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I was checking the car rental prices for priceline, hotwire (as a search engine) and on individual websites. The rates don't change much but what changes is the Loss Damage Waiver fee. Priceline/Hotwire ask for ~$10 a day whereas individually, Hertz and Enterprise and others ask for at least $20. I understand that priceline and hotwire use a third-party for insurance which makes it cheaper. But, in terms of protection, is there a significant difference in booking a car with say, Alamo, via priceline and via alamo's own website.

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    You would have to check the policies of the individual insurance. I would bet one has more/less than the other - car rental insurance is a fairly competitive market. – Matthew Herbst May 12 '15 at 20:23
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    With third party insurance, often you have to pay the rental company for damage, then put in a claim to the other provider to get your money back. If hotwire's insurance doesn't deal directly with the rental car provider, that's a huge faff for you... – Gagravarr May 12 '15 at 21:08
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To give a precise answer you will have to compare the fine print of both insurance policies and those will likely be different from car rental company to company and website to website.

However indicatively I found the following to be the case:

  • Protection: It is possible that the insurance of the rental company covers car parts that are not covered by most secondary insurance policies (i.e. priceline/hotwire or insurance provided by your credit card). An example would be the seats and the motor I was once told.
  • Refund in case of accident: likely in the case of an accident with the cheaper policy you would first have to pay your excess to the rental company and then claim that payment from your secondary insurance. See this question (and also the excellent answers) for an example of this and this answer in a related post that is worth a read. Instead the rental company insurance would cover the excess immediately without you needing to step in and then reclaim your money, which could take a while.

Of course when picking up the car the agent will point out these differences and more or less aggressively try to sell you their insurance. If you can live with the above risks/disadvantages of your pre-purchased insurance (you might need a print-out as proof) then you are fine. If on the other hand you could never afford e.g. not having $1,200 for a year because secondary insurance is slow in paying you out, then the more expensive option might be in your favor to avoid risks.

But again, it all depends on the fine print, there is no general answer IMHO.

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