How to choose Roadside Assistance & Rental Reimbursement coverages

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So, let's talk roadside assistance and rental coverage—two car insurance coverages which are usually optional and can be really useful.

Quick recap: we've already talked about liability coverage (coverage for the other person and their car when you cause an accident), comprehensive and collision coverage (coverage for your vehicle when you cause an accident or when something weird happens to your car), and how to figure out Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, Uninsured motorist coverage, and Medical Payments coverage.

But what if your car is in the shop and you just need a ride? What if your tire blows on your commute home from work? There's coverage for that, right?

Yep, that's why there's Part 4. Roadside and rental...let's get into it.

"Okay, so what’s roadside assistance?"

To the rescue! Roadside assistance covers the services you need when you are—surprise!—stuck on the side of the road. It could be a tow, getting pulled out of a ditch (hey, it happens), or some emergency gasoline when your bets are off.

"Do I need roadside assistance?"

Roadside problems happen to just about everyone—do you want to be on the hook when it happens to you? If not, it’s a good idea to have roadside assistance in your back pocket. Most insurance companies offer roadside assistance as an add-on service and many drivers already have it through a service like AAA.

Basically, if you don't like changing tires on the side of the road or paying someone to bring you gasoline, roadside assistance is a good investment.

(Note: With Root, you automatically get roadside assistance with any policy. No extra charge! Just tap a button in the Root app and you'll automatically be connected to our roadside partners. Pretty neat.)

"What is rental coverage?"

Sometimes called rental car reimbursement, rental coverage pays for the fees to rent a car while your vehicle is being repaired after an accident. You’re probably still going to need to get to work or school, or do errands, so getting stuck without a car can be a major pain. A rental car could be a solution.

Rental car reimbursement coverage

Rental coverage comes as either an opt-in or opt-out option and, depending on the insurer, comes in a variety of price levels. (At Root, you can choose Lyft credits instead of a rental, if it’s more convenient.) Rental coverage—like insurance, itself—is one of those things you often don’t think about until you need to. Here's how it works.

"How do rental coverage limits work?"

Rental coverage plans have limits—one for the maximum your insurer will pay per day for your rental and one for the maximum your insurer will pay per accident. Confusing? Let’s break it down with an example:

Let’s say you choose a rental plan that covers up to $40 a day and up to $1,200 an accident (it may appear as 40/1200). If you get into an accident and need a rental, you can choose any rental car that costs under $40 a day. Then, since $1,200 is the maximum covered in this example, you’d have 30 days of a rental car covered. (Keep in mind: this assumes that you chose a rental car which doesn't cost more than $40 per day—if it costs more per day, you'll pay the difference out of pocket.)

"What is not covered with rental insurance?"

So, this is important and easily confusing! When we talk about rental coverage, we’re not talking about the liability, comprehensive, and collision insurance you buy to cover a rental car. We’re talking specifically about the insurance that will cover the cost to rent a car if your car is in the shop. Rental also does not cover your rental car costs during vacation or when your vehicle is getting regular maintenance. (Nice try!)

Rental reimbursement coverage - what is covered

Basically, rental coverage is only for covering the cost of a rental vehicle when your insured vehicle is getting fixed from a covered loss (or when your covered car is stolen).

"Do I need rental coverage?"

Short answer: it depends. It’s not required by law, but costs can pile up when your car is in recovery, especially when big fixes are needed. How inconvenient will not having a car be for you if and when your car needs repairs after an accident? Are you willing to risk it?

Before you decide, think about your specific needs. Is public transit an option or do you have extra cash on hand to pay for a rental out of pocket if and when you need it? Do you have another car you could use instead? Could someone give you a ride? (Remember, some repairs take days or even weeks.)

All in all, if you don’t want to worry about where your ride will come from, you should seriously consider rental coverage.

"So, how much rental coverage should I get?"

Good question. It's a game of risk. How much are you willing to fork over now to potentially save you money in the future?

Here are some factors to keep in mind:

  1. Location: Where do you live? Renting a car in New York City will cost a lot more than renting a car in Bowling Green, Ohio. (It can really help to do a quick search for rental cars in your area to gauge the daily costs in your area.)
  2. Size of car: What do you need? Do you have kids in tow and need extra space? Usually, a larger car will cost more.
  3. Luxury: What’s your priority? Do you prefer to drive a fancier car? You should probably consider a higher level of rental coverage so your daily limit will cover the cost of a nicer vehicle.

Rental car coverage cost preferences

The difference between options is usually just a few dollars a month. Basically—rental coverage is cheap and rental cars are not. Choose wisely!

That's a wrap, folks.

We hope this series has helped you to untangle all that crazy insurance-talk on the internet.

By the way, if you enjoyed insurance information in everyday English, you'll love insurance in everyday English. The Root car insurance app makes all these decisions super simple and shows you how each choice affects your price—in real time.

(Plus, good drivers can cut their insurance bill in half. So there's that.)

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Thanks for hanging out with us. If we've helped you, please hit us up on Twitter or Facebook and tell us so? We love to talk insurance.

Roadside Assistance is purchased separately in California.

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