Yes, you do need rental car insurance in California, specifically liability insurance. Liability pays the other party’s expenses if you cause an accident. In most states, rental companies provide the state-required minimum liability insurance coverage as part of their standard contract. In California, they do not. You must have separate liability coverage when you rent a car in California.
Your rental car company can sell you this liability coverage for an extra charge. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is the same as the optional, supplemental insurance most rental car companies will offer you in other states. This liability coverage is required. You could still turn the rental car company down, however, because you might already be covered under your personal auto insurance policy.
Call your personal insurance company before you rent a car in California to see if your policy is already set up to cover the rental car. Make sure you have the minimum required liability coverage in your policy.
Rental Car Insurance in California:
Required Minimum Bodily Injury Liability Coverage: $15,000 for injury/death per person ($30,000 per accident)
Required Minimum Property Damage Liability Coverage: $5,000 per accident
Top Sources of Coverage: Personal car insurance (liability, damage to rental vehicles), credit card rental car insurance (damage to / theft of rental vehicles), and rental company insurance (liability, personal accident insurance, personal effects coverage)
Other Useful Coverage: Personal injury protection, theft, comprehensive, collision
You’re only required to have liability coverage in California, but optional coverages can offer additional peace of mind. For example, if you have collision and comprehensive coverage on your personal auto policy, it will generally extend to your rental car. Also, if you have personal injury protection or MedPay on your personal policy, you won’t need personal accident insurance from the rental company. These will cover medical costs for you and your passengers.
Another source of optional coverage you already may have is your credit card. Many credit card companies provide free coverage for collision damage and theft when you use their card to rent a car. It is worth a call to find out. However, credit cards generally do not provide liability coverage or personal injury protection.
If you don’t have collision and comprehensive on your own policy or through a credit card, consider purchasing a loss-damage waiver from the rental company. A loss-damage waiver isn’t insurance, but it does the same job of protecting you financially. It puts the responsibility of paying for any damage that happens to the car while in your care on the rental company rather than on you.
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