Who is responsible for paying the rental car fees after a car accident?

by Tom Zoebelein - Fri, Apr 4, 2014 2:16 PM

Welcome to a new series where we answer very specific questions posed by car owners such as you. This week we are answering rental car questions. This particular case is complex.


Q: I was in a car accident and was hit by another driver. The repair is taking longer than promised and I have maxed out my rental car insurance limit. Am I responsible or is the body the body shop, or is my auto insurance company responsible for paying the balance on my rental car fees?

“Last month I was involved in an auto accident with another driver. The driver hit my car while switching lanes, and we are both insured. The other driver gave me her car insurance and drivers license information that I forwarded to my insurance company.

The other driver’s insurance company is still investigating the accident to determine who was at fault. While this is ongoing, I can no longer wait for my car to be repaired. My Insurance company told me that I could pay my deductible right now and let my car insurance company handle everything and get it fixed right now (I could file a claim on my own policy) or I could go through the other driver’s insurance company who is giving me the compete run-around.

I decided to let my auto insurance handle everything and get the car fixed now. I chose to use a select service shop that the insurance company recommended because they offer a lifetime warranty on all repairs.

I was given a rental on the 30th of October and my car was towed to the car repair shop on November 1st. I was given a $5000 estimate and promised a completion date of November 11th. It is now December 6th and my car is still not repaired.

I have maxed out my policy limits for a rental car through my car insurance policy insurance company and am facing an additional $300 in rental car fees in addition to my $1,000 deductible. The other driver’s insurance company is still doing an investigation and refuses to pay anything towards my claim, not even my deductible. I don’t feel like I should be responsible for the extra rental car fees since I was promised a completion date and my car is still in the shop. What should I do? Should the body shop pay for the extra rental car fees since my car is still not repaired way past their promise date or am I responsible?”



I discovered this question through Yahoo Answers and not one of the six answers provided was correct. This is what happens when you post a question on a website and allow people without any real knowledge answer the question. I’m going to give you the true factual answer from a true expert.

What is interesting about this question is that there are three very significant factors that influence the answer. Either one of these factors could change my final answer if the situation was any different than as it was stated. So to respond, I will cover all three areas in detail.

Is The Auto Body shop Responsible for the additional rental car fees?

Even though it seems right away that the body shop is responsible because they are taking longer than they said it would to fix the car, they are actually never legally responsible for covering the rental car fees.

Most body shops say on their websites that they will “help” you with your rental car as part of the concierge service. What they mean is that they often have rental cars on site or have a contract with a local rental car branch who will have a car waiting for you when you drop off your car for repairs.

They do this as a matter of convenience for you so that you do not have to get a ride from the shop to the rental car facility. Now some shops have a lot of pull with the rental car agencies and might be able to help you get a better deal on the extended rental car fees, but they are not responsible to pay them.

The only way the body shop could be responsible for the additional rental car fees is if they somehow advertise or give you a written guarantee or a written or advertised promise that the car will be ready at the promised time (in this case the November 11th date). You might see such claims as “guaranteed on time everytime” which means they will pay any additional costs suffered by a delay.

The owner’s car insurance company

When you take out a car insurance policy, you set up a contract with the Insurance company. This policy sets limits for coverage’s, deductibles and fees for the policy. Some people don’t have rental car coverage at all in an effort to save money in their annual premium, but most policies set some type of limits for the length of rental car coverage. Honestly I don’t even know what mine is without looking it up.

In this case, the repair time has exceeded the policy coverage limits. So it is no longer the car owner’s Insurance company’s responsibility to pay the overages.

The other driver’s insurance car insurance company

In this scenario, the driver must live in an at fault state which means that there is the opportunity to assign blame to the car accident and determine one insurance company or the other to pay for all damages. So lets say that this driver  (known as the “first Party”) was indeed not at fault and they still filed a claim on their policy to go ahead and get things moving, the other insurance company could be responsible for the bill at some point. In this scenario they other insurance company hasn’t accepted liability yet pending further investigation and litigation. This could take over a year. So the driver did the recommended thing and went ahead and got the car fixed so that they could move on with their life.

Final Answer: It is the car owner’s responsibility to pay the overages until the other policyholder’s insurance company settles the case.

Additional important information

What is important to note here is that if the other insurance company finally accepts liability for this accident, then they would have to pay all expenses incurred by the car owner including the rental car fees and the deductible (and diminished value if the car owner wanted to fight that battle.) The down side is that this could take a year or more and you would have to front the money right now to get your life back to normal.

An additional note worth mentioning is that if this driver did not have rental car coverage at all in their policy, then the other insurance company would still be responsible for all the rental car bills after they were found to, or accepted liability for the accident. So if this ever happens to you, save those rental car bills and be sure to turn them over to your insurance company who can help fight for your behalf.

Sometimes people don’t want to get their insurance company involved if they were not at fault for fear of increased claims, but here is a clear case where your insurance company could really help you out by making them aware.

ASK TOM! —- Send me YOUR auto body and car insurance questions and you WILL get answers!

Have a specific auto body repair question or car insurance question that you want a REAL answer to? Please submit them to me for future posts in the comments section below.