Insure the car on Mexico trip

July 06, 2008|By Los Angeles Times

I'm going to Mexico, and I think if I rent a car in Mexico and use my MasterCard, I get some insurance automatically. But I don't understand which of the types of insurance I can pass up at the rental agency in Mexico. What do I need?

A limo with a chauffeur.

Automobile insurance, never simple, becomes more complex when a rental is involved. And when it's a rental in Mexico, it's at least triple the tribulation.

The decision to rent a car in Mexico rather than driving across the border is right. Some U.S. companies will not rent to travelers who want to cross into Mexico. Others that will, do not allow drivers to go south of the 28th parallel. So a trip from, say, Tucson, Ariz., to Mexico City in a car rented in the U.S. generally is a nonstarter.

Experienced travelers know they often get pressured to buy insurance when they rent from a U.S. rental car agency.

That insurance is "a huge profit center" for rental car companies, said Ben Woolsey, director of marketing and consumer research for CreditCards.com, a Web site designed to enable consumers to search for and compare credit card offers. The rental companies charge travelers "for something they don't need," he said.

That's because most of us who drive already carry automobile insurance, which often covers you in a rental car. Furthermore, if you rent a car using a credit card, the card often provides secondary insurance. So it's a good idea to find out what your auto coverage is and what your credit card can do for you before going anywhere.

Renting abroad is another story, and in Mexico, it's not always a happy one. Remember that your U.S. insurance means nothing in Mexico.

Some credit card companies will provide some auto coverage in Mexico, but the terms are strict. Make sure you read and understand their requirements. If you decline Mexican auto insurance ... the car rental company may charge you 10 percent of the commercial value of the car.

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