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I'm going to rent a car in California for a week soon and was wondering whether to purchase insurance along with the rental. Some sources, eg Rental Car Insurance – should I purchase it? What protection does my credit card provide? say I do need it, while a friend of mine claims the agency is by the law obliged to insure you and what you purchase is only additional insurance. I haven't been able to get too much additional information from the place I'm going to rent from. Can anybody give me a more informed answer?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Americans who drive, carry their own insurance that covers them in any car they drive. If you're not American (or live in New York:-)), you're required to carry at least the minimum liability insurance under the California law. Is it enough for you? The liability is yours, in case of an accident, not theirs.

According to this site, in California rental companies are not obliged to provide you the state mandated coverage, and indeed I couldn't find any official reference that such a rule exists (I could only find some claims that it does on various travel forums). This discussion also supports the claim that there's no such obligation.

Credit cards usually provide CDW coverage, not liability insurance.

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though not bulletproof, it still indicates i should probably get some. thank you. – Jan Benes Aug 10 '12 at 16:22
California, along with a couple other states, does not require any driver to have driver liability insurance. That is why it is not included in the standard package. But it also means if someone hurts/kills you, since he has no insurance you will not be covered. So it is a good idea to get the liability insurance at least. – Vince Sep 28 '12 at 22:31
Americans who drive, carry their own insurance that covers them in any car they drive — Really? Even if they don't own a car? – gerrit Mar 13 at 4:06
@gerrit especially if they don't own a car. What possible reason would there be for a person without a car to have an insurance coverage if it only covered the car the person doesn't own? In any case, the liability protection is for the driver, not for the car. – littleadv Mar 13 at 4:53
@littleadv I didn't know it was possible to purchase any form of car-related insurance without already owning a car. Any insurance cost calculators I have seen ask details about the year and the make of the car. Googling non-owner car insurance yields websites explaining the concept, but clicking through to insurer's websites I'm back at places asking me for car details. – gerrit Mar 13 at 14:49

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