This is a very convoluted process, but it saved me a bundle of money!
I usually book my US car rental via an aggregation website like http://www.priceline.com and that was the case for my car reservation for later this year. Back in April, I got a good deal with Budget using Priceline’s bidding process, and was offered full insurance cover for $11/day for the booking, which I was happy to take based on previous experiences.
Unfortunately, after lots of attempts to buy this insurance via Priceline’s website, phone calls (via Skype, thank goodness) to Priceline in the US, to my bank, and eventually to the car insurance brokers in the US, I found out from the brokers that the reason my insurance request likely wouldn’t go through was because I was using an Australian credit card and address, despite Priceline having ‘Australia’ as one of the drop-down locations for this insurance. (I’ve bought car insurance from Priceline before, but they must’ve tightened up some of their processes as I couldn’t get it this time. It’s a pity their website doesn’t tell you why you’ve been rejected, and it’s a pity they haven’t told their customer service reps too, as I would have avoided lots of time on the phone to the US! The Priceline customer rep even told me it was my bank’s problem, so I called them just to make sure, but the bank couldn’t even see the attempted transactions let alone see if/why they had been rejected, so the transaction was being rejected at the US end.)
I could’ve purchased insurance at the counter on collecting the car, but a quick look at the Budget website in the US for that location showed that I’d be paying more than US$40/day EXTRA to have insurance coverage if I purchased it at the counter — that would be an extra US$320+ on top of a US$250 rental!!
So off to the internet of all things, looking for an insurance service that offered rental car insurance for US car rentals by Australians. I found some interesting discussions on the Australian tech forum site, Whirlpool (I find lots of [mostly] good stuff on Whirlpool!), some of which referred me to two rental agencies that included insurance with the car rental (www.rentalcars.com, which includes Collision Damage Waiver [CDW or LDW] only, and http://www.arguscarhire.com, which includes 3rd party liability protection, CDW and others, for a similar overall price for that charged by Priceline just for the car). I may well use these some other time, but the Whirlpool post that caught my eye was for Budget (who I’d already booked with via Priceline), The person who posted said that if Australians purchase via the UK Budget website (www.budget.co.uk), you get the car rental at a good price AND the price includes insurances. I checked the UK website and the price was very similar to Priceline’s but WITH all the insurances included.
Before booking via the UK site, I thought I’d better check the Australian Budget site; however, as soon as I said the rental was for the US, the Australian site took me straight to the Budget US website, where the price was almost double the Priceline and Budget UK price, although because I said I was Australian, that price did include LDW.
So I called Budget in the UK to see if I (an Australian) could book a US car rental via their UK site. I got straight through to a customer service rep (Tom) who said I sure could and he could do the booking for me right then! Tom also confirmed that the rental included CDW/LDW and liability protection with no excess. Within 5 minutes, I was all booked and it cost me less than my Priceline booking with no insurance included. I don’t have to pay until I get to the counter, just like with Priceline. After getting my confirmation, I cancelled my reservation via Priceline, a simple and painless process.
Bottom line: It pays to look for alternatives! Here’s what I found (8-day period, same pick-up/drop-off location and times/dates, same car category [mid-size]):
- Priceline bid price in April 2014: US$250 (AU$266 at today’s rates) with no insurance (insurance via Priceline — if you can get it — is an extra US$11/day)
- Australian Budget website redirected to the US site (checking the option for Australian citizen): US$494 (AU$525) (includes LDW insurance only)
- UK Budget website: GBP144 (AU$254 at today’s rates), which includes LDW and liability insurances and no excess
- US Budget website (saying I’m a US citizen): US$352 (AU$374) for no insurances; US$764 (AU$813) if I add liability and LDW insurances!