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Rental car accident: Here’s what to do

4 simple steps to follow if you get in an accident in a rental car

Had an accident in a rental car while in Australia? Here’s what to do.

Step 1: Determine whether you need emergency services

If someone is seriously injured you should call an ambulance immediately.

You should also call the police if:

  • Someone is trapped.
  • A car is blocking the road and police need to direct traffic.
  • Any of the drivers are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or refuse to provide their details.

Step 2: Assess whether you can move the car

If it’s safe and possible to do so, move the car off the road and out of harm’s way.

Finder survey: Do Australians understand rental car excess cover?

Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1112 Australians, December 2023

Step 3: Record the information

Take the other driver’s name, address, contact number and insurance details, and provide yours as applicable.

If possible you should also get the contact details of any witnesses to the accident.

Record the accident in as much detail as you are able, including the time and place, the damage caused and anything else that’s relevant.

It’s also a good idea to take photos of the damage and accident scene.

Step 4: Contact the rental car company

Call the rental car company and let it know what happened. Typically it should be able to let you know what the next steps are.

Depending on the situation and crash severity this might be waiting for a tow truck, driving the car somewhere nearby for emergency repairs, or waiting for a company representative to come to the accident site.

How can I avoid paying the rental car excess?

To help protect yourself from a rental car excess, you have rental car excess insurance. This is exactly what it sounds like. If you’re renting a car, and can’t afford to run the risk of paying thousands of dollars in the event of an accident, then it might be worth considering.

Protect you and your rental car. Compare car rental excess insurance

NameInternational or domestic coverEligible driver ageFeaturesStarting price (per day)Apply
Rental cover logo

Both19–99 years
  • Complete vehicle cover for up to $100,000 in damages
  • Can be used with any rental car company worldwide
  • 30% discount for seniors, students and those in the military
  • Underwritten by Lloyds
  • No further excess payable
$9.48Get quote
Picture not described

Car hire excess

Both21–71 years
  • Cover from $4,000 to $8,000
  • Additional cover for damage to windscreens, roof, tyres and underbody
  • Underwritten by Lloyds
  • No further excess payable
$9.30Get quote

*Always read through the product disclosure statement (PDS) to make sure the product is suitable for you.

Who pays for the damage?

Typically, the rental company’s insurance will cover the damage to the car, but you will need to pay the “rental car excess”. This is the amount you need to put towards repairs in the event of an accident. It will typically be a sizable amount, running into thousands of dollars.

Your rental car excess should be mentioned in your rental agreement.

What if the excess is less than the cost of the damage?

The excess is the maximum you should be paying, regardless of how much damage there was to the vehicle.

What if the excess is more than the cost of the damage?

If the car’s damage costs less than your rental car excess, you may still need to pay the full amount. Typically, you will be able to get the extra amount refunded.

For example, if your excess is $2,000 and the damage costs $500 to repair, you will pay the full $2,000, and then get $500 refunded later.

You may need to actively seek a refund. If you’re not refunded as due, then you may be able to seek a chargeback from your bank or credit card provider.

What if I’m paying too much, or the rental company isn’t refunding the excess?

For example, if you’re paying several thousand dollars in a rental car excess for a small amount of damage, or the rental company refuses to reimburse your remainder.

It depends on the situation, but the best course of action might be to get your own quotes for the repairs, for a sense of whether or not you might be getting cheated, or get charges reversed by your bank.
Picture: Shutterstock

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