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In the past, when my friends have rented cars, they have allowed me to drive. I, on the other hand, have always added additional drivers with the rental company, and paid like $15 per day extra.

I generally use my own US based car insurance, as well as a credit card that covers car rentals. I don't use the rental company's insurance.

What is the point of adding an extra driver? What is the risk of ignoring this rule?

It would be nice to hear from someone with first hand experience about issues with drivers who were not added to the contract.

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    Just to be clear, are the two options under consideration "add additional drivers to the rental agreement" and "let other people drive the rental car without telling the agency"? Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 18:08
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    I'd suggest that reading the fine print of one of your rental agreements might be enlightening.
    – Peter M
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 18:14
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    @AstorFlorida I would suggest that you edit the question to include this information.
    – Sebi
    Commented Dec 20, 2022 at 19:52
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    Worth noting that the laws vary by state, but some states automatically include certain people as authorized drivers. Check before you pay! Many states automatically include spouses, or coworkers (if using a corporate card to rent), and some include "Anyone, for purposes of driving to an emergency room" or something like that.
    – Bobson
    Commented Dec 20, 2022 at 20:32
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    The point is that companies will try to get as much money as they can and screw you over whenever possible. It's a win/win for them. They try to charge you $15, almost enough to get 2 cars, for something that should be free or have a negligible cost. You pay it, they win. You don't pay it and let someone drive anyway, they're not out anything and in the rare cases where you get in an accident they can win big. All companies do it and there's no incentive to be the one to offer better service since you probably just go the cheapest rate off some website. Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 18:46

4 Answers 4

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Adding an additional driver to a rental agreement has to be performed at the time of rental. This allows the rental agency to verify that each driver meets the minimum requirements for the rental agreement (has a valid license, meets age restrictions etc).

If you let someone drive your rental car that has not been verified by the rental agency, and something goes wrong, I would expect your insurance agent to contact the rental agency and ask "is there anything we should know about the person driving the car?", whereupon your insurance agent would not be very happy with the answer that they were not authorized to drive the rental car. This could lead at the very least increased premiums (because the insurance agency now knows you don't play by the rules), or even having your claim denied - See below about the standard conditions when using Amex for insurance.

Of course you could lie about who was driving at the time of an incident - but that opens you up to a whole lot of risk from another direction (the people who have the power to put you in jail)


I rent cars using my Amex card, and get covered by insurance that way. I would expect that other insurance companies provide similar terms. The Amex policy (warning - PDF) says:

Who is covered

Benefits are available to Eligible Renters. An Eligible Renter means a Card Member with an Eligible Card and their spouse or Domestic Partner, and Authorized Drivers.

What are the requirements to be an Authorized Driver?

An Authorized Driver must be authorized on the Rental Agreement between the Card Member and Rental Company to operate the Rental Vehicle according to the terms of the Rental Agreement.

What is Not Covered

...

  1. use of the Rental Vehicle in violation of the terms and conditions of the Rental Agreement (including Covered Events occurring when: a person other than an Authorized Driver was in possession or control of the Rental Vehicle; or driving the Rental Vehicle outside of the more restrictive of the Covered Territory or authorized rental territory);

So Amex will deny your claim if your friend, who is not on the agreement, drives the car and is involved accident (even if they were not at fault, are licensed, and meets the Rental Company's agreement restrictions).

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    "or even having your claim denied". That's the key question: do insurances typically deny the claim in that case? Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 18:43
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    @FranckDernoncourt Insurance companies aren't in the business of approving every claim. Denying a claim makes great business sense for them. I was rear-ended in early 2022 while stopped at a traffic light. And the insurance company of the person who hit me wanted me to provide proof that their client was involved in the accident - even after taking photos and changing insurance information.
    – Peter M
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 18:46
  • @AstorFlorida But your insurance agent will check if the driver has permission to drive the car. The rental agency dictates who is authorized - you do not. If you let an unlicensed driver drive your car, then if they had an accident would you expect your insurance to cover it?
    – Peter M
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 19:02
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    It's also possible that a driver of a rental car who isn't on the agreement is violating state law by operating a motor vehicle without the owner's permission.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 20:21
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    @AstorFlorida You should read the terms and conditions of your rental and your insurance policy, neither of which is available for us. But no, insurances looking for any reason to deny claims is not a speculation - that's the insurance companies' business model.
    – littleadv
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 20:46
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You'll want to take a look at the rental agreement. Chances are extremely good that it contains terms that look a lot like this (example from Avis for US rentals):

  1. Prohibited Use of the Car. Certain uses of the car and other actions you or a driver may take, or fail to take, will violate the Rental Agreement. A VIOLATION OF THIS PARAGRAPH, WILL AUTOMATICALLY TERMINATE YOUR RENTAL AND IS AN EXCLUSION TO AND VOIDS ALL LIABILITY PROTECTION AND ANY OPTIONAL SERVICES THAT YOU HAVE ACCEPTED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO SUPPLEMENTAL LIABILITY INSURANCE, PERSONAL ACCIDENT INSURANCE, PERSONAL EFFECTS INSURANCE, ANY ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE PLAN, EMERGENCY SICKNESS PROTECTION AND LOSS DAMAGE WAIVER (LDW) OR PARTIAL DAMAGE WAIVER. IT ALSO MAKES YOU LIABLE TO US FOR ALL PENALTIES, FINES, FORFEITURES, LIENS AND RECOVERY AND STORAGE COSTS, INCLUDING ALL RELATED ATTORNEYS' FEES, LEGAL EXPENSES, FEES AND COSTS THAT WE MAY INCUR. It is a violation of this Paragraph if any of the following occurs:

A. You use or permit the car to be used: 1) by anyone other than an authorized driver, as defined in paragraph 5;

In short, if you allow an unauthorized driver to drive the rental car, your rental agreement will be automatically terminated, along with any insurance coverage involved in the rental.

What does that mean? Well you're now driving a car without a valid rental agreement. If you get caught out (likely if you're involved in an accident, though it's not impossible for it to come up in the course of a police stop), that could potentially mean you're violating state law by driving a car you have no right to use, which could get you banned from the rental car company if not in more serious legal trouble.

And there will likely be significant issues if you are involved in a collision. Does the unauthorized driver have auto insurance? (Even if your credit card insurance does cover the claim, most credit cards that offer rental car coverage only cover damage or theft of the rental car itself, not personal liability for injuries and property damage outside of the car.) Does their personal insurance cover them when they're driving a car they're explicitly not authorized to be driving? Probably not; standard insurance policy forms have an exclusion for this:

Loss to any "non-owned auto" when used by you or any "family member" without a reasonable belief that you or that "family member" are entitled to do so

In short, letting an unauthorized driver operate the rental car voids your rental agreement and risks leaving the driver uninsured. Neither of those are good situations to be in.

Some rental car companies will waive the additional driver fee for members of AAA, Costco, or USAA, and they may not require a fee for the primary renter's spouse or business associates (as part of a corporate rental); check the specific rules of your rental company for details.

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    Police are less likely to care if you're driving in violation of rental company conditions (this may or may not be a criminal offence of using a vehicle without the owner's permission, etc), but definitely will care if you're driving without valid insurance.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 20, 2022 at 17:33
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Just to add one more point.

It would be nice to hear from someone with first hand experience about issues with drivers who were not added to the contract.

As explained in Is there a European website dedicated to reviews of how well each travel insurance pays out?, it's hard to find stories of first hand experience dealing with tourist/travel insurance because such incidents are quite rare. Especially so if we narrow our focus to situations where:

  1. There was an accident (rather than a mechanical breakdown of the car itself, which is far more common)
  2. The accident involved serious damage beyond the size of the deductible (most accidents only involve minor scuffs in the parking lot)
  3. There was an unauthorized driver behind the wheel
  4. The authorized driver honestly reported who drove the car at the time of the accident

I'd estimate only 1 in 10k people have such experience and thus you're unlikely to get a first-hand report from someone on Travel.SE. But in countries where the rule of law is respected by businesses and courts, it's wise to look at your contract for guidance on what would happen, rather than relying on anecdotal reports. Hence the advice to always add other drivers to the contract or avoid letting them take the wheel.

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  • Even more, most SE contributors would just add the additional driver, like myself. Commented Dec 20, 2022 at 18:37
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    @AstorFlorida Marquez v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 1:38
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I suggest '…drivers… not added to the contract' is the only point.

That anyone rented cars and let you drive is indisputable, but no more about reasons or rules than your adding drivers.

When you use your own US-based car insurance, as well as a credit card, exactly what cover does that give?

When you don't use rental-company insurance, what exactly do you think you're giving up?

The point of adding an extra driver is to be certain that the policy covers what happens when that person is driving.

The risk of ignoring that rule is that you will not be insured for anything.

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    -1. This answer is a bit tricky to parse and understand, and could use some copyediting. Please re-read it three times, preferably on three separate days. Each day, please edit and clarify it. You could also get someone else to read it out loud to you, and to tell you which parts are the most unclear. Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 4:34
  • @unforgettableidSupportsMonica Which part of 'The point of adding an extra driver is to be certain that the policy covers what happens when that person is driving. 'The risk of ignoring that rule is that you will not be insured for anything…' doesn't work for you? Sorry I didn't bother to say this before and why would you put such a Question to a bunch of internet strangers instead of your chosen - or even your prospective - insurance agents? If anyone here said 'Do it that way' would you, or would you first ask your chosen - or even your prospective - insurance agents? Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 22:17

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