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BAM! What to Do When You Get Into an Accident in Your Rental Truck

Posted in: I'm Moving, Moving Trucks

A while back, my roommate and I used HireAHelper to get us from one corner of the city to another. Everything was going great until I remembered that moving trucks are big … like, very big. (Normally, I drive a subcompact Sedan, which is basically a luxury go-kart.) So to find myself ineptly squeezing a behemoth Penske truck through the crowded alleyways of Chicago was a bit daunting.

So of course, then it happened. Attempting to pull off a tight turn onto a narrow street, I scraped a parked car. The sustained nails-on-a-chalkboard screech was undeniable. When I got out to look, I let loose a deep sigh, invented some new swear words, and considered my options.

If you find yourself in this situation, your tired, moving-stressed mind’s first instinct will be to flee to eastern Asia and begin a life of hidden attrition in some forgotten monastery, far from the prying eyes of the law. But there’s a better way. Here is what happened to me.

Crap! Everyone’s okay, but I got into an accident with my rental truck! What do I do?

So, let’s say you’re where I was: scratching your head as you stare at the damage you did to some stranger’s Buick.

rental truck insurance

Instead of fleeing the country, just treat this like you would any other accident. Your mileage may vary, but I had what I think is a pretty typical experience. Do the following regardless of whether you bought add-on insurance (more on that later).

1) Collect witness information

Is someone standing right in front of you?

If there are other people involved in the accident (and it’s established that it is a non-emergency, in which case call 911), get their name and contact information and give them yours. Let them know that you have insurance on the truck if you do and that you’ll be back with them shortly. But get their info even if you don’t have insurance.

Is nobody there?

Leave a note to the same effect with your number or email so they can get ahold of you. Also, pull out your phone and snap a few pictures. Get pictures of both vehicles as well their relative positions on the street before you get back on your way. This may be helpful later in corroborating or clarifying claims.

2) Call the rental company

rental truck insurance

As soon as you get a minute, in a non-emergency, call the rental company and let them know you need to file an accident report. (Don’t worry, they won’t freak out.) They’ll need to find your specific rental and look up your coverage so it might be helpful to pull up a receipt or email confirmation you got when you booked the truck. They may also ask for the contact info of the other driver.

Here are their numbers:

U-Haul: 1-800-528-7134 (USA), 1-800-661-1069 (Canada)

Budget: 1-800-462-8343 (USA)

Penske: 1-888-996-5415 (USA)

3) Wait awhile

I recommend using this time to play Tetris on your phone while procrastinating on your unpacking.

Not buying insurance (for a small, local move) is roughly a $15-50 gamble that you won’t be paying hundreds or thousands.

4) Give a statement

Eventually, the insurance agency that the rental company uses will call you to get a statement. They’ll ask you the where, when, and how of it all. It will get detailed, and you might feel like you’re being interrogated, but you can relax. You’re not in trouble! Just answer as thoroughly and honestly as you can. (Protip, pull up Google Maps and look at the area where the accident occurred. This makes questions about cross streets and directions much easier to answer.)

5) Eat a pizza

Assuming you had the proper coverage, you should be all done now!

In my case, I had bought the $1,000,000 worth of Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI) from Penske, so I didn’t have to pay a dime for the accident. The insurance company will arrange for repairs with the other driver, and you’re free – nay, obligated – to order a victory pizza.

Alright, so should I get rental truck insurance?

rental truck insurance
I promise this wasn’t when the accident happened.

Not buying insurance (for a small, local move) is roughly a $15-50 gamble that you won’t be paying hundreds or thousands. But for the most part, with the three major truck rental companies, what you’re gambling on is the truck and/or your personal safety – your coverage for your actual stuff is severely limited. But in my case, it saved me hundreds of dollars.

In my case, I had bought the $1,000,000 worth of Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI) from Penske, so I didn’t have to pay a dime for the accident.

For long-distance moves, even though insurance options might hit triple digits in cost, it might be more statistically irresponsible not to add insurance, despite the added cost, depending on factors like weather and how good you are at driving a big truck.

Remember: if you’re transporting things yourself, you’re already saving a lot of money. Saving on insurance might be your only financial option, but if you can afford it, it’s not a lot of money to shield against potentially huge losses.

What insurance can I get with my rental truck?

The types of coverage available for your truck will depend on which company you’re renting from.

I’m going to talk about each of them below, but for full details, you should check your company’s website and/or speak with a representative. Keep in mind that there are always exceptions to what’s covered, so check the exclusions and fine print before you sign.

U-Haul Insurance

rental truck insurance

U-Haul has two main tiers of insurance, but they’re mostly for the truck, not your stuff.

Safemove – Covers damage done to the truck (except overhead collisions – so don’t hit a bridge), cargo loss or damage, and injury to you or your passengers.

Safemove Plus
– All of the above, without the overhead collision exception, plus $1,000,000 in Supplemental Liability Coverage (SLI), which covers damage/injury done to other vehicles or people in an accident.

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) – A CDW is the only type of coverage offered for U-Haul’s pickup trucks and cargo vans. It basically limits your expenses to $150, in the event of an accident.

Note: U-Haul doesn’t cover any damages done to anything you’re transporting unless they are damaged as a result of a traffic accident. Taken directly from their website:

Unless the damage is a result of collision, overturn, or fire U-Haul coverage will not provide protection.

Some additional U-Haul options

Safetow – Check out Safetow if you plan on towing your own car behind the rental truck, or towing a rental trailer behind your car. It provides options to help cover damage in these scenarios.

– For $5, you can get roadside assistance coverage for many common situations including needing a jump start, locking yourself out of the truck, running out of gas, and getting stuck in the mud or snow.

Note: The equivalent of “Safetrip” is included for free at Penske.

Budget Truck Rental Insurance

rental truck insurance

Budget breaks down their insurance options into smaller categories and offers protection for your cargo. But read the fine print!

Damage Waivers (PDW & LDW) – Covers damage, theft, or vandalism done to the truck, either in part or in whole, depending on which option you choose.

Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI)
– Protects you from damage or injury claims made by others in the case of an accident (up to $1,000,000).

Personal and Cargo (PAC)
– Covers injuries sustained by you or your passengers, as well as damage done to your cargo.

Auto Tow Protection (ATP)
– Covers your personal vehicle while being towed by the rental truck.

Roadside SafetyNet (RSN)
– Roadside assistance coverage for things like flat tires, lockouts, and jumpstarts.

Like all rental truck insurance options, the prices vary from a few bucks to a hundred, or more, depending on what you’re renting and how far you’re going.

It’s worth mentioning that of all these options, their Personal and Cargo offering (as well as their Complete Protection Package) does cover your stuff, but the coverage is pretty specific and similar in scope to U-Haul and Penske.

From their website:

Cargo covers your household goods while in the rental truck against direct and accidental loss damage from collision, overturn of the Budget truck, landslide, flood due to rising water, hail, explosion, fire, windstorm and lightning. Cargo covers your household cargo from the named perils up to these amounts (less a $100 deductible):

One-Way Rental: Actual cash value up to $25,000
Local Rental: Actual cash value up to $12,500

Damage resulting from load shift, running into a curb or a bump in the road is not considered a collision.

From there, Budget goes on to list a whole swath of items they won’t cover if it were to get damaged, from glasses to phones to cars. More importantly, Budget reserves the right to not cover your stuff from “improper packing” – whatever they determine that to mean.

Penske Truck Rental Insurance

Like Budget, Penske offers coverage in smaller pieces, and like both U-Haul and Budget, insurance on your actual cargo is limited, while insurance on the truck and you is flexible.

Limited Damage Waiver (LDW) – Limits the amount you’d have to pay in the case of damage or theft to the truck or towing equipment.

Personal Accident Insurance (PAI)
– Covers accidental death and injury for you and your passengers.

Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI)
– Coverage of up to $1,000,000 for any damage/injury done to other vehicles/people in an accident.

Cargo Insurance (CAI)
– Covers damage to furniture and other cargo sustained due to an accident or natural disaster.

Towing Insurance (TWI) – Provides accident coverage for any vehicles being towed by the rental truck, or transported inside the truck.

One cool perk with a Penske rental is that your rental automatically comes with roadside assistance in the unlikely case something breaks down.

Some More Rental Truck Insurance Questions I Had

When you get yourself into this situation, it turns out you have a lot of questions. Thankfully, I wrote down all the answers so you wouldn’t have to ask.

Doesn’t my personal car insurance already cover truck rentals?
Probably not this one. Most insurance policies that include rental protection have specific exceptions for moving trucks and other large vehicles. You can call your policyholder to be sure.

What about my credit card insurance?
Again, probably doesn’t apply here. Like with standard car insurance, credit card insurance generally carves out exceptions for alley-terrorizing goliaths. Check with your card company if you have questions on that.

If I get insurance from the rental truck company, is that like personally signing up for a new insurance policy?
No, not really. “Getting insurance” is actually a bit of a misnomer. The company (U-Haul, Allied, etc.) already has insurance on the truck. You personally aren’t taking out some new policy with State Farm or whoever. This agreement is between you and the rental company and doesn’t extend any further than the length of time you use the truck.

I quickly scrolled down to here and didn’t read the article. What does the insurance cover?

It varies. For a brief overview of the options, see the section above, or check out this rundown for more info.

rental truck insurance
These guys saved my life.

What you’re covered for depends on which company you’re using and which options you pick. You can find an overview of options from some of the major companies here. Some packages limit your out-of-pocket liability in the case of an accident, so you’d only have to be responsible for, say, the first couple hundred dollars of damage, but not the whole bill. Other plans provide accident coverage up to $1,000,000. Some cover injury and accidental death, some include a provision for financial compensation if your personal cargo is damaged en route.

If you’re planning on towing your own car behind the moving truck, you should check into which of the company’s plans provide protection for that, too.

What happens if the truck breaks down or gets a flat tire?

Most companies have some sort of roadside assistance program, but you have to pay a few bucks extra, or you’re on your own. You should ask them if coverage for this is included or needs to be added separately to your rental.

This seems like a lot, how am I supposed to choose what to add?
Don’t worry. For any given company, you’ll only be looking at 3-5 options for coverage, and most are not complicated. You can pick one or add multiple according to what you feel is important. If reading the company’s summaries of those coverage options doesn’t provide you clarity, just remember there are no stupid questions, and you can and should ask for details directly from a representative. Feel free to ask in person, too. If you haven’t driven the truck off the lot yet, it’s not too late to add something.

And finally, it’s important that you ask about or read up on their coverage exceptions as well. For instance, your personal property damage plan probably won’t apply if boxes are stolen while you’re parked … nor will your vehicle damage plan kick in if you use your U-Haul to try to jump the Grand Canyon.

Ben Auxier is an actor, writer, and comedian living in Chicago. In addition to moving every two years to chase work, he’s regularly involved in the creation of live theatre as well as online content, in particular with his creative collective Friend Dog Studios.

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