. Pre-paying to fill the gas tank, for instance, is always going to be more expensive than simply doing it yourself.

Now you’re set to save money the next time you’re renting a car! While you’re at it, save even more money on car insurance by comparing quotes on It’s easy and it only takes a few minutes.

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