As you may have noticed, if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (which you should do – just saying), I spent the last two weeks in the US and Canada, traveling around the West Coast with the boyfriend. We flew into Vancouver, went from there to Portland, flew to San Francisco, drove down Highway 1 to San Diego and then stopped over in Seattle on the way back to Vancouver. It was kind of awesome.
When I talk about car rental here in Iceland I always mention to people that they should look into getting an extra insurance for their rental vehicle because the roads in Iceland can be a bit dangerous for those who are not used to driving on single lane, gravel or icy roads So when the man at the Alamo service desk at San Francisco airport asked me whether I wanted extra coverage for an additional fee I initially thought I probably wouldn’t need it since we wouldn’t be dealing with the same difficult conditions as here in Iceland. I did decide though, in the end, that I should probably practice what I preach so I somewhat absentmindedly agreed the extra coverage.
This turned out to be a really good idea.
After we picked up our car in San Francisco we drove down to San Jose to meet guests, Jill and Mike, that joined my tour this summer that had invited us to brunch in their home. It was a lovely brunch and after eating their delicious food and getting lots of tips on what to do next on our journey we continued on to Monterey where we were going to spend the night.
We had also rented a GPS with our car and in Monterey we started having some problems with it because what it was telling us and what we were seeing didn’t add up. We later found out that we were simply misunderstanding the direction the device was giving us but at the time we were royally confused. We took a the wrong turn and the boyfriend had to think quickly to get us back on the main road.
We never saw the truck that hit us coming. All we heard was a thump and then our own heartbeats as our blood pressure went through the roof. The car swayed from the impact and we snapped out of the initial shock. “Holy fuck (excuse my language but the language we used at the time was much worse) we wrecked the car!”
We were lucky that we were not on the freeway and the traffic was not driving faster and that no one got hurt. We were also lucky that the guy that hit us was totally chilled and was extremely nice and helpful. And we were super lucky that I had decided to set a good example by buying that extra insurance.
I should also mention that the fact we had a local SIM card with a data plan (AT&T if anyone is traveling to the US soon and needs a recommendation) was an immensely helpful because we could immediately call the Alamo road service for advice and direction and look up the closest service station where we could switch cars. The SIM card saved our lives on multiple occasions but I think I’m going to dedicate a future post later to fully explore that topic.
To make a long story short we didn’t have to pay anything because the insurance covered the accident and the next day we were in a new car and on our way to our next destination. We could have gotten a new car instantly but we decided we didn’t want to drive any more that day and checked into our hotel instead. Which brings me to another subject which is to rent a car with a good reputed car rental agency that has lots of service stations around the country so your problem can be addressed in a swift and timely manner.
The moral of the story is that you never know what is going to happen. We have a saying here in Iceland that sums this up quite nicely: accidents don’t announce their arrival. Especially not in places like Iceland where the road system is somewhat underdeveloped and unfamiliar circumstances lurk around each corner.
As you may know I offer affordable car rental through this blog (the prices for this winter are really good, you should check them out) and the reason I chose Budget as my partner was because, apart from their competitive prices, I knew their service was good and that if something would happen to you they would be able to help you. Clear and simple.
When you book a car through my blog you will get an option in the booking process to buy extra coverage. If you don’t pay for it when you book the car you can also request it and pay for it when you pick it up. Although it doesn’t get you out of paying for the damage completely like the coverage we had in California (I don’t know if this differs between states or rental companies in the US) it lowers your self-liability (non-waivable excess) considerably if you have it. For a normal car you never pay more than 25.000 ISK (as long as you didn’t show reckless driving or broke the agreement in some way) and for jeeps and bigger cars the amount is 55.000 ISK (as of when this post is written in October 2015).
This may vary between companies so make sure you ask about these things at the time of rental.
You don’t have to be a genius in math to see that if you total a car in an accident it’s way better to pay a bit more for this than pay the full damage. Especially when you look up the ridiculous amounts people sometimes have to pay for seemingly minor incidents. If it’s a long rental it may add to the cost a bit, which is especially frustrating if you don’t get into an accident, but that’s how insurances work. They’re always expensive if nothing ever happens to you.
Paying for the extra coverage for short rentals should be a no-brainer and although I understand why the extra cost makes you hesitant about paying it for longer rentals the risk also goes up the longer the rental is. There are more opportunities to get into an accident in ten days than just one.
I’m pretty sure that our holiday would have been ruined if we would have had a pending payment hoovering over our heads the rest of the trip.Even though I was told by three different people from Alamo that we were almost certainly covered by the extra insurance it still took me some time to shake this off and leave it behind. It wasn’t until I talked to the insurance company and was told on tape that there was almost no way we would be charged for this that I calmed down and relaxed again.
I should also mention that I have a credit card with some of the best travel insurances available in Iceland but this would not have been covered by that insurance like I actually thought it would be. So make sure you check that out too before you leave home and think you are covered.
Buying that extra insurance was the best idea of my life I think and I will never rent a car without it again. For realz.