How to Get a Rental Car For a Not At Fault Car Accident

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Obtaining a rental vehicle from an at fault driver’s insurance company can be a complicated and frustrating task. The insurance company will try to deny you a rental or reduce your rental allowance. Being informed about the process, as outlined in this article will give you an advantage in rental negotiations.

So, how do you get a rental car for a not at fault car accident?  Make a claim with the at fault party’s insurance company, if they delay or deny your claim, get into a rental from your insurance company.  If you do not have rental coverage, pay out of pocket and save the invoices to submit to the insurance company later.

As an auto damage adjuster I deal with rental car coverage on a daily basis.  Let me give you the inside scoop on the details of making a third party rental claim, preventing the insurance company from denying or reducing your rental allowance.

How does an Insurance Company Determine How Many Days of Rental You Get?

An insurance company will only cover the rental for the amount of time the estimate states it will take to repair your vehicle.  The front page of most estimates has the phrase “Days to Repair” written at the top. This is calculated by taking the total repair hours and dividing them by 5 hours or another amount of time an insurance company expects a body shop to work on your vehicle in a day.   

So if the total labor hours on your repair estimate are 45, then it will take 9 business days to repair your car.  Weekends are not included in this calculation so you can already get an additional 2 days and possibly 4 depending on when you dropped your vehicle off at the body shop.

If Your Vehicle is Drivable and the Other Driver’s Insurance Company Admits Fault Here’s How to Get a Rental Car:

Once the other driver’s insurance company has accepted liability for the accident they will schedule an inspection appointment for your vehicle and provide you with an estimate.

The insurance company will then setup a rental reservation most likely with Enterprise Rent a Car.  You will be provided with the reservation number and then you can schedule a repair at your body shop of choice. Enterprise can pick you up at the repair shop and provide you with a rental car at their local office.  

Most Enterprise offices are located near body shops and dealerships, so this is usually the most convenient company from which to rent.  Insurance companies also prefer Enterprise as they can be billed directly through an internal website called ARMS (Automated Rental Management System).   Adjusters can also extend your rental easily through the ARMS portal.

Be assured that it is not required to rent only through Enterprise, there are many other companies like Budget or Hertz that also work well with insurance companies.

If Your Vehicle is Non-Drivable and the Other Driver’s Insurance Company Admits Fault Here’s How to Get a Rental Car:

Since your vehicle is non-drivable, the other insurance company will send an adjuster out for an inspection, be it at a tow yard, body shop, or your residence.  Once the estimate is completed the insurance company can tow the vehicle to your body shop of choice.

It is important to release the vehicle from the tow yard allowing the insurance company tow driver to pick it up.  Not doing so will delay the claim and give the insurance company a reason not to fully cover your rental. Additionally, make sure to sign the body shop’s authorization to repair as most shops will not start repairs unless this form is signed.

Once the insurance company provides you with a reservation number you can pick up a rental at a local Enterprise office.  You can also meet with Enterprise at the body shop when you go to sign the authorization to repair.

What if Your Car is Declared a Total Loss After the Non-Drivable Inspection?

The adjuster should be able to tell you how much your vehicle is worth immediately after the inspection, although for some newer or less common vehicles, a valuation can take up to 48 hours.   If the adjuster provided you with the total loss value this can be considered a total loss offer or settlement.

From this moment, most insurance companies cover only an additional 5 days of rental in which you will take care of settlement documents involving title transfer and payment.  If you have a lease, this can take longer. Some companies might cancel your rental earlier so trying to extend the rental by negotiation can be helpful.

You do not have to accept the initial total loss offer, it is best to review the valuation and work on a negotiation strategy.  Some insurance companies will not give you extra time to review their settlement. What you must do is dispute the value by offering documentation for recent repairs or prove the comparable vehicles in the report are not available.  This can buy you another two to three days as the valuation has to be sent back for manual review.

What if The At Fault Insurance Company Denies Your Claim and Will Not Cover Your Rental?

If the other driver’s insurance company is denying liability, aside from legal action, there is little you can do to compel them to cover your claim.   It is best to file a claim with your own coverage when the other insurance company refuses.  Your insurance company will come to an agreement on who is at fault or even take the claim to arbitration.

Getting a Rental from Your Insurance Company

You will have to file a claim with your insurance company, it is exactly the same as filing a claim with the at fault drivers company mentioned earlier.  

Make sure to confirm the type of rental coverage you have.  Most policies cover 30 days of rental but there is a range of coverage limits.  The most common policies range from $900 ( 30 days at $30 per day ) to $1500 (30 days at $50 per day ).

These insurance rental rates are in fact lower than the typical rental rates posted at the counter. Insurance companies have negotiated deals with large companies like Enterprise to provide a discounted insurance rate.  You should be able to get into a rental for as little as $20, but this applies only for an insurance claim.

Though you might have higher rental coverage, do not expect that the adjuster will approve a larger or nicer vehicle than what you are currently driving.   Standard policies mandate that you receive a comparable vehicle. So if your midsize sedan in the body shop for repairs, another midsize sedan will be supplied.

What if You Have Collision Coverage but No Rental Coverage?

You will have to rent out of pocket in this case, but since you are filing through your collision coverage you are still eligible for the discounted insurance rate.  Your out of pocket rental costs can be forwarded to the other insurance company by your claims adjuster for reimbursement.

Some insurance companies require that you submit the rental bill personally and not through your insurance company.  They will try to reduce how many days for which they will reimburse you. Make sure you have a timeline of repairs showing no delays on your part so they cannot dispute your rental usage.  

Can Auto Insurance Reimburse You for Borrowing a Friend’s Car as a Rental Vehicle?

If you borrow a car from a friend or family member, provided a receipt is available, the insurance company can reimburse you.  This is called a “cash out payment.” If a receipt is not provided, the payment will be negotiated with and go to the vehicle owner.

The insurance company will require the vehicle owner’s social security number for tax purposes as this counts as business income.

Most customers provide a receipt proving they already paid and we issue a check to them in return. Also make sure the rental rate is consistent or below the prevailing cost to rent a comparable vehicle.     

What if You do Not Have Collision Coverage and the Other Insurance Company is Denying Liability?

If your claim is denied and you do not have first part coverage, then your only option is to file suit against the other driver or their insurance company.  Unless the damage on your vehicle is significant, it might not be worth getting an attorney.

Before a denial is made, the other driver’s insurance company may still want to inspect your vehicle.  I have written many estimates for customers where my instructions were not to issue payments due to a pending liability investigation.  I am asked to take pictures of their vehicle and write an estimate, of which the customer gets a copy. These pictures are then reviewed by the claims department to get a better idea of what happened in the accident.  

The adjuster will provide you with an estimate which will give you an idea of how much the damage for your vehicle will cost and if it is safe or not to drive.  If your vehicle is totalled, the adjuster will run a valuation. A report could available in a few minutes to 48 hours.

You can then go to other body shops with the estimate and see if they can write a more cost effective one for repairs since you will be handling this out of pocket. If your vehicle ends up being a total loss then you can sell it to a salvage company or place it on Craigslist.   

How Can You Get the Insurance Company to Extend Your Rental Car?

Insurance companies have a list of reasons and tactics they use to shorten or cancel rental coverage.  It is in their interest to minimize expenditures on a claim, and your damage adjuster is graded on how many days of a rental are used.

How can you get the insurance company to extend your rental car?  Show the insurance company how they are responsible for repair or settlement delays.  Your body shop can be waiting on the adjuster to re-inspect the vehicle or the total loss department to finalize paperwork.  If these delays are their fault, they should extend your rental.

Here are some of the most common delays caused by the insurance company that supports they should extend your rental:

  1. The body shop is waiting on an adjuster to re-inspect your vehicle.
  2. The adjuster is not available for your initial inspection.
  3. There was a weekend during your repairs.
  4. The total loss value was not immediately available upon inspection.
  5. The total loss department has not completed their paperwork.
  6. The claims department has not contacted you to review your claim.
  7. A payment has not been issued to the body shop.

Here are some reasons that the insurance company will not extend your rental:

  1. Parts for the body shop are back-ordered by the manufacturer or taking longer to deliver than expected.
  2. Authorizations for the body shop have not been signed by you.
  3. Release forms for the tow yard have not been signed by you.
  4. Not providing the total loss department any requested documents or signatures.
  5. Documentation or an interview for the claims department has not been provided.
  6. You are driving the rental vehicle after the your car repairs have been completed.
  7. A total loss settlement payment was issued and you have not returned the rental.

Preparing for a Long Repair:

If your estimate says 22 days to repair or more, you can count on the vehicle being in the shop for 30 days and possibly longer.  It is not uncommon for heavy repairs with frame or mechanical damage to take 40 or 50 days to repair.

At this point, I tell my customers to get into the smallest and most cost effective rental in which they are comfortable.  You can stretch out your rental day allotment as long as you remain within the dollar limits of the policy. Let’s say you get into a car at $25 a day with a $1500 limit policy, then you can keep your rental for 60 days.  

If you hear from the body shop or adjuster that a part is on back-order and there will be delays, you can trade your rental in for a smaller vehicle in order to gain more rental days out of the rental policy.

Filing a Complaint with Your States Department of Insurance for the Denial of a Rental or Early Rental Termination.

If your insurance company or the at fault drivers company denies or reduces the rental you have one more option. You can contact your states department of insurance and file a complaint.

Many states track and publish how many complaints auto insurers get and this can be an embarrassing statistic. Rather than have your complaint go public the insurance company can decide to extend or approve your rental. Supervisors and managers will end up spending more time responding to the complaint than is worth.

For additional information on negotiating your insurance claim, check out my article: How to Deal With an Auto Insurance Damage Adjuster – 8 Tactics. Here, I go into detail on how to escalate a claim through management, file an insurance complaint and use the power of social media to make the insurance company submit to your demands.