Anybody abuse rental cars? I try not to. But it’s hard.

I have sympathy for all things mechanical, but renting a car is like accepting a challenge. Your mission: Use every bit of the car and the rental agreement you’re signing for, and then some.

The rental company’s mission: Go on the offensive and generally just anticipate and prepare for the worst possible consumer behaviour. Game on.


Actually, I think I’ve never been a totally ruinous rental-car customer. Certainly not as bad as comedian Will Shriner, who uses this technique to fulfill the obligation of returning a rental car with a full tank of gas: “I just top it off with a garden hose.”

But what gets me to contemplate bad behaviour like that, is when they ask for extra insurance coverage — because in most instances, you don’t need it.

Consumer advocate and insurance expert, Lee Romanov, says she never buys extra collision insurance, citing that most credit card companies automatically provide that coverage when you use their card for the rental transaction.

“I recommend that people call up their credit card company, and ask about rental car coverage. 'What am I covered for?'”

Another good option, according to Romanov, is to make sure you have a “non-owned vehicle” rider on your personal auto insurance policy.

“Between the credit card coverage and the rider, there should be no need for extra insurance,” notes Romanov. She adds that if you do smash something, it’s in your interest to let the credit card company “take the hit,” as the insurance company will surely put the collision on your record and factor it into your premiums.

If you’re thinking your premiums are already a bit too rich, you might want to check out This site, founded by Romanov, allows you to compare rates from virtually all of the auto insurers operating in Canada.

Of course, the cheaper option to running your own car, or renting one, is borrowing one. Have you had anyone, other than family members, ask to borrow your car?

That’s a weird feeling. My mouth says, “yeah sure,” but the rest of my being says, “Are you nuts? Hey, why don’t you just sleep in my bed too?

Unfortunately, you can’t politely refuse on “insurance” grounds, because insurance companies don’t seem to mind.

“If it’s your car and insured, you can lend it to anyone you want,” says Romanov. But she does offer these cautionary words to those gentle souls who share their rides…

“If that person gets a speeding ticket, it is their speeding ticket, it won’t affect your rates. But if they have an accident, it’s basically your accident, and stays on your insurance policy for six years.”

– Michael Goetz has been writing about cars and editing automotive publications for more than 20 years. He lives in Toronto with his family and a neglected 1967 Jaguar E-type.

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