• What to do if you have an accident in a hire vehicle

What to do if you have an accident in a hire vehicle

Find out what happens if you have a collision in a rental car or van - our step-by-step guide

Have you ever wondered what happens if you have an accident in a hire car? Being involved in any kind of road traffic collision is stressful enough as it is, let alone if you experience an accident while in a rental vehicle. 

Car hire accidents present a range of issues around liability, financial responsibility, and insurance claims depending on fault and damages. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through all the steps following a hire car crash so you know precisely who pays for what, how to handle the scene safely, the rental company protocols, and ways to protect yourself financially. Read on to find out more… 

What should you do if your hire car suffers damage?

If you have an accident in a hire vehicle in the UK, you’ll want to know exactly what to do. Below, we explain six steps to take if you are involved in a collision in a rental car: 

Car hire damage - a complete guide

  1. Stop at the scene and call emergency services if you are in an unsafe place or if anyone is injured. Even for minor accidents, it's recommended to call the police so there is an official report for the rental company to refer to.
  2. Turn on your hazard lights and set up a warning triangle behind your vehicle if possible. This alerts other drivers - especially if you are partly blocking the road.
  3. Take pictures of the damage, position of vehicles, street signs or landmarks, and any skid marks. Get contact details and insurance information from the other driver(s) involved, along with the names and contact details of any witnesses - the more information you have the better. 
  4. Call the rental company right away as per the terms of your vehicle hire agreement. Some may even require that you contact them before the emergency services (if safe) so they can guide you on the next steps. 
  5. If the vehicle is drivable, follow the rental company's guidance on where to take it for further assessment. You may need to submit a damage claim form and accident report to them shortly after the incident. 
  6. Review your rental agreement and insurance coverage with the vehicle hire company. Rental insurance or personal car insurance may cover damages but, there are often policy limits and deductibles you must pay.

Who is liable for a rental car accident in the UK?

Who pays if you crash a rental car? In the UK, liability for a rental car accident typically falls into one of these categories:

Hirer’s responsibility 

As the hirer, you are likely liable for any damage or loss to the rental vehicle under the terms and conditions of the rental agreement. Many car rental companies require hirers to purchase additional insurance excesses and/or liability insurance in the event of an incident - we explain more about this, below. 

Rental company's responsibility  

Many hire car companies self-insure their fleet of vehicles and provide minimum third-party liability coverage. This covers bodily injury or property damage you as the hirer may inadvertently cause to others. It does not usually cover damage to the rental vehicle itself though.

Hirer’s car insurance company

Your own personal motor insurance provider may cover rental cars too. You usually have to activate coverage in advance and there may still be policy deductibles and limits on what they'll cover if a rental vehicle accident were to occur.

Hirer’s credit card insurance 

Some personal credit card companies offer collision and theft coverage for rental cars when you pay specifically with that card. However, this is classed as secondary insurance only after the rental company's insurance gets applied first. Terms and coverage limits vary greatly amongst credit card providers, so verify you have this benefit before relying on it after an accident. 

To conclude, the hirer is generally considered liable for damage to or loss of the hire vehicle. Having your own insurance, purchasing additional coverage through the rental agency, or paying by a credit card with rental car protections in place can, of course, minimise your payouts if you crash. Be sure to check all the policy terms first before entering into a car or van rental agreement.

How much do you have to pay if you damage a rental car?

If you damage a rental car in the UK, the amount you will have to pay out-of-pocket can vary significantly between companies. Here is what you need to know about what you could end up paying out:

Excess fee deductions

If you purchased the rental company's collision damage waiver (CDW) or other optional insurance, you will typically have to pay an excess fee - which is a deductible amount - in the event of any loss or damage to the hire vehicle. This can range from £500 - £2,000 or more depending on the rental car company and insurance options chosen.

Payment in full

If you did not choose to purchase excess vehicle rental insurance (and are therefore relying only on personal car insurance or credit card coverage), you may be responsible for paying the full damage costs to the rental car company. This would include repair bills or reimbursement up to the total value of the vehicle if it is determined a total loss (such as a write-off) to the hire company.

Additional processing fees

In addition, prepare for administrative, legal, and processing fees to be claimed by the rental car company. This can sometimes amount to a few hundred pounds on top of direct repair bills.

Reading the rental agreement carefully, understanding your own insurance coverage, and considering extra protections like supplemental liability can help minimise major out-of-pocket expenses for rental vehicle damage. 

Car hire insurance excess and liability insurance explained

When you hire a car or van, the rental company will offer you the choice of purchasing additional insurance excesses, such as liability insurance. We explain more about these, below: 

What is car hire insurance excess?

Car hire insurance excess is the amount you pay towards the cost of repairs or replacement of a rental vehicle if it is damaged or stolen. It's similar to a deductible fee you'd have with your own car insurance policy. Paying it is legally required per the rental agreement's terms and conditions, so always read the small print.

For example, here at Rent Direct, these are our required excess waiver fees which are in place to reduce a hirer’s liability:

  • Car excess is £1,000
  • MPV excess is £1,200
  • Van excess is £1,200 

What is car hire liability insurance?

Car hire liability insurance is a type of motor insurance that provides protection for third-party injuries and property damage caused by someone driving a rental car. While basic liability insurance comes as standard, it does have limits. Further reducing personal liability through the rental firm or your own insurer is recommended if renting a vehicle in the UK. This gives added peace of mind around costs you may be responsible for paying if an at-fault accident occurs when a car is in your care.

Vehicle hire with added peace of mind

Here at Rent Direct, we want each one of our customers to have an enjoyable experience when hiring one of our vehicles. That’s why we encourage our excess insurance packages to be purchased when you rent a car, MPV, or van from us.

Not only does it provide peace of mind for you as the hiring party, but it puts our minds at rest too, and means if damage occurs to one of our vehicles while it is in your care, you are completely covered.