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Hubble Smith
 

Las Vegas No. 4 U.S. city where people dread rental car accidents

14 December 2012

LAS VEGAS -- In a tourist town with 24-hour drinking, it's easy to see why Las Vegas is No. 4 among U.S. cities where people think they're most likely to get into an accident with a rental car.

A survey by Atlanta-based Protect Your Bubble rental car insurance revealed that rental car drivers feel most at risk in New York City, followed by Los Angeles, Boston, Las Vegas and San Francisco.

Chances for accidents increase during the holiday season, when traffic gets heavier than usual and people feel stressed out. Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are the most dangerous holidays for drivers, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Whether it's for holiday travel or a business trip, renting a car often means you'll be driving an unfamiliar vehicle on unfamiliar streets, said Stephen Ebbett, president of Protect Your Bubble.

"Under these conditions, especially for those people who are not used to driving around in big cities, even the safest drivers may find themselves at a higher risk for a car accident," he said. "We're relying on GPS to take us around these days and it can be quite dangerous."

The survey found that 27 percent of men had experienced damage to rental cars, compared with 10 percent of women, yet men are also less likely to actually buy rental car insurance.

Based on those statistics, male drivers should definitely consider purchasing an added layer of insurance protection, Ebbett said.

Rental car insurance from Protect Your Bubble costs about $8 a day, compared with rates of $35 a day through rental car companies, he said. The policy covers up to $35,000 in damage and theft.

"You no longer have to buy from the rental car desk, where it can be quite expensive," Ebbett said. "Obviously, you're captive at the desk and it's a sale they're encouraged to make."

Rental car drivers aren't required to buy additional insurance, but it's highly suggested, said Michael Teanio, marketing manager at Budget car rental near McCarran International Airport.

Whether they buy insurance through the rental car agency or use their own insurance, it's wise to make sure they have enough insurance to pay for costly repairs. They should check with their insurance company to find out what the deductible covers. Some people have older vehicles, and their insurance doesn't cover new cars, Teanio said.

A lot of major corporations and government agencies purchase rental car insurance because they don't want to deal with the headaches and costs involved in filing a claim with their own insurance company, he said. That can raise annual premiums and affect policy coverage.

Jan Sarachman, senior sales executive for Orgill Singer insurance in Las Vegas, said liability and comprehensive and collision coverage are transferred to the car the policyholder is using. However, if a rental car is damaged and takes two weeks to repair, customers can be billed for loss of revenue.

"So, if I'm going to New York City and I'm going to rent a car, I would say yes, buy the physical damage part," she said. "Let's say you totaled the rental car and it's worth $30,000 and your insurance says the most they'll pay is $25,000 and you can't come to an agreement. That's [$5,000] coming out of your pocket."

She also suggested checking with your credit card company. Many offer rental car insurance benefits for free if you charge the cost of the rental on your credit card.

Much of the risk in Las Vegas lies with tourists and people coming to conventions, said Teanio, who manages a fleet of about 2,000 cars at Budget's airport facility.

"That's the majority of our business," he said. "If you're on vacation, guess where most of the accidents happen? At the hotel, in the parking lot. If it's on the other door, they don't see it until they bring it back."

Ebbett of Protect Your Bubble said there's a growing trend of people saying they didn't think there was any damage when they dropped the car off. That's another reason to get rental car insurance. It provides a "safety net" in case of questionable damage, he said.

He advises drivers to get clearance from an attendant when they return the car. If that's not possible, it's sometimes prudent to take pictures of the car at drop-off, he said.