preloadCar hire damage: What to do if you get into an accident?

Car Hire Damage

If you plan to hire a car for an upcoming trip, knowing what to do in the event of an accident and who is responsible for paying for car hire damage can save you stress, money, and time.

What should you do if you have an accident in a hire car?

Getting into an accident at any point can cause a lot of stress. Knowing what to do in advance in the event of an accident in a hire car can make the entire process much easier, and potentially save you thousands of pounds. You’ll want to take all necessary precautions to avoid disputes about who pays for the damages.

A girl checking scratches on a car after accident.

Step 1

Check on everyone involved in the accident

First and foremost: make sure that you stop the car immediately, turn on the car’s hazard lights and check that you, your passengers, and anyone else involved in the accident are okay. If anyone has been seriously injured, you must call 999* right away. Check the conditions of the vehicle(s) to see if you need to evacuate the area due to dangers like fire or fallen power lines.

*Remember to research local emergency numbers if and when going abroad. When in mainland European countries, for example, use 112.

Step 2

Take pictures and share contact information

Get the contact and insurance information of any other drivers involved in the accident. Collect the names of any passengers and eyewitnesses. Note the makes and models of all the other vehicles involved, and their registration plates.

Before moving the hire car anywhere, get information about the location of the accident like street names, and take photos of anything of importance at the scene. You should also take pictures of any hire car damage as many insurance companies will ask you to upload photos online when filing a claim.

Step 3

Contact the hire car company

Next, contact the hire car company. You can usually find the phone number on a sticker in the glove box or somewhere else in the vehicle’s interior. They will tell you how to proceed and answer questions regarding insurance.

Step 4

Contact your car insurance company

Contact your personal insurance company to inform them of the accident. You may want to ask the following questions:

  • Will the insurance company contact the police to file an accident report?
  • Do you have collision and comprehensive coverage on your policy?
  • What is your excess?

Step 5

Determine who’s responsible for paying for car hire damage

How much you must pay depends on your insurance policy as well as whether you purchased additional insurance through the hire car company.

If you didn’t purchase a damage protector like a loss damage waiver, your insurance company will usually pay the hire company if your policy provides first-party coverage. This means that no matter whether the accident was your fault or not, you’ll have to pay your policy’s excess to the hire company.

If you don’t have car hire insurance on your policy, you’ll still have to pay for any additional days that you were supposed to have the hire car, even if you can’t use it.

If you purchased additional insurance or a car hire damage waiver through your hire company, your claim is handled differently. Not all policies are the same, but some offer complete accident coverage. You may only need to pay the policy premium to the hire car company as well as the excess outlined in your own insurance policy, unless you have an added policy such as Excess Insurance, which will also cover the excess in the majority if not all potential scenarios.

Checklist before you drive your hire car

Check before you drive

Need a good road trip tip? Inspect your hire car thoroughly before leaving the lot.

Hire car companies keep records of their vehicles so they can track and charge you for any damage. They use a check-out form when you drive your hire car off the lot and then a check-in form when you bring it back. By comparing these two forms, they can note any changes in the condition of the vehicle.

During inspection, take your own pictures and videos. This will give you evidence to handle disputes in the event of hire car damage. Photos protect you from any unfair damage claims, a common source of complaint among hire car customers.

A few tips to consider:

  • Take time-stamped photos and videos of both the interior and exterior of the vehicle.
  • Focus on areas susceptible to damage.
  • Get close-up photos of the doors and bumpers on the vehicle’s exterior and the floorboards and dashboard on the interior.

Search for hire cars

Learn more

Two friends enjoying the car ride on a sunny afternoon.

How does hire car insurance work?

Collision Damage Waiver

Choosing Collision Damage Waiver for your car hire

Do I need car hire excess insurance?
Do you need car hire Excess Insurance?
A woman placing her child in a car seat.

What are the rules for child seats in hire cars?

Car Hire Damage FAQ

The responsibility falls on drivers to take the next steps. Don’t forget to:

  • Make sure the scene of the accident is safe.
  • Exchange information with any other drivers involved.
  • Contact the hire company. They will tell you how to proceed, especially if the car is damaged to the point that you cannot drive it. Usually a sticker inside the glove box will list an emergency number.

A Collision Damage Waiver, or CDW, means the car hire company waives the right to charge any costs for damages sustained to the hire car during an accident. However, as we’ve outlined for you in our article on insurance types, CDW is not actually insurance and will only cover damage to the car’s bodywork. Any other damages to any other part of the car sustained during an accident, however, are not part of the CDW coverage, meaning you, the policyholder, will be made liable to pay for them. You can purchase additional insurance such as Insurance Excess Coverage which will save you a lot of hassle if you are ever involved in an accident, but it’s well worth clarifying this with the hire car company in advance for your peace of mind.

If your hire car gets a flat tyre, you will likely be responsible for the repair or replacement unless you have some sort of insurance coverage – either through your personal insurance policy, the credit card you used when booking the car, the hire company’s roadside assistance, or another third-party insurance coverage you add to your hire separately. Your liabilities and the extent of insurance coverage can vary depending on the policy and company you hire your car with, so it’s important to read the contract with any company you hire a car and/or purchase insurance from to see if they cover flat tyres.

Even if you purchase the damage protector, you may still be responsible to pay for expenses. Insurance offered by car hire agencies covers damage to the vehicle and protects you from theft. However, it won’t cover bodily injury caused by an accident. If you need coverage beyond the damage protector, you may need additional insurance, such as travel insurance or health insurance, to cover any injury or damage to personal belongings inside the car. To learn more about insurance and how it works, check out our Guide to Insurance.