Many families vacation during winter and spring school breaks. Often, those families rent motor vehicles while traveling. If you get into a motor vehicle accident while driving a rental car, whose insurance covers you?

Most motor vehicle liability policies in New York State include rental vehicle coverage. In New York rental companies are required to insure their vehicles for only the minimum amount of liability coverage or $25,000. Should you have an accident, your liability or no fault coverage is secondary to whatever the rental car company carries.

What happens if you do not own a car and do not have liability coverage?

Check with the credit card company you use to pay for the rental vehicle. Many credit card companies offer some coverage for damaged rental vehicles, but not liability protection. Rental car companies usually offer additional liability insurance coverage for a fee.

New York is one of seven “primary” states (in addition to the District of Columbia), meaning that when a driver causes injury, death, or property damage to another person, the rental car company provides the first line of insurance for any claims.

The New York State Attorney General offers a Car Rental Tip Sheet that covers some common questions about insurance.

There are four different types of insurance rental companies try to upsell consumers on:

  • Collision Damage Waiver;
  • Supplemental Liability Protection;
  • Personal Accident Insurance;
  • Personal Effects Coverage.

It is illegal for a car rental company to deny you a vehicle if you refuse to purchase additional insurance. It is also important to know that car rental companies in New York are required by law to allow your spouse to drive the rented vehicle if they are over 18 and a licensed driver.

The bottom line is, always check with your insurance company for specific questions, but New York laws do offer some protection for drivers who are renting vehicles.