I’m a fan of not paying for rental car CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) insurance, because it’s usually unnecessary and expensive when many credit cards already offer coverage. I’ve written before about positive experiences with American Express’ rental car insurance, but a recent trip highlighted the importance of re-reading the small print.
Francesca, one half of LodgePhoto, had rented a car at London Heathrow, and was pleased to get a free upgrade to a Jaguar, which is this rental car company’s standard intermediate model. Now, there are Jaguars and Jaguars, and this was one of the former — i.e. at the low end of the range, nothing exotic, but a pleasant step up from the more typical Ford or Peugot. At the end of the rental, there was a small chip in the windshield, which American Express explained would not be covered “because Jaguars are exotic cars”… which, if true (there’s some doubt, see below), means that she’d been driving around without insurance for a few days.
Some digging on the Amex website revealed the small print of Amex’s rental car insurance (it is hard to find — it took two failed searches before following a series of links). There are some fairly substantial limitations in the current rules:
- Exotic cars: anything by Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini (and other supercar makers). Also listed is the Jaguar XJS, which is not what Francesca rented. Also the Mercedes E320, which I would not consider remotely exotic. Check the document for the full list.
- Expensive cars: an MSRP greater than $50,000. This can be a really tough one to figure out when renting overseas — is that the price of the car when purchased in the US, or the price of the car in purchased in Europe converted to dollars? How would you know either price when presented with a particular car at the rental counter? Is that price at the current dollar exchange rate, or when it was purchased?
- Full sized SUVs and Vans: Chevy Suburban, Ford Expedition, Chevy Van etc. If you have a lot of stuff and/or a large family, this might also be a surprise. In Europe I always recommend getting more, smaller cars vs. one huge one, if that is possible, as smaller cars are easier to drive and park on narrow European roads (especially in medieval cities).
This is not the full list of limitations, by the way, just some edited highlights.
So, it’s not clear if the windshield chip is covered or not, since Francesca wasn’t driving an expensive or exotic car per the small print. We’ll find out.
The take-away from all this: re-read the small print. Even if you read it before. It might have changed!