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What Happens if You Crash a Rental Car?

You can be as careful as you can possibly be, but accidents happen. And in a rental car, it can be absolutely nerve-wracking. So, what happens if you crash a rental car? And who is responsible for a rental car that’s been in an accident?

In this article, we answer all these questions and more. We'll take you through all the different scenarios and their processes to help you understand why a crashed rental car isn’t the end of the world.


What happens if you crash a rental car

What Constitutes a Rental Car Accident?


A car accident with a rental car doesn’t mean that you should’ve crashed into another car or an object. When it comes to one’s own vehicle, we tend to overlook minor incidents such as a small scratch by a branch.

But even though that obviously doesn’t constitute a complete car wreck when it comes to your rental, it does count as a rental car accident. Anything that causes damage to the rental (which is someone else’s possession), will need to be addressed.


So, the process is more of reporting the incident to the rental agency than going through all the motions of a full-on rental car collision. Unfortunately, it still needs to be dealt with.


What to Do if You Crash a Rental Car

The following are the necessary steps one needs to take when crashing a rental car whilst driving in Iceland:

1. Check on the Welfare of Everyone Involved


If no other car is involved, just ensure that everyone inside the rental car is okay. It doesn’t matter whose car you get into an accident with, the welfare of the people involved should always be the priority.


2. Divulge Deets


Once it’s been established that no one is injured, it’s time to exchange driver details. This includes the following:

  • Full names

  • Address (home and where you’re staying on the island)

  • Contact details (email, phone number)

  • Insurance company details

  • Driver's license number (we recommend you snap a quick photo of this one)

  • The vehicle registration number and license plate number

As a side note; if you spot any witnesses that saw the accident happen, grab their details as well.


Rental car accident

3. Don’t Rely on Memory Alone


After a car accident with a rental car, you’re going to be in shock (even if it might not feel that way to you). Memories that might’ve felt incredibly sharp at that moment can quickly become a jumbled blur. And, besides, memories aren’t admissible in a court, and you don’t want to end up in a he-said/she-said situation.

That’s why you need to take photos of everything and at every angle. Take pictures of the position of the cars, the damage to each vehicle, etc. And to help you even further, make notes about the make and model of the other vehicle. Other information, such as the street name, and any other roadside markers will help too.


4. Break the Bad News


Now it’s time to take the punch and let your car rental agency know what happened. If you don’t know what the emergency number for your rental agency is, you can check the windows for an emergency sticker.


This information can also be found in the glove department, or your rental agreement documentation. The rental agency will then forward you forms to complete and request their own type of accident report.


5. Fill in Your Own Insurance Company


You don’t need to know exactly which route in terms of paying for damages you’re going to take yet. But most insurance policies will only entertain claims if an accident was reported within 72 hours of the incident.

That means, if you simply wait ‘till you get home and then decide to primarily have the damages paid for by your own insurance company, you might get a nasty surprise. When notifying your insurance company, ensure that you ask all the questions relating to your situation.


These questions include “Should a file a police report and where should I do it?”,“What will the excess/deductible amount be?”. And also, “Does my policy cover these types of incidents abroad?”


Car accident with rental car

6. Start Working Out Who Pays for What


After the incident, you’ll need to start sorting out who will pay for what. It can be you, personally, the insurance from the rental agency, or your own private insurance company.


This can be a lengthy and sometimes tedious process, but is essential if you want to get out of the situation fairly unscathed financially.


After a Rental Car Accident; Who is Liable?


This depends on many things, such as whether you took out insurance from the rental agency, whether you have your own insurance. Also, if any of these insurance policies cover the specific type of incident, etc. But, as a general rule of thumb, these are some of the things you can expect:


Repairs to Your Rental

If you have accidental damage coverage via your private insurance, this often extends to a rental. Still, you need to check this with your insurance company. This means that they will cover the repairs to the rental car.


If you have accidental damage coverage from your rental agency, they will cover the repairs of the rental. This cover generally tends to be very limited. So, please ensure that you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into when taking out this type of coverage. Worst-case scenario, you’ll end up paying for the damages yourself.


Repairs to the Other Vehicle Involved


This is covered by what is called “liability insurance” and the process of elimination looks very similar to that which we described above.


If you have your own private liability insurance coverage, this will most likely extend to a rental vehicle. But, once again, you’ll need to double-check that. If you’ve purchased liability insurance from the rental agency, they will cover the repairs to the other vehicle. Still, once again, double-check the fine print. If none of these are applicable, you’ll have to pay out of pocket.



How Long Does a Rental Car Company Have to Charge You for Damages?


Unlike your own private vehicle, a rental car collision doesn’t end once an insurance claim has been made. Unfortunately, you’ll be on the hook for “rent” whilst the vehicle goes in for repairs. This is to cover the financial loss whilst the car is out of service.

This can take anything from just a couple of days to a month. That usually also forms part of accidental damage coverage. Do speak to your private insurance company as well as the rental agency to figure out who will end up paying that bill. If it’s none of them, it’ll, unfortunately, have to be you.


What Happens if You Crash a Rental Car Without Insurance?


You need to start praying for a miracle, start playing the lottery or keep your fingers crossed for an exorbitant inheritance. All joking aside, this is a terrible situation to ever find yourself in and can mean financial ruin to some.


That is why you need to ensure that you have everything in place and understand all the covers you purchase even before driving that rental off the lot.


What if the Driver is a Young Person?


This also depends on the situation. You need to keep in mind that 17 is the legal driving age in Iceland, whilst you’ll only be allowed to rent a vehicle from the age of 20. If both parties are of legal age and are legally licensed to get behind the wheel, age is irrelevant. The process will be the same whether you’re 20 or 85.

On the other hand, if anyone of the parties is underage or does not have a valid driver’s license, it will become a legal matter. It can come with potential criminal charges as a consequence. Meanwhile, repairs to your rental will still need to be done. So, you’ll still need to follow the steps we already detailed to establish who will be liable for paying what.


Crashed rental car

Tips on What to Do if You Crash a Rental Car


Here are a few helpful tips to help you before and after your rental car accident:


  • Never allude to the fact that it’s your fault. We know this might be hard, especially if it was your fault. But, profusely apologizing to the other driver or making statements such as “I should’ve paid closer attention” is going to come back and bite you in the butt. Either the driver or rental agency can take legal action against you or the insurance company will refuse to pay out. To show concern and care towards the other driver (in other words, saying things such as “Are you okay?” and “Can I call someone for you?”).

  • Don’t make any promises or sign any statements at the scene of the rental car accident. This includes making statements such as “Don’t worry, the insurance company will take care of it”.

  • Don’t allude to the fact that you’re driving a rental, as there are people who might try to take advantage of the situation.

  • Discuss your route with your rental agency before renting. If you are going to rent a luxury vehicle in Iceland when the specific route requires an Icelandic 4x4 vehicle, you might also have to foot the damage bill of the crash. This action can be considered negligence on your part.


Crashing a rental car

Prevention is Better Than Cure


This saying has never rung more true than in the case of crashing a rental car. You don’t want to start finding out about your lack of coverage once the bills are already piling up.


So, before you leave for your trip to the island, contact your private insurance company. Have a discussion about your current coverage and how that will protect you abroad. If you find that it’s not sufficient, it’s probably a good idea to upgrade your policy or get some add-on coverage and other extras.

If you don’t have any private insurance, you’ll need to do your research to find out if it might not be a good idea to finally take that plunge. Regardless of when you will be renting, you’ll need to have the same insurance chat with your rental agency. Make sure there are no potential coverage gaps between your own private insurance coverage and that of the rental agency.

With protection comes peace of mind. Now, you can rent a car in Iceland and take on the road with excitement rather than dread.

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