Twin Tiers residents love to travel year-round and the one question I often hear is:

Do I need to buy the rental car company’s extra insurance when I rent a vehicle?

The short answer is:  “Maybe … but probably NOT.”

The longer answer is that it depends on the insurance coverage you have on your own car — if you have good coverage on your car, usually you can decline all coverage. This is one more reason I so strongly urge my family and friends to make sure they have good coverage on their own car.

if you have robust coverage on your own vehicle – definitely exceeding the state minimum coverage requirements – you SHOULD be able to say no to the rental company insurance pitch, because your personal car insurance covers you when you are driving a rental car. It’s the law in New York State.

And just to recap what I recommend as absolute minimum coverage (Remember: More coverage is always better and usually the cost for additional coverage is very low.) Here is what I suggest:  $250,000/$500,000 Liability Limits, $250,000/500,000 Supplemental Underinsured (SUM) Limits, and Additional Personal Injury Protection (APIP) $75,000.

NY Attorney General Letitia James has a great online resource, Car Rental Tip Sheet, where she breaks down what to expect from car rental agencies when you reserve or pick up a car.

The AG’s website is a must-read for NY travelers considering car rentals anywhere in the U.S. The website helps travelers anticipate the questions they’ll get at the rental counter. It breaks down into specific categories and explains each one, including their confusing acronyms meant to baffle consumers:

  • Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), also known as Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) or Physical Damage Waiver (PDW).
  • Supplemental Liability Protection (SLP), also known as  Liability Insurance Supplement (LIS) or Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI).
  • Personal Accident Insurance (PAI).
  • Personal Effects Coverage (PEC).

The tip sheet also has sections on additional drivers, age discrimination, and whether credit cards are required.

Some people may have enough car insurance to protect themselves, but still want to pay for the extra insurance suggested by the car rental agencies. If they can afford it, that’s fine. But in most cases, it’s not necessary.

Michael Stamp, president and co-owner of the E.C. Cooper Insurance Agency in Watkins Glen, knows how important it is to protect his customers. They count on him for honest answers – and sometimes the right answer isn’t popular with his customers, but he wants them protected.

Michael is a veteran insurance agent who brings the personal touch when selling – he knows many of his customers and looks out for them. He knows many are on tight budgets.

“It’s always good to buy local and know you can call your insurance agent any time and ask a question about renting vehicles,” Michael said. “We will check your policy, and if necessary, contact your insurance carrier to be sure you’re covered before renting. It’s especially critical if you are renting a truck such as a U-Haul for a short period of time. Check with your local agent to be sure you’re covered adequately.”

Also, if you plan to drive for ride-sharing companies like Uber or Lyft, it’s critical to contact your insurance company.

Shop local is big with Michael. “When you call an 800 number and buy insurance, you are just a name to them,” he said. “They bang the drum about prices, but prices are great until you have a claim and you find out you don’t have the coverage you need.

“It’s much more personal when you deal with us at Cooper or other local insurance agents. We get to know our customers and their families. We build friendly relationships with our customers.”

Thanks for reading, and safe travels,


Jim Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 & 2019 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
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