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We're from the UK renting a car in Texas with Enterprise, though I'm also interested in other companies. No where online can I find what coverage or liability we'd have if we didn't take out one of the four extra insurance policies.

I've tried looking for information on USA law, state law and reading the information on Enterprise's website but no where can we find this in plain text.

Do we need to get rental insurance? What is the maximum liability in Texas? Will a third party company providing a CDW, and excess cover be enough in the case of theft or a collision?

As far as I can tell our travel insurance and credit cards do not cover us. The US websites imply we should check our auto insurance, which is not valid as our car is in the UK.

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    I included the fact we're from the UK and therefore don't have auto insurance (uk car) or coverage on our credit cards but @djclayworth edited it away, including it here as I think it's VERY relevant.. – Pez Cuckow Jun 4 '16 at 20:16
  • I agree with you and rolled back to your version. – Willeke Jun 4 '16 at 20:18
  • If you do not like or do not agree with an edit you can roll back, to do so, click on 'edited' above the name of the person who did it, and click on 'roll back' above the version you want to keep. – Willeke Jun 4 '16 at 20:21
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If you don't buy insurance through the rental car company, and have no coverage through travel insurance, credit cards, or your home auto insurance, then the only liability insurance you will have is the minimum coverage the rental car company must provide in most states.

The minimum liability insurance you must have, by law, in Texas is detailed here, along with other helpful information about car insurance in the US:

The current minimum liability limits are $30,000 for each injured person, up to a total of $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident. This basic coverage is called 30/60/25 coverage.

This describes liability insurance, which is mandatory insurance that covers you for damages you may cause to other people or property while driving. Note that this limit is very low. It is quite possible to do far more damage than this while driving, and you may be sued for the difference. Remember that medical costs in the US are expensive; a car accident victim can easily run up a hospital bill far more than $30,000. In the unfortunate event of a fatal accident or one that leads to serious long-term disability where you are found to be at-fault, you could incur significant liability. It is not uncommon for rental car companies, such as Hertz, to offer $1,000,000 in supplemental liability insurance.

The rental car company, or a third-party, will offer to sell you supplemental liability insurance, which will increase these limits and allow you to better protect yourself.

Separately, there's insurance for the car itself. You will not have any such insurance unless you purchase some, whether from the rental car company (CDW or LDW, which isn't strictly insurance, but is the rental car company agreeing you're not responsible for damage to their car) or a third-party. If the car is damaged or destroyed, stolen while in your possession, filled with flood water, dented in a hailstorm, or spontaneously combusts, whether your fault or not, you are responsible for paying for it. You might be able to recover costs from someone else's insurance if they hit you and they're at fault (assuming they have insurance), but the rental car company will come after you to pay up. They'll also charge you for the loss in revenue they incur while the car is being repaired. Unless you're prepared to pay for the car on the spot, insurance is a good idea.

In addition, the rental car company may offer accidental medical and/or death insurance to cover you and your passengers. This is likely already handled by your travel insurance and may be unnecessary. They also may offer Personal Effects Coverage, which will pay you if your property is stolen from the car. Again, this may already be handled under your travel insurance and is best avoided by not leaving property unattended in your car.

The New York Times has a brief guide to the options that may prove useful.

  • Thank you @zach-lipton very informative write up! Off the back of this we ended up finding CDW/SLI from a third party insurer, based in the UK that covers us in rental cars, worldwide for a year, for less than 1/4 of the price enterprise were asking for (£120 vs. $800). It was a massive pain as they insisted they needed to call up and validate our insurance, we well as read all the policy documents but it worked! – Pez Cuckow Jun 5 '16 at 2:10
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    Policy we found is here insurance4carhire.com/usa-canada-car-hire-excess-insurance, but there are plenty of alternatives if you search online! Make sure it's DCW and SLI and not just excess coverage which if I understand correctly won't help you in the USA, as there is no excess to cover. – Pez Cuckow Jun 5 '16 at 2:23

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