The Complete Guide to Rental Car Damage

PUBLISHED ON Jan, 20 2023


Car rental services are becoming more and more popular. Car rental abroad is much easier than it might seem. It provides wide freedom of movement and even helps save on transport.

At the same time, it is associated with various pitfalls that you need to know about in advance. And the first step is to carefully study the proposed insurance option and what it covers.

Typically, when you rent a car, the price will include CDW. The basic policy often does not cover glass, tires, and headlights – if something happens to them, you will cover the damage yourself. Please note that even if you have CDW coverage, you are still responsible to pay an amount called ‘excess‘ (also know as deductilbe).

But what if you still scratch your rental car? This article will tell you what to do in this situation, who will compensate for this damage, and other rental car insurance details.

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What Your Insurance Won’t Cover When Your Rental Car is Damaged?

It is worth remembering that many insurances do not cover damage to some parts of the car: tires, glass, interior.

Dents in Rental Car

Most rental companies consider dent in rental car if it is larger than 5 cm. All dents larger than 5cms or multiple dents on one panel, that weren’t marked on the existing vehicle condition report, which you should be given when you pick up the car, are considered damage that has to be compensated. This includes chips from flying rocks and minor bumps and dents. A smaller dent on a rental car is not a problem and is considered minor damage to rental car.

Checklist Rental Car Outside

Scratch on Rental Car

A small scratch on a rental car is typically not a problem and might be considered as wear and tear. Damage will be considered a scratch if it is through the paint on outer surfaces of the vehicle, top, sides, rails, and tailgate. Most rental companies consider scratch on rental car if it is larger than 5 cm. All dents larger than 5cms or multiple dents on one panel, that were not marked on the pick-up statement are considered damage that has to be compensated.

Rental Car Bumper Damage

When you return the rental vehicle, there should be no discoloration, chips, scratches on the bumper. Small damages are acceptable as long as these do not require the repair or repainting of the whole panel.

Rental Car Glass Damage

Normally, small glass scratches are not a problem, but heavier scratches of 2.5cm and more or missing glasses will need to be reimbursed. It relates to mirrors as well.

Broken Mirror in Retnal Car

Rental Car Interior Damage

You should return your car with all the seats in the same state as you received it. Check the car interior for stains, burns, odors.

Rental Car Tire Damage

You will be held responsible for flat or damaged tires as well as dents or whole on wheel trims. In case you get a spare tire with a rental car, it should be in full working condition upon return. Most rental agreements restrict driving off-road, and the renter would be responsible in the event that there is damage due to off-road use. If you replace the tire yourself, make sure it is exactly the same model and manufacturer of tire that is currently on the car.

What is Normal Wear and Tear in a Rental Car?

When you rent a car, you should keep it in good condition to avoid extra charges upon return. But there can be some typical daily wear that is not considered as damage. It includes few exterior marks and hard-to-notice wear to the interior.

The rental car company should provide a document specifying fair tear and wear rules that match generally accepted standards.

Always Photograph Your Rental Car

Make sure to inspect the vehicle upon its receipt. Ask the rental car company to give you a checklist for inside and outside inspection of a rental car.

Always Photograph Your Rental Car

Checklist Rental Car Outside

  • Do a quick walk around the car.
  • Look for dents and scratches.
  • Check the headlights for chips/cracks.
  • Check the windshield and wipers.
  • Check the lower spoiler for chips/cracks.
  • Check the roof for dents/scratches.
  • Check the wheels for missing front or back plates and the rims for existing damage or hidden scratches.
  • If you have a smart phone, use it to take photos as you go around the car.

If there are any issues, make sure your rental company makes a note of any marks you have found.

Checklist Rental Car Inside

  • Get into the car and look for excessive trash and burn holes or dirt.
  • Take time to record all damage found, even minor issues.
  • Make sure that the rear-view mirror is in place.
  • Check the knob and handles.
  • Do not forget to check the gas and mileage.

Car rental images will help you avoid responsibility for already existing damage.

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Which of the Following Precautions Should You Take When Renting a Vehicle?

When renting a vehicle, it is crucial to take certain precautions to protect yourself and ensure a smooth rental experience. Here are some topics you can write about regarding precautions to take when renting a car:

  1. Conduct a thorough inspection of the vehicle: Before accepting the rental car, meticulously inspect it for any existing damage, both inside and out. Take note of any scratches, dents, or other issues and notify the rental car company to avoid being held responsible for pre-existing damages.
  2. Document the vehicle’s condition: Use your smartphone or a camera to take timestamped photos or videos of the car’s condition before driving off the rental lot. This visual evidence can serve as proof of the car’s initial condition, protecting you from false damage claims later on.
  3. Familiarize yourself with local driving regulations: Research the traffic laws and regulations of the area where you’ll be driving the rental car. Adhering to speed limits, parking restrictions, and other rules can help prevent rental car accidents and avoid traffic violations.
  4. Load and hide your belongings before reaching your destination: To reduce the risk of theft or break-ins, it’s advisable to load and hide your belongings before arriving at your destination. Avoid drawing attention to valuable items by securing them in the trunk or keeping them out of sight. This precaution can deter potential thieves and help safeguard your personal belongings during your rental car journey.
  5. Unload your belongings away from your parking places – When returning the rental car or arriving at your destination, it’s recommended to unload your belongings away from parking spaces. Find a secure and well-lit area to remove your items from the vehicle. This precaution helps minimize the risk of theft or damage to your belongings while ensuring a safer and more discreet unloading process. By taking this extra step, you can enhance the security of your possessions and reduce the chances of being targeted by opportunistic individuals.
  6. Keep your car safe on the roadChoose your parking space wisely and use a parking garage when in doubt: If you’re unsure about the safety of the area or concerned about leaving your rental car unattended, it’s wise to utilize a secure parking garage. Parking garages typically offer enhanced security measures such as surveillance cameras, well-lit spaces, and sometimes even on-site security personnel. Opting for a parking garage provides an added layer of protection for your rental vehicle and reduces the risk of theft or vandalism. It’s worth considering this option, especially in unfamiliar or high-crime areas, to ensure the safety of both the rental car and your personal belongings.
  7. Assume thieves want to steal your car: While it may sound paranoid, adopting a mindset that thieves are actively targeting your rental car can help you take necessary precautions. Be vigilant and follow these additional measures to safeguard your vehicle:

    a. Park in well-lit and populated areas: Choose parking spaces that are well-lit and in busy areas. Thieves are less likely to target vehicles in areas with high visibility and pedestrian traffic.

    b. Lock all doors and windows: Always lock the rental car and ensure that all windows are fully closed before leaving it unattended. This simple step can deter opportunistic thieves.

    d. Avoid leaving spare keys in the vehicle: Never leave spare keys inside the rental car, as it increases the risk of theft. Thieves may search for hidden keys or break into the vehicle to steal them.

    e. Be cautious with keyless entry systems: If your rental car has a keyless entry system, keep the key fob in a secure place to prevent unauthorized access. Thieves can exploit vulnerabilities in keyless entry systems to gain entry and steal the vehicle.

    f. Report suspicious activity: If you notice any suspicious individuals or activities near your rental car or in the parking area, report it to the authorities or rental car company immediately.

    By adopting a proactive mindset and taking these precautions, you can minimize the risk of car theft and increase the security of your rental vehicle. Remember, prevention is key when it comes to protecting your rental car from potential thieves.

  8. Check for your valuables as soon as you return to your car: Upon returning to your rental car, make it a habit to check for your valuables immediately. This precautionary step can help you ensure that nothing important or valuable has been left behind or stolen during your absence. Take a moment to scan the interior and check compartments, seats, and any storage areas to ensure that all your belongings are accounted for. By being proactive and attentive, you can promptly address any issues or potential thefts and take appropriate action.
  9. Purchase rental car insurance or verify coverage: Review your existing auto insurance policy to understand if it covers rental cars. If not, consider purchasing the rental car company’s insurance or explore options for standalone rental car insurance to protect yourself in case of rental car accidents or damages.
  10. Report any rental car accidents or issues promptly: If you encounter any accidents, damages, or mechanical issues during your rental period, immediately notify the rental car company and follow their instructions for reporting and resolving the situation.

By taking these precautions, you can minimize the risk of encountering problems and ensure a hassle-free rental experience. It is essential to prioritize your safety, protect yourself from unwarranted charges, and drive responsibly during your rental period.

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Final Thoughts – The Advantages of Excess Waiver Insurance

Every insurance policy will still ask you to pay a deductible in case of car damage. To avoid these additional expenses, you may buy excess waiver insurance that will cover this sum.

It will cost you a bit more, but you will be fully protected from rental car damage claims.


What is dent in a rental car?

Dent in rental car is any dent larger than 5cm that wasn’t marked on the pick-up statement.

What is scratch on a rental car?

Scratch on rental car is any scratch larger than 5cm that wasn’t marked on the existing vehicle condition report, which you should be given when you pick up the rental car.

What is the Enterprise car rental damage policy?

When you rent a car from Enterprise you are responsible for all damages to the rental car. So get additional protection by buying CDW and excess waiver.

What happens if you damage a rental car without insurance?

Actually, it is illegal to drive a rental car without insurance. But if you still find yourself in such a situation, you are responsible for all the damages if they were your fault. If it happened because of the other driver, the insurance company would deal with his insurance directly.

Do rental car companies care about scratches?

Scratch is minor damage to a rental car that is usually fully covered by the CDW. Keep in mind that even if you are covered by CDW, you are still liable to pay the deductible/excess.

Should I get insurance with a rental car?

Many people buy supplemental insurance when renting a car. You can actually cover your major damage responsibility with your own insurance, a credit card with insurance, or a third-party policy.

Do car rental companies check tires?

Normally, rental services do not check tires thoroughly, only their pressure. But if you need to replace a tire on your own, use the same model.

Who pays for a flat tire on a rental car?

It depends on what your insurance includes. It rarely covers rental car tire damage. If you have purchased roadside assistance, it will cover the labor cost, but you will still need to compensate for the tire from your pocket. Without roadside assistance, you pay for the labor as well.

Can you fix a rental car yourself?

The rental company makes the repairs themselves and asks you to compensate for its cost.


6 Responses

  1. Lindsey G says:

    ahhh I damaged my rental car and got a dent on it when I hit a pole in a parking lot. Was FREAKING OUT. I took it to Acci-dent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and they fixed it within a day thank god!! Rental car repair can be so expensive. I’m glad paintless dent removal is fast!

  2. Chris Hodges says:

    BEWARE. Ensure you fully check your hire car. I was told there was no damage and took it on face value. When I returned the car, they tried to sting me £1,400 excess charge for 2 x 5 cm scuffs on alloy which were clearly there on inititial hire as I know for a fact I hadn’t curbed the wheels. I threatened them with legal action at which point they then waived the charge.

  3. Airport Transportation Nassau says:

    If you are travelling to the Bahamas and not renting a vehicle – Nassau Transfer Services Bahamas – providing express transportation (Private Hire), services for to and from Bahamas Airports, Bahamas Cruise Ports to and from anywhere in the Bahamas.

  4. G Winslow says:

    We had a tyre blow out on the Interstate yesterday. Managed to get the spare tyre on the vehicle and found the nearest tyre repair shop. £220 later the car is road worthy again! It’s absolute joke that the rental company will say it’s my fault and make me stump up the cost! What if the car had rolled and was written off? Am I supposed to buy a new bleeping car? Absolute joke! Rental companies do nothing more than try and upsell s&@t and clearly never check whether a car is roadworthy!

    • Gil Farkash says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read this post.
      We totally agree with what you wrote and this is exactly why renters should purchase CarInsuRent car hire excess waiver insurance, as it covers damage to tires and provide piece of mind.

      All the best
      The CarInsuRent Team

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I buy a plan for just one day?

Yes. Insurance for a single day is available.

Can I buy a plan for part of my rental only?

No. We provide a single journey plan. You are covered from the time you pick up the rental car up to the time you return it or on the last date written on your Certificate of Insurance, whichever comes first.

Can I buy a plan when I pick up my rental car?

No. You should purchase a policy before starting your travel.

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