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What to do if You Have an Accident in a Rental Car

car rental insurance form with car key

It's stressful enough to deal with a car accident at home but imagine having a car accident while you are on holidays with a rental car. What will happen, how do you seek help and how much will it cost? VroomVroomVroom have put together a quick guide to explain how the accident process works.

Check that all parties are safe

The first and most important step is to check if anyone has been injured as a result of the accident. If so, call Emergency Services straight away. If other cars or pedestrians have been impacted, check the welfare of all involved immediately.

Always call emergency services after a serious accident

car accident

Where the accident results in injury or death or has occurred due to criminal behaviour (including where drugs and alcohol are involved or the other party drives away from the accident scene), call the Police and Emergency Services first. In Australia, the Emergency Hotline is 000. Do not leave the rental car or accident scene until the police have arrived and a statement has been made.

Secure the rental car

Where practical, move the rental car out of the path of other traffic and then secure the car. If the vehicle is unable to be driven, wait with the car until a tow truck arrives. Take photos of the damage and accident site for your personal records and future reference.

Call the rental car company

Once any serious injuries or threats have been addressed, call the car rental company that you hired the rental car from. Do not leave the accident scene before you have spoken to the car rental company.

Where the car has been seriously damaged or written off, depending on the circumstances of the accident and whether or not you were at fault, you may be provided with a replacement car or taxi service. If your rental car has sustained minor damage and is still able to be driven, the car rental company may advise you to continue on your journey and present the car for damage inspection when you return the car to the depot at the end of your journey.

The car rental company will require you to complete an Accident Report Form including details of what happened and where the incident occurred. Often a copy of the accident report is included with your Rental Agreement documentation when you first collect your hire car from the rental company.

Damage assessment and repair

car damage

At the time of the accident or when you return the rental car to the depot, whichever occurs sooner, the rental car company will inspect the accident damage to the rental car and will calculate the cost to repair the vehicle.

It may take a few days for the car rental company to complete their review process. While the assessment is being completed, the company will charge your credit card the full rental vehicle excess amount that is stated in your rental agreement (the contract that you signed when you collected your hire car).

The rental excess, which is also referred to as the excess, damage recovery fee or damage liability fee, is your financial liability that you are liable to pay should the rental car be damaged or stolen during your journey. It's a capped amount that commonly ranges between $4,000 and $6,000 for standard car types hired in Australia however it may be in excess of $8,500 for prestige or large 4WDs.

Once the repair cost has been confirmed, where relevant the car rental company will refund the difference between the actual car damage repair cost and the rental vehicle excess amount. For example, if you had a rental excess of $4,000 and you cracked the windscreen during your journey which cost $500 to repair, the car rental company would first charge your credit card $4,000 while the damage repair cost was being determined and would then refund $3,500 back to your credit card (keeping the $500 to repair the windscreen only).

Lodge a claim with your insurer

If you purchased rental vehicle excess insurance to protect your journey, you would be able to lodge a claim with your insurer to obtain reimbursement for your out of pocket expense. Commonly the insurer will require a completed copy of their claim form, a copy of the vehicle damage report and a copy of the receipt from the car rental company showing the repair cost that you were charged.

The insurer will assess your claim against your insurance policy's terms and conditions (also known as the Product Disclosure Statement, PDS) to determine claim's eligibility for reimbursement.  Once the assessment is complete, they will pay you your policy benefit.

What options are available to reduce my financial liability?

It's important to check the inclusions carefully of any protection products that you choose to protect your rental car. VroomVroomVroom have outlined the protection options available to drivers when hiring a car in Australia on the VroomVroomVroom insurance page. There are a number of different options including Rental Vehicle Excess insurance and Excess reduction. Purchasing protection products in Australia is optional not compulsory.

This video can help you understand better what your financial liability is when renting a car in Australia.