Do you need proof of insurance to rent a car?

You don’t always need proof of insurance for a rental car. Most personal policies and credit cards provide coverage

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

Full Bio →

Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

Full Bio →

Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: May 12, 2022

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right coverage choices.

Advertiser Disclosure: We strive to help you make confident auto insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We are not affiliated with any one auto insurance provider and cannot guarantee quotes from any single provider. Our partnerships don’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own. To compare quotes from many different companies please enter your ZIP code on this page to use the free quote tool. The more quotes you compare, the more chances to save.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

Things to Remember...

  • You must be at least 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license to rent a car
  • You don’t need proof of insurance for a rental car as long as you’re paying with a credit card
  • Don’t buy rental car insurance from the counter if you have a personal policy or are already covered by your credit card

Your state laws require you to carry liability insurance for every vehicle you drive, but do you need proof of insurance to rent a car? Not always. Since you aren’t the registered owner of the rental car, you’re under no legal obligation to insure it.

However, some rental car companies will require proof of insurance, especially if you’re paying with a debit card. In these instances, you can buy auto insurance from the rental counter or use a credit card that provides rental car coverage. 

While the rental counter won’t ask you for proof of insurance, renting a car without coverage makes you liable for any damages or lawsuits resulting from an accident. Your rental car is already covered if you have a personal auto policy, but you’ll be responsible for those costs out of pocket if you’re driving without insurance. 

Keep reading to learn who is obligated to insure a rental car and whether or not you’re already covered. Rental agents may pressure you to buy insurance at the counter, but this guide will tell you when you need proof of insurance for a rental car and what the requirements are.

Do I need insurance to rent a car?

No, you do not need auto insurance to rent a car. Rental car agencies will carry a special commercial policy that includes liability insurance and damage for each car. However, this liability coverage does not extend to you or your injuries. 

You will need to have a personal auto insurance policy or buy car insurance from the rental counter to be covered in an accident when renting a car. 

In most instances, you do not need to buy additional rental car insurance if you have a personal policy. Rental agents may insist that coverage is necessary, but your personal policy will have a temporary substitute vehicle provision that extends coverage when renting or borrowing a vehicle.

However, rental car coverage is limited by the terms of your policy. For example, your insurer will only pay up to the value of the insured vehicle on your policy. You will also only have coverage based on the types of policies you carry. So if you only carry minimum liability insurance, your rental car will only have liability coverage.

The same limitations apply when you rent a car with a credit card. While most credit card agreements carry some auto insurance for rental cars, your coverage may be limited by the kind of credit card you use or vehicle you’re renting. So, if you plan on renting a newer or luxury car, you should buy additional coverage at the counter to make up the difference.

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

Enter your ZIP code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What kind of auto insurance do rental companies offer?

If you don’t have a personal policy or are worried about policy limits, you have the option of buying additional insurance coverage from the rental company. 

The rental company already provides liability coverage, but customers can choose to add on these rental car insurance options:

  • Loss Damage Waiver/Collision Damage Waiver (LDW/CDW). Covers any damages caused by an accident, theft, natural disaster, and if your rental car is towed, but you don’t need it if you have personal auto insurance.
  • Personal Accident Insurance (PAI). Pays for your and your passengers’ injuries, but it isn’t necessary if you have health insurance or personal injury protection in your personal policy.
  • Personal Effects Protection (PEP). Covers any of your personal belongings in the rental car but isn’t necessary if you have homeowners or renters insurance.

You can also choose to purchase additional liability protection that applies when you’re at fault for an accident. However, you won’t need additional coverage if you have a personal auto policy. 

If you have a personal car insurance policy, you do not need to buy auto insurance from the rental counter.

Rental agents may imply you need coverage or pressure you into buying an LDW or PEP add-on, but remember, you are likely already covered by your personal car insurance. Read your policy carefully before heading to the rental counter so you know exactly what auto insurance you need to buy if any. 

How much does rental car insurance cost?

The additional coverages offered by your personal policy or credit card do not cost you anything extra. 

However, if you buy rental car insurance at the counter, you will pay an additional fee per day for coverage. In addition, the cost of rental car insurance will vary based on the state you’re driving in and the kind of car you’re renting. 

On average, rental car LDW costs an additional $10-$30 per day. PAI and PEP are less expensive and will only cost you between $2 and $13 per day.

What are the requirements for renting a car?

You don’t always need proof of insurance to rent a car, but rental companies have other requirements drivers need to meet. For example, drivers must be between the ages of 21 and 25 to rent a car. Any driver under 25 will often be charged an extra daily fee, if they’re allowed to rent a vehicle at all.

Drivers also need the following to rent a car:

  • A valid driver’s license
  • A credit card or proof of insurance

Without a credit card, you will not be able to rent a car without proof of insurance. Some rental companies do accept debit cards or cash payments, but drivers will have to provide proof of insurance and a valid driver’s license before obtaining the vehicle. Without proof of insurance, rental car companies may not allow you to obtain a vehicle.

If you rent a car with a credit card, it will provide some auto insurance coverage. However, there will be limitations.

Contact your credit card company to find out how much rental car insurance you have and if you need to buy additional coverages at the counter. 

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

Enter your ZIP code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Rental Car Insurance: The Bottom Line

You don’t need proof of insurance for a rental car, but it is in your best interest to have some sort of coverage in place. A personal auto insurance policy will automatically cover your rental car, but there will be some limitations.

For example, personal car insurance will only cover up to the value of the insured vehicle on your policy. You will also be limited to the type of coverage you already have. However, you can buy additional auto insurance at the counter for an increased daily fee.

The rental car insurance options available include collision coverage, personal injury coverage, personal effects coverage, and additional liability insurance if you’re at fault for an accident in a rental car.

If you need to buy rental car insurance, it will cost an additional $2-$30 per day. But remember, you don’t need rental car insurance if you already have auto insurance or pay for your rental with a credit card. 

Looking for personal auto insurance to cover a rental car? You can buy auto insurance online quickly and safely to get covered as soon as possible.

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

Enter your ZIP code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption